The Madras High Court has expressed regret that an 89-year-old Indian National Army member had to struggle for four decades to get freedom fighter pension due to " bureaucratic dogmatism", and ordered the Tamil Nadu government to grant it in two weeks.
Allowing a petition by K Gandhi of the city, who applied for the pension in 1980 and moved the court after waiting for 37 years, Justice K Ravichandra Babu said pension was not a charity but conferment of an honour on such selfless freedom fighters and the state should not wait for them to make their application for it.
"Sorry sir, you are made to suffer at the hands of our people too, as, unfortunately, this is how the bureaucratic dogmatism with wooden approach works, at times, in this country, for which you fought to get freedom," the judge said in his recent order.
He ordered the state government to pass an order granting pension from the date of Gandhi's original petition and serve such order to him at his doorsteps.
He also said: "It is a sorry state of affair and saddening factor to note that a person, who fought for freedom of this country is again driven to fight now, even after freedom, unfortunately, to get some financial assistance for his sustenance by way of such pension."
Gandhi had joined the INA floated by Nethaji Subhas Chandra Bose and was a part of the Indian Independence League in Rangoon (now Yangoon), Burma (Myanmar). He was imprisoned in Rangoon Central Jail from May 1945 to December 1945.
He had applied to the state government for freedom fighter pension on July 6, 1980. He had also submitted a certificate by co-prisoner K Kalimuthu stating that both were imprisoned in the Burma jail together.
Besides, the petitioner had also furnished a personal knowledge certificate from INA Col.Lakshmi Sahgal stating that he was a member of INA and took part in the freedom struggle.
Pulling up authorities for not considering the plea on the sole ground that there was a discrepancy in the petitioner's age in the elector's photo identity card and the Ration Card submitted by him, the judge said the reason was irrelevant and immaterial.
He noted that the petitioner's participation in freedom struggle was not in dispute and he had submitted two "overwhelming evidence" -- certificates by the co-prisoner and by Col.Lakshmi Sahgal, vouching for Gandhi's credentials.
"...The respondents have chosen to mechanically reject the claim of the petitioner with irrelevant and immaterial reason which only shows that they somehow wanted to wash off their hands and relieve themselves of their liability," he said.
Referring to reminders sent to officials and their replies that the representation had been forwarded to the authority concerned, the judge said except doing so mechanically, the respondents had done nothing effectively or positively to consider the petitioner's request.
This was despite the officials concerned being informed about the urgent need to extend monetary support, "which is certainly not a charity, but conferment of an honour on such selfless freedom fighter," the judge said.
"Unfortunately, these respondents failed to note that but for such selfless contribution and participation in the freedom struggle by persons like the petitioner, we would have not been in the present position to deal with this matter like this," Justice Ravichandrababu said.
The judge said in his considered view, persons like the petitioner, who fought for freedom, should have been conferred with such due honour and dignity by extending the invitation to them and not by waiting for them to make their application.
The order shall be served to Gandhi "at his door steps" within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the court verdict.
The arrears of pension shall be calculated and disbursed within a period of four weeks thereafter, the judge said.
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