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Saturday, February 14, 2015

The onus of proof is not on the claimant (employee), the corollary is that onus of proof that the condition for non-entitlement is with the employer. A claimant has a right to derive benefit of any reasonable doubt and is entitled for pensionary benefit more liberally (Rule 9).=There is admittedly neither any note in the service records of the respondents at the time of their entry into service nor have any reasons been recorded by the Medical Board to suggest that the disease which the member concerned was found to be suffering from could not have been detected at the time of his entry into service. The initial presumption that the respondents were all physically fit and free from any disease and in sound physical and mental condition at the time of their entry into service thus remains unrebutted. Since the disability has in each case been assessed at more than 20%, their claim to disability pension could not have been repudiated by the appellants.

                                                   REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.2904 OF 2011

Union of India & Anr.                        ...Appellants

Versus

Rajbir Singh                                       ...Respondent

                                    With

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.2905 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.3409 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5144 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.2279 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.1498 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5090 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5414 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5163 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5840 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.7368 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.7479 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.7629 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5469 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10747 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.11398 OF 2011
                         CIVIL APPEAL NO.183 OF 2012
                         CIVIL APPEAL NO.167 OF 2012
                       CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10105 OF 2011
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5819 OF 2012
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5260 OF 2012
                        CIVILL APPEAL D.16394 OF 2013


                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.1856 OF 2015
                  (Arising out of SLP (C) No.15768 of 2011)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.1854 OF 2015
                  (Arising out of SLP (C) No.14478 of 2011)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.1855 OF 2015
                   Arising out of SLP (C) No.26401 of 2010

                        CIVILL APPEAL NO.1858 OF 2015
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) No. 32190 of 2010)

                        CIVILL APPEAL NO.1859 OF 2015
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) No.27220 of 2012)



                               J U D G M E N T

T.S. THAKUR, J.

1.    Leave granted.
2.    These appeals arise out of separate but similar orders passed  by  the
Armed Forces Tribunal holding the respondents entitled to  claim  disability
pension under the relevant Pension Regulations of the  Army.   The  Tribunal
has taken the view that the disability of each one of  the  respondents  was
attributable to or aggravated by military service and the same  having  been
assessed  at  more  than  20%  entitled  them  to  disability  pension.  The
appellant-Union of  India  has  assailed  that  finding  and  direction  for
payment  of  pension  primarily  on  the  ground  that  the  Medical  Boards
concerned having clearly opined that the disability had not  arisen  out  of
or aggravated by military service, the Tribunal was not justified in  taking
a contrary view.

3.    Relying upon the decisions of this Court in Union of  India  and  Ors.
v.  Keshar Singh (2007) 12 SCC 675; Om Prakash Singh   v.   Union  of  India
and Ors. (2010) 12 SCC 667;  Secretary, Ministry  of  Defence  and  Ors.  v.
A.V. Damodaran (Dead) through LRs. and Ors.  (2009) 9 SCC 140; and Union  of
India and Ors. v. Ram Prakash  (2010) 11 SCC 220, it was  contended  by  Mr.
Balasubramanian, learned  counsel  appearing  for  the  appellant  in  these
appeals, that the opinion of the Release Medical Board and in some cases Re-
survey Medical Board and Appellate  Medical  Authority  must  be  respected,
especially  when  the  question  whether  the  disability  suffered  by  the
respondents was attributable to or aggravated  by  military  service  was  a
technical question falling entirely in  the  realm  of  medical  science  in
which the opinion expressed by medical experts could not be lightly  brushed
aside.  Inasmuch as the Tribunal had failed to show  any  deference  to  the
opinion of the experts who were better qualified to determine  the  question
of attributability of  a  disease/disability  to  a  military  service,  the
Tribunal had fallen in error argued the learned counsel.

4.    On behalf of the respondents it was,  on  the  other  hand,  submitted
that the decisions relied upon by learned counsel for the appellant were  of
no assistance in view of the later pronouncement of this Court in  Dharamvir
Singh v. Union of India and Ors. (2013) 7 SCC 316 where  a  two-Judge  Bench
of this Court had, after a comprehensive review of  the  case  law  and  the
relevant rules and regulations, distinguished the said decisions and  stated
the true legal position.     It was contended that the earlier decisions  in
the cases relied upon by the appellants were decided in the  peculiar  facts
of those cases and did not constitute a binding  precedent  especially  when
the said decisions had not dealt with several aspects to which the  decision
of this Court in Dharamvir Singh's case (supra) had adverted.  Applying  the
principles enunciated in  Dharamvir  Singh's  case  (supra)  these  appeals,
according to  the  learned  counsel  for  the  respondents,  deserve  to  be
dismissed and indeed ought to meet that fate.
5.    The material facts giving rise to the  controversy  in  these  appeals
are not in dispute.  It is not in dispute that the respondents in all  these
appeals were invalided out of  service  on  account  of  medical  disability
shown against each in the following chart:

|Case No.          |Name of the         |Nature of            |Percentage of|
|                  |Respondent          |Disease/Disability   |Disability   |
|                  |                    |                     |determined   |
|C.A. No. 2904/2011|Ex. Hav. Rajbir     |Generalized Seizors  |20% for 2    |
|                  |Singh               |                     |years.       |
|C.A. No. 5163/2011|Ex. Recruit Amit    |Manic Episode (F-30).|40%          |
|                  |Kumar               |                     |(Permanent)  |
|C.A. No. 5840/2011|Hony. Flt. Lt. P.S. |Primary Hypertension.|30%          |
|                  |Rohilla             |                     |             |
|C.A. No. 7368/2011|Ex. Power Satyaveer |Diabetes Mellitus    |40%          |
|                  |Singh               |(IDDM) ICD E 10.9.   |(Permanent). |
|C.A. No. 7479/2011|Ex. Gnr. Jagjeet    |1. Non-Insulin       |20% each and |
|                  |Singh               |Dependent Diabetes   |composite    |
|                  |                    |Melllitus (NIDDM).   |disability   |
|                  |                    |2. Fracture Lateral  |40%          |
|                  |                    |Condyl of Tibia with |(Permanent). |
|                  |                    |fracture neck of     |             |
|                  |                    |Fibula left.         |             |
|C.A. No. 7629/2011|Ex. Rect. Charanjit |Mal-descended Testis |60%          |
|                  |Ram                 |(R) with Inguinal    |(Permanent). |
|                  |                    |hernia.              |             |
|C.A. No. 5469/2011|Jugti Ram (through  |Schizophrenic        |80%          |
|                  |LR)                 |Reaction (300)       |             |
|C.A. D. No.       |HavaldarSurjit Singh|Neurotic Depression  |40% for 2    |
|16394/2013        |                    |V-67.                |years.       |
|C.A. No. 2905/2011|Ex. Naik Ram Phai   |Otosolerosis (Rt.)   |20%          |
|                  |                    |Ear OPTD             |             |
|C.A. No.          |Sadhu Singh         |Schizophrenia        |20% for 2    |
|10747/2011        |                    |                     |years.       |
|C.A. No.          |Rampal Singh        |Neurosis (300.       |20% for 2    |
|11398/2011        |                    |                     |years.       |
|C.A. No. 183/2012 |Raj Singh           |Neurosis             |30%.         |
|C.A. No. 167/2012 |Ranjit Singh        |Other Non-Organic    |20% for 2    |
|                  |                    |Psychosis (298, V-67)|years.       |
|C.A. No. 5819/2012|Ex. Sub. Ratan Singh|Primary Hypertension |30%          |
|                  |                    |                     |(Permanent)  |
|C.A. No. 5260/2012|Ex. Sep. Tarlochan  |Epilepsy (345)       |Less than 20%|
|                  |Singh               |                     |             |
|C.A. No.          |Harbans Singh       |1.Epilepsy (345)     |20% each and |
|10105/2011        |                    |2. High              |composite    |
|                  |                    |Hyper-metropia Rt.   |disability   |
|                  |                    |Eye with partial     |40% for 2    |
|                  |                    |Amblyopia.           |years.       |
|C.A.NO.....OF 2015|Balwan Singh        |Personality Disorder |60%          |
|(@ SLP(C)No.      |                    |                     |             |
|27220/2012)       |                    |                     |             |
|C.A.NO.....OF 2015|Sharanjit Singh     |Generalized Tonic    |Less than 20%|
|(@ SLP (C) No.    |                    |Clonic Seizure, 345  |             |
|32190/2010)       |                    |V-64.                |             |
|C.A. No. 5090/2011|Abdulla Othyanagath |Schizophrenia        |30%          |
|C.A.NO........OF  |Sqn. Ldr. Manoj Rana|1. Non-Organic       |40%          |
|2015 (@ SLP (C)   |                    |Psychosis            |             |
|No. 26401/2010)   |                    |2. Stato-Hypatitis   |             |
|C.A. No. 2279/2011|Labh Singh          |Schizophrenia        |30% for 2    |
|                  |                    |                     |years.       |
|C.A. No. 5144/2011|Makhan Singh        |Neurosis (300-Deep)  |20%          |
|C.A. No.          |Ajit Singh          |Idiopathic Epilepsy  |20%          |
|14478/2011        |                    |(Grandmal)           |             |
|C.A.NO.......OF   |ManoharLal          |Renal Calculus       |20%          |
|2015 (@ SLP (C)   |                    |(Right)              |             |
|No. 15768/2011)   |                    |                     |             |
|C.A. No. 3409/2011|Major Man Mohan     |IHD (Angina Pectoris)|Less than 20%|
|                  |Krishan             |                     |             |
|C.A. No.          |Ex. Sgt. Suresh     |1.Generalized Seizors|70%          |
|1498/2011*        |Kumar Sharma        |                     |(permanent)  |
|                  |                    |2. Inter-vertebral   |             |
|                  |                    |Disc Prolapse        |             |
|                  |                    |3.PIVD C-7-D,        |             |
|                  |                    |(Multi-Disc Prolapse)|             |
|C.A. No. 5414/2011|Rakesh Kumar Singla |Bipolar Mood Disorder|20% for 5    |
|                  |                    |                     |years.       |


6.    It is also not in dispute that the extent of disability  in  each  one
of the cases was assessed to be above 20%  which  is  the  bare  minimum  in
terms of Regulation 173 of the Pension Regulations for the Army, 1961.   The
only question that arises in the above backdrop is  whether  the  disability
which  each  one  of  the  respondents  suffered  was  attributable  to   or
aggravated by military service. The Medical Board  has  rejected  the  claim
for disability pension only on  the  ground  that  the  disability  was  not
attributable to or aggravated by  military  service.  Whether  or  not  that
opinion is in itself sufficient to deny to the  respondents  the  disability
pension claimed by them is the only question falling for our  determination.
Several decisions of this Court have in the past examined similar  questions
in  almost  similar  fact  situations.   But  before  we  refer   to   those
pronouncements we may briefly refer to the Pension Regulations  that  govern
the field.

7.    The claims of the respondents for payment of pension, it is  a  common
ground,  are  regulated  by  Pension  Regulations  for   the   Army,   1961.
Regulation 173 of the said Regulations  provides  for  grant  of  disability
pension to persons who  are  invalided  out  of  service  on  account  of  a
disability which is attributable to or aggravated  by  military  service  in
non-battle casualty and is assessed at 20% or above.  The regulation reads:

"173. Primary conditions for the  grant  of  disability  pension:     Unless
otherwise specifically provided a disability pension may be  granted  to  an
individual who is invalided from service on account of  a  disability  which
is attributable to or aggravated by military service and is assessed  at  20
percent or over. The question whether a disability  is  attributable  to  or
aggravated by military  service  shall  be  determined  under  the  rule  in
Appendix II."


8.    The above makes  it  manifest  that  only  two  conditions  have  been
specified for the grant of disability pension viz.  (i)  the  disability  is
above 20%; and (ii) the disability  is  attributable  to  or  aggravated  by
military service. Whether or  not  the  disability  is  attributable  to  or
aggravated  by  military  service,  is  in  turn,  to  be  determined  under
Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982  forming  Appendix-II
to the Pension Regulations. Significantly, Rule 5 of the  Entitlement  Rules
for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982 also  lays  down  the  approach  to  be
adopted while determining the entitlement to disability  pension  under  the
said Rules.  Rule 5 reads as under:
"5. The approach to the  question  of  entitlement  to  casualty  pensionary
awards and evaluation of  disabilities  shall  be  based  on  the  following
presumptions:

Prior to and during service
A member is presumed to have been in sound  physical  and  mental  condition
upon entering service except as to physical disabilities noted  or  recorded
at the time of entrance.
In the event of his subsequently being discharged from  service  on  medical
grounds any deterioration in his health, which has taken place,  is  due  to
service."

9.    Equally important is Rule 9 of the  Entitlement  Rules  (supra)  which
places the onus of proof upon the establishment.  Rule 9 reads:
      "9. Onus of proof. - The claimant shall not be called  upon  to  prove
the conditions of entitlements.  He/She will  receive  the  benefit  of  any
reasonable  doubt.  This  benefit  will  be  given  more  liberally  to  the
claimants in field/afloat service cases."

10.   As regards diseases Rule 14 of the Entitlement Rules  stipulates  that
in the case of a disease which has  led  to  an  individual's  discharge  or
death, the disease shall be deemed to have arisen in service, if no note  of
it was made at the time of individual's  acceptance  for  military  service,
subject to the condition that if medical opinion holds  for  reasons  to  be
stated  that  the  "disease  could  not  have  been  detected   on   medical
examination prior to acceptance for service, the same will not be deemed  to
have so arisen". Rule 14 may also be extracted for facility of reference.
"14. Diseases.- In respect of diseases, the following rule will be  observed
-
Cases in which it is established that conditions  of  military  service  did
not determine or contribute to the onset of the disease but  influenced  the
subsequent courses of the disease will fall for acceptance on the  basis  of
aggravation.

A disease  which  has  led  to  an  individual's  discharge  or  death  will
ordinarily be deemed to have arisen in service, if no note of  it  was  made
at the time of the individual's acceptance for military  service.   However,
if medical opinion holds, for reasons to be stated, that the  disease  could
not have been detected  on  medical  examination  prior  to  acceptance  for
service, the disease will not be deemed to have arisen during service.

If a disease is accepted as having  arisen  in  service,  it  must  also  be
established  that  the  conditions  of  military   service   determined   or
contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were due  to
the circumstances of duty in military service."
   (emphasis supplied)


11.   From a conjoint and harmonious  reading  of  Rules  5,  9  and  14  of
Entitlement Rules (supra) the following guiding principles emerge:
a member is presumed to have been in sound  physical  and  mental  condition
upon entering service except as to physical disabilities noted  or  recorded
at the time of entrance;
in the event of his being discharged from service on medical grounds at  any
subsequent stage  it must be presumed that any  such  deterioration  in  his
health which has taken place is due to such military service;
the disease which has  led  to  an  individual's  discharge  or  death  will
ordinarily be deemed to have arisen in service, if no note of  it  was  made
at the time of the individual's acceptance for military service; and
if medical opinion holds that the disease, because of which  the  individual
was discharged, could not have been detected on  medical  examination  prior
to acceptance of service, reasons for the same shall be stated.

12.   Reference may also be made at this stage to the guidelines set out  in
Chapter-II of the Guide to Medical Officers (Military Pensions), 2002  which
set out the "Entitlement:  General  Principles",  and  the  approach  to  be
adopted in such cases. Paras 7, 8 and 9 of  the  said  guidelines  reads  as
under:

"7. Evidentiary value is attached to the record of a member's  condition  at
the commencement of service, and such record has, therefore, to be  accepted
unless any different conclusion has been reached due to  the  inaccuracy  of
the record in a particular case or otherwise. Accordingly,  if  the  disease
leading to member's invalidation out of service or death while  in  service,
was not noted in a medical  report  at  the  commencement  of  service,  the
inference would be that the disease arose  during  the  period  of  member's
military service. It  may  be  that  the  inaccuracy  or  incompleteness  of
service record on entry in service  was  due  to  a  non-disclosure  of  the
essential facts by the member e.g. pre-enrolment history  of  an  injury  or
disease like epilepsy, mental disorder, etc. It may also be  that  owing  to
latency or obscurity of the symptoms,  a  disability  escaped  detection  on
enrolment. Such lack of recognition may affect  the  medical  categorisation
of the member on enrolment and/or cause him to  perform  duties  harmful  to
his condition. Again, there may  occasionally  be  direct  evidence  of  the
contraction of a disability, otherwise than by service. In all  such  cases,
though the disease cannot be considered to have been caused by service,  the
question  of  aggravation  by  subsequent  service  conditions   will   need
examination.
[pic]
The following are some of the diseases which ordinarily escape detection  on
enrolment:
(a) Certain congenital abnormalities which are latent and only  discoverable
on full investigations  e.g.  Congenital  Defect  of  Spine,  Spina  bifida,
Sacralisation,

(b) Certain familial and hereditary diseases  e.g.  Haemophilia,  Congential
Syphilis, Haemoglobinopathy.

(c)  Certain  diseases  of  the  heart  and  blood  vessels  e.g.   Coronary
Atherosclerosis, Rheumatic Fever.

(d)  Diseases  which  may  be  undetectable  by  physical   examination   on
enrolment, unless adequate history is given at the time by the  member  e.g.
Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers, Epilepsy, Mental Disorders, HIV Infections.

(e) Relapsing forms of mental disorders which have intervals of normality.

(f) Diseases which have periodic attacks e.g.  Bronchial  Asthma,  Epilepsy,
Csom, etc.

8. The question whether the invalidation or death of a member  has  resulted
from service conditions, has to be judged in the light of the record of  the
member's condition on enrolment as noted in service  documents  and  of  all
other available evidence both direct and indirect.

In addition to any documentary evidence relative to the  member's  condition
to entering the service and during service, the  member  must  be  carefully
and closely questioned on the circumstances which led to the advent  of  his
disease, the duration, the family history, his pre-service history, etc.  so
that all evidence in support or against the claim is elucidated.  Presidents
of Medical Boards should make this their personal responsibility and  ensure
that opinions on attributability, aggravation or otherwise are supported  by
cogent reasons; the approving authority should also be satisfied  that  this
question has been dealt with in such a way as to leave no reasonable doubt.

9. On the question whether any persisting deterioration has occurred, it  is
to be remembered that invalidation from service does not  necessarily  imply
that the member's health has deteriorated  during  service.  The  disability
may have been discovered soon after joining and  the  member  discharged  in
his own interest in order to prevent deterioration.  In  such  cases,  there
may even have  been  a  temporary  worsening  during  service,  but  if  the
treatment given before discharge was on grounds of expediency to  prevent  a
recurrence, no lasting damage was inflicted by service and  there  would  be
no ground for admitting entitlement. Again a member may have been  invalided
from service because he is found so weak mentally that it is  impossible  to
make him an efficient soldier. This would not mean that  his  condition  has
worsened during service, but only that it is  worse  than  was  realised  on
enrolment in the army. To sum up, in each  case  the  question  whether  any
persisting deterioration on the  available  [pic]evidence  which  will  vary
according to the type of the disability, the consensus  of  medical  opinion
relating to the particular condition and the clinical history."


13.   In Dharamvir  Singh's  case  (supra)  this  Court  took  note  of  the
provisions of the Pensions Regulations, Entitlement Rules  and  the  General
Rules of Guidance to Medical Officers to sum up the legal position  emerging
from the same in the following words:
"29.1. Disability pension to be granted to an individual  who  is  invalided
from service on  account  of  a  disability  which  is  attributable  to  or
aggravated by military service in non-battle casualty  and  is  assessed  at
20% or over. The  question  whether  a  disability  is  attributable  to  or
aggravated by military service to be determined under the Entitlement  Rules
for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982 of Appendix II (Regulation 173).

29.2. A member is to be presumed in  sound  physical  and  mental  condition
upon entering service if  there  is  no  note  or  record  at  the  time  of
entrance. In the event of his subsequently being discharged from service  on
medical grounds any deterioration in his health is to  be  presumed  due  to
service [Rule 5 read with Rule 14(b)].

29.3. The onus of proof is not on the claimant (employee), the corollary  is
that onus of proof that  the  condition  for  non-entitlement  is  with  the
employer. A claimant has a right to derive benefit of any  reasonable  doubt
and is entitled for pensionary benefit more liberally (Rule 9).

29.4. If a disease is accepted to have been as having arisen in service,  it
must also be established that the conditions of military service  determined
or contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were  due
to the circumstances of duty in military service [Rule 14(c)].
[pic]
29.5. If no note of any disability or  disease  was  made  at  the  time  of
individual's acceptance for military service, a disease which has led to  an
individual's discharge or death will be deemed to  have  arisen  in  service
[Rule 14(b)].

29.6. If medical  opinion  holds  that  the  disease  could  not  have  been
detected on medical examination prior to  the  acceptance  for  service  and
that disease will not be deemed to have arisen during service,  the  Medical
Board is required to state the reasons [Rule 14(b)]; and

29.7. It is mandatory for the Medical Board to follow  the  guidelines  laid
down in Chapter II of the Guide to  Medical  Officers  (Military  Pensions),
2002 - "Entitlement: General Principles", including Paras  7,  8  and  9  as
referred to above (para 27)."


14.   Applying the above principles this Court  in  Dharamvir  Singh's  case
(supra) found that no note of any disease had been recorded at the  time  of
his acceptance into military service. This Court also  held  that  Union  of
India had failed to bring on record any document to suggest  that  Dharamvir
was under treatment for the disease at the time of his recruitment  or  that
the disease was hereditary in nature. This Court, on  that  basis,  declared
Dharamvir to be entitled to claim disability pension in the absence  of  any
note in his service record at the  time  of  his  acceptance  into  military
service. This Court observed:
"33.  In  spite  of  the  aforesaid  provisions,  the  Pension   Sanctioning
Authority failed to notice that the Medical Board had not given  any  reason
in support of its opinion, particularly  when  there  is  no  note  of  such
disease or disability available in the service record of  the  appellant  at
the time of acceptance for  military  service.  Without  going  through  the
aforesaid facts the Pension Sanctioning Authority  mechanically  passed  the
impugned order of rejection based on the report of  the  Medical  Board.  As
per Rules 5 and 9 of the Entitlement Rules for Casualty  Pensionary  Awards,
1982, the appellant is entitled for presumption and benefit  of  presumption
in his favour. In the absence of any evidence on record  to  show  that  the
appellant was suffering from "generalised seizure (epilepsy)"  at  the  time
of acceptance of his service, it will be presumed that the appellant was  in
sound physical and mental condition at the time of entering the service  and
deterioration in his health has taken place due to service."


15.   The legal position as stated in Dharamvir Singh's case (supra) is,  in
our opinion, in tune with the Pension  Regulations,  the  Entitlement  Rules
and the Guidelines issued to  the  Medical  Officers.  The  essence  of  the
rules, as seen earlier, is that a member of the armed forces is presumed  to
be in sound physical and mental condition at the  time  of  his  entry  into
service if there is no note or record to the contrary made at  the  time  of
such entry. More importantly, in the event of his subsequent discharge  from
service on medical ground, any deterioration in his health  is  presumed  to
be due to military service.  This  necessarily  implies  that  no  sooner  a
member of the force is discharged  on  medical  ground  his  entitlement  to
claim disability pension will arise unless of course the employer  is  in  a
position to rebut the presumption that the disability which he suffered  was
neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service. From Rule  14(b)
of the Entitlement Rules it is further clear that  if  the  medical  opinion
were to hold that the disease suffered by the member  of  the  armed  forces
could not have been detected prior to acceptance for  service,  the  Medical
Board must state the reasons for saying so.  Last but not the least  is  the
fact that the provision for payment of disability pension  is  a  beneficial
provision which ought to be interpreted liberally so  as  to  benefit  those
who have been sent  home  with  a  disability  at  times  even  before  they
completed their tenure in the armed forces.   There  may  indeed  be  cases,
where the disease was wholly unrelated to military service,  but,  in  order
that denial of disability pension can be justified on that ground,  it  must
be affirmatively proved that  the  disease  had  nothing  to  do  with  such
service.  The burden to establish such a disconnect would lie  heavily  upon
the  employer  for  otherwise  the  rules  raise  a  presumption  that   the
deterioration in the health of the member of the service is  on  account  of
military service or aggravated by it.  A soldier cannot be  asked  to  prove
that the disease was contracted by him on account  of  military  service  or
was aggravated by the same. The very fact that he was upon  proper  physical
and other tests found fit to serve in the army should  rise  as  indeed  the
rules do provide for a presumption that he was disease-free at the  time  of
his entry into service. That presumption continues till it is proved by  the
employer that the disease was neither  attributable  to  nor  aggravated  by
military service. For the employer to say so, the least that is required  is
a statement of reasons supporting that  view.  That  we  feel  is  the  true
essence of the rules which ought to be kept  in  view  all  the  time  while
dealing with cases of disability pension.

16.   Applying the above parameters to the cases at  hand,  we  are  of  the
view that each one of the respondents having been  discharged  from  service
on account of medical disease/disability, the disability  must  be  presumed
to have been arisen in the course of service which must, in the  absence  of
any reason  recorded  by  the  Medical  Board,  be  presumed  to  have  been
attributable to or aggravated  by  military  service.  There  is  admittedly
neither any note in the service records of the respondents at  the  time  of
their entry into service nor have any reasons been recorded by  the  Medical
Board to suggest that the disease which the member concerned  was  found  to
be suffering from could not have been detected at  the  time  of  his  entry
into  service.  The  initial  presumption  that  the  respondents  were  all
physically fit and free from any disease and in sound  physical  and  mental
condition at the time of their entry into service thus  remains  unrebutted.
Since the disability has in each case been assessed at more than 20%,  their
claim  to  disability  pension  could  not  have  been  repudiated  by   the
appellants.

17.   In the result these appeals fail and are hereby dismissed without  any
order as to costs.


                          ................................................J.
                                                               (T.S. THAKUR)






                          ................................................J.
New Delhi                                             (R. BANUMATHI)
February 13, 2015

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