The Supreme Court on Monday said the Centre is duty-bound to comply with its 2022 judgement on the payment of One Rank One Pension arrears to ex-service personnel, and asked it to pay dues for 2019-2022 worth Rs 28,000 crore to them by February 28 next year.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, which at the outset refused to accept the Centre's sealed cover note on the payment of OROP dues, provided a time schedule to the Ministry of Defence to pay the arrears to the ex-service personnel, categorised under several heads.
"The Union government is duty-bound to comply with the judgement of this court in the terms of the OROP scheme," it said.
The bench noted that out of 25 lakh pensioners, four lakh did not qualify for the OROP scheme as they were getting enhanced pensions and the Centre proposed to pay the arrears by April 30, 2023.
Reducing the time limit to February 28 next year, the bench gave the time schedule for payment of arrears to different groups of pensioners under the OROP scheme.
The bench, also comprising justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, directed that the six lakh family pensioners and gallantry award winners "shall will be paid their OROP dues by April 30, 2023".
It said around four-five lakh retired servicemen aged 70 years and above shall be paid their OROP dues in one or more instalments by June 30.
The OROP dues for 10-11 lakh remaining pensioners shall be paid in three equal instalments by February 28 next year, the bench said, making it clear that the payment of the dues "will not affect further equalisation of pension of ex-servicemen to be done in 2024".
At the outset of the hearing, the top court refused to accept the Centre's sealed cover note about its views on the payment of OROP arrears.
"We need to put an end to this sealed cover practice in the Supreme Court... This is fundamentally contrary to the basic process of fair justice," it said.
"I am personally averse to sealed covers. There has to be transparency in court... This is about implementing orders. What can be secret here," the CJI said.
The bench was hearing the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement's (IESM) plea over payment of OROP dues.
The top court, on March 13, came down heavily on the government for "unilaterally" deciding to pay OROP dues in four instalments.
The defence ministry has recently filed an affidavit and a compliance note in the top court, giving the time schedule for payment of the arrears of Rs 28,000 crore to ex-servicemen for years 2019-22.
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