Chandigarh, August 27
The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ruled that it is the authorities’ responsibility to advise an officer on the most advantageous option available when fixing pay and allowances when a new Central Salary Commission (CPC) is set up.
“This tribunal is firmly of the view that regardless of whether an agent has returned their option or not, the organization and in particular the executing agency and the paying agency have a duty to advise an agent and to ensure that the most advantageous option in determining remuneration is given to him,” the AFT bench comprising Judge Rajendra Menon and Lt. Gen. PM Hariz said in its August 24 order.
Authorizing a motion filed by a retired colonel seeking a review of his salary since it was fixed in December 2004 under the 4th CPC, the House said that although there were provisions in this regard, there was a lack of appropriate methodology to ensure that all officers obtain the most beneficial benefit from the way their compensation is set.
The officer had maintained that upon his promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, his pay was fixed from the date of promotion instead of benefiting from the fixing from the date of the next increase.
This had a cascading effect on the transition to 6th and 7th CPC, resulting in not only a final perceived pay lower than that of his classmates and juniors, but also a reduced pension. He had represented pay authorities on numerous occasions.
Observing that it is clear that there is indeed a financial advantage if the pay on promotion in December 2004 had been fixed from the date of the next increase in March 2005, the Chamber held that this would then have resulted in a appropriate financial benefit when moving to the 6th CPC in January 2006 as well.
The bench said that even if the option was not exercised, there was nothing in the file to show that the authorities had given advice on the implications of setting salaries from the date of promotion or of the next increase.
Believing that there is no reason to believe that anyone will knowingly opt for a less advantageous remuneration setting option, the panel stated that the option was exercised or not exercised without full knowledge of the implication of the action, which, in his opinion, was the responsibility of the payment authority to ensure.
The Chamber ordered the authorities to review the salary of the officer fixed during the promotion in December 2004 under the 5th CPC and after verification, to refix his salary in the most advantageous way, to refix the salary during the transition to the 6th CPC with the most advantageous while it is not lower than that of juniors, and refix the salary when moving to the 7th CPC and subsequent promotion and retirement accordingly.
The bench also ordered that all similar pending cases regarding the fixing of salaries upon promotion to the 5th CPC with the most advantageous option be considered in the same way and that the salaries be refixed. Earlier this month, in a separate case, the Tribunal had ordered the Comptroller General of Defense Accounts to review and verify the salary setting of all those officers, from the three services, whose salaries have been refixed under the 6th and 7th CPCs.