Ballari-based freedom fighter wins 2 decades old pension claim

The Karnataka High court has finally ordered the state government to clear pension arrears of the 94-year-old freedom fighter named Gundu Rao Desai, whose pension has been denied for over 23 years, on the grounds that, he has failed to furnish a second affidavit from a co-prisoner.

The state government was also asked to clear the arrears of the freedom fighter within 6 weeks or those responsible for the delay shall ‘personally & collectively’ pay him ₹1,000 for the delay each day and that this amount be recovered from erring officials.

According to the requirement to claim the freedom fighters’ pension scheme, Gundu Rao Desai had to submit affidavits from two co-detainees. The court noted that the freedom fighter’s petition had specifically mentioned in a letter dated January 20, 2021, that only one co-detainee is alive now and all others were long dead.

“That being the position, asking him to produce the affidavits of two co-detainees, virtually amounts to compelling him to retrieve the dead from their grave, infuse soul into their body and ask them to swear to the affidavit; this is an impossibility…

The authorities have been directed to sanction the pension with retrospective effect from March 19, 1998, the date of the petitioner’s claim, and settle all the arrears within a period of six weeks.

The HC stated that the petitioner made the claim for pension in March 1998 “except that the file moved from this office table to that” and nothing had happened for more than two decades. The court reprimanded the state government for not at least giving some concession to the “shortness of human life” and that the process moved at “snail speed”.

HC Justice Krishna S Dixit added that the state government has to be gentle and humane when considering the claims of such persons and their just claims cannot be rejected on “flimsy grounds”.

“The approach of the statutory authorities to the compassionate policies of the State such as Freedom Fighters Pension Schemes should not hijack justice in the ritualistic adherence to the black letter of the law and in a gross disregard to its spirit,” the HC said.

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