Defence Ministry spent Rs. 7.85 cr. on legal fee

Earns SC’s ire for excessive litigation
While the debate continues over taxing disability pension for military personnel and assurances by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to look into the matter, information provided under the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that between 2013 and July 2018, the Defence Ministry paid about Rs. 7.85 crore as fee to the government counsel for various cases pending against military personnel in the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the Armed Forces Tribunals (AFTs).
Most pricey
Of the three services, the IAF had the highest number of cases at 2,683 on which a little over Rs. 7 crore was spent on legal fees, show information obtained through the RTI query filed by advocate Brajesh Singh in August last year. The Army spent about Rs. 11.5 lakh, while the Navy about Rs. 69 lakh for cases in North India between 2013-14 and 2017-18. The Defence Ministry has often faced criticism for spending money on lawyers to appeal against soldiers who approached the AFTs for disability benefits or pension and was even pulled up by the Supreme Court on several occasions for excessive litigation.
CBDT note
In a notification dated June 24, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) under the Finance Ministry said “such tax exemption will be available only to armed forces personnel who have been invalidated from service on account of bodily disability attributable to or aggravated by such service and not to personnel who have been retired on superannuation or otherwise.” Mr. Singh recently told Parliament he had directed officials to get details from the Finance Ministry. After the CBDT notification, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman put out an unsigned note of the Army which said some “unscrupulous personnel” were exploiting the disability benefits. Parts of the CBDT note were later put out on Twitter by the Army’s Additional Director-General of Public Information (ADG-PI). Following this, the Army came in for sharp criticism from the veteran community on social media over its stand.

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