The Bombay High Court has directed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to pay compensation of Rs. five lakh to a 62-year-old woman who used to work with the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) for compulsorily retiring her after she approached court seeking upgrade of her post.
A division bench of justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere was hearing a petition filed by Sheila Rajan challenging the order passed by the Director General of the AFMS, MoD refusing to upgrade her post from Group C to Group B.
Rajan joined the AFMS of the MoD in 1971 as a speech therapist.
According to her petition, the then Colonel in-charge of administration made a recommendation for upgrade of her post.
However, this came to be rejected on the ground that the MoD cannot upgrade posts as it can be done only by the Pay Commission, it contended.
Rajan then approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) but before her matter could be heard the Army passed an order of compulsory retirement against Rajan in April 1992.
Apart from this, the Army further reduced Rajans two increments, said the petition.
“The facts disclose a very sorry state of affairs and we are pained to note that the respondents (Ministry of Defence), instead of issuing a letter of appreciation for the work done by the petitioner chose to punish her merely because she approached the court against inaction on the part of the respondents,” the judges said.
The bench noted the petitioner was made to run from pillar to post and was penalised for approaching the court in an attempt to get justice.
“In this case the petitioner has been working for children of Army men who are physically handicapped and who have to be given speech therapy. Instead of considering her grievance in a sympathetic manner and giving a pat on the back of such a good working officer, the Army chose to humiliate and punish her in every conceivable manner,” the court said.
The bench noted that while the MoD has committed contempt of court by not complying with orders it does not intend to take any action under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act.
“We express our extreme dissatisfaction over the conduct of the respondents in this particular case. We propose to award compensation to the petitioner and direct the respondents to pay a sum of Rs 5 lakh to the petitioner within eight weeks,” the court directed.
The court, said the Pay Commission in 2006 has already upgraded the post of speech therapist from Grade C to Grade B and hence no order was required on this issue.