A 95-year-old freedom fighter, who had to fight for nearly 40 years to secure his pension, will finally receive his dues after the Delhi High Court directed the Centre to pay him the arrears along with a sum of Rs 1 lakh.
The court said people have forgotten the agonies of those who suffered the thorns of ignominy and incarceration so that they could strew the path behind them with roses for generations to follow, like ours, to tread upon.
"Complacency and inertia are endemic to mankind, and the instant case presents a classic example thereof. Ensconced in our ivory towers, we have become blind, and deaf, to the plight of those who made a cosy existence, for us, possible," Justice C Hari Shankar observed.
The court noted that freedom fighter Heera Singh had applied for grant of pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman (SSS) Pension Scheme in 1982 and he had to fight a battle for nearly 40 years to secure his entitlement.
It said out of this period, 25 years were taken by the Centre to reject his application in June 2007, which was filed in March 1982, and "there is no explanation, whatsoever, for this delay".
In his petition, Mr Singh said during the freedom struggle, he along with other compatriots had captured a railway station, post office and police station which disconnected avenues of communications, for the British in Bihar.
Following this, criminal proceedings were initiated against him and others by the British government. As he was absconding, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him and he was declared a proclaimed offender.
Mr Singh said he had remained underground from August, 1942 to December, 1946, which exceeded the requisite period of six months as prescribed under the SSS Pension Scheme, and for this reason, he was declared a proclaimed offender by the competent court in 1944.
The court said it was of the opinion that the decision of the Centre to deny pension to Mr Singh under the scheme is "capricious in the extreme" and that he fulfilled all the entitlements for grant of pension.
Allowing Mr Singh's petition, the court directed the government to disburse the entire arrears of pension along with Rs 1 lakh cost awarded to him within four weeks from Monday, failing which the Centre would have to pay the interest on the entire amount at the rate of 12 per cent per annum.'
The court, in its judgement, observed that following almost two centuries of the hegemonic British rule, India attained independence on August 15, 1947 and various schemes were introduced by the Indian government to commemorate those who had shed their blood and sweat for the country's struggle for independence.
One such scheme was the SSS Pension Scheme relating to freedom fighters' pension.
"Having given their all, to secure independence for this nation, persons, such as the petitioner, merely seek, in the twilight of their lives, pension, for their sustenance.
"Having promulgated for the purpose laudable schemes such as the SSS Pension Scheme, authorities, entrusted with the task of implementing the scheme, are required to adopt a compassionate and considerate approach, and not to drive the seekers of pension, thereunder, from pillar to post in search of their legitimate entitlements," it said.