London, Feb. 21 (Reuters): A group of Gurkhas lost their discrimination battle against the British government today when a court rejected their claim to equal pay, pensions and perks with their British army counterparts.
The feared Nepali fighters from the Himalayas have served with the British army since 1815, battling through many bloody encounters in two world wars as well as serving more recently in the Falklands, the Gulf War, Kosovo and East Timor.
But while pay and conditions for their British counterparts have kept pace with modern times, the Gurkhas are still shackled by a colonial-era agreement dating back to 1947.
Judge Jeremy Sullivan however ruled today that the disparity between the cost of living in Britain and Nepal was too great for the claim to succeed.
“It would be wholly irrational to fail to have regard to the wholly different circumstances that exist in Nepal and the UK,” he said.
“Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world.”
Currently there are more than 3,500 Gurkhas serving in the British army. The group of seven soldiers involved in the test case in London’s High Court were represented by Cherie Booth, barrister wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In making his ruling, Sullivan said he hoped that now the case was over the two sides could discuss the issue.
“In litigation between Gurkhas and the ministry of defence there can be no winner,” he said.
“I conclude by expressing my hope that once the parties are free from the demands of adversarial litigation they will be able to resolve their outstanding differences in a spirit of cooperation rather than conflict.”
The ministry of defence (MoD) welcomed the ruling, saying it preserved equilibrium within the armed forces. “The ruling has vindicated the MoD’s position in respect to pay and pensions by confirming that our present arrangements are not discriminatory,” it said.