SC orders Government to release pension to freedom fighter’s widow

New Delhi: The Apex Court directed the Center to release Chellamma Palani’s pension within a month.

Chellamma Palani is a widow of a freedom fighter from Kerala, Kunjan Palani.

SC bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan dismissed an appeal of the central government against a judgment of the Kerala high court last year directing the Centre to pay a pension to the widow of a freedom fighter from the state, Kunjan Palani.

The Supreme Court directed the government to release her pension within a month. While as many as nine advocates, including additional solicitor general Pinky Anand, appeared for the appellant, the Union of India, none appeared as counsel for the respondents, the state of Kerala and the widow, Chellamma Palani.

A division bench of the Kerala high court, comprising then Chief Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar (now a judge in the Supreme Court) and Justice N. Sathish Ninan, had on October 7 last year described the Centre’s grounds of appeal against the single judge’s direction to release the pension as “frivolous”.

Kunjan had participated in the Punnapra-Vayalar struggle, which was declared part of the freedom struggle by the government.

He was a receiving a pension under the Kerala Freedom Fighters’ Pension Scheme. He passed away on April 15, 1996. Thereafter, Chellamma submitted an application on April 23, 1998, claiming dependent pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980. Kunjan had been imprisoned for two years in a case connected with the Punnapra-Vayalar struggle, which lasted from October 24, 1949 to October 22, 1951.

Along with the claim application, Chellamma produced various certificates, including evidence to show that Kunjan had been receiving state pension. She has also produced an extract from convict register issued by the central prison along with the application.

Chellamma’s application was kept pending till May 12, 2008, when the central government rejected it. She first challenged it before a single-judge bench in the high court, which allowed her writ petition on July 9, 2015.

The Centre then filed a review petition in the high court, saying there was fresh ground for dismissal as she is not entitled to a pension in view of the new pension guidelines announced on August 6, 2014, after the Narendra Modi government came to power. The judge considered this and then rejected the review petition on May 13, 2016. The high court’s division bench also dismissed the Centre’s appeal against the single judge on the grounds that the new guidelines framed by the Modi government were not applicable to Chellamma, as she had filed her application way back in 1998. “The new guidelines cannot have retrospective effect,” the bench held in its order. Clause 1.5 of the new guidelines for disbursement of pensions by the Union of India reads: “No pension shall be sanctio

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