The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre whether it can consider automatic annual revision instead of the existing policy of periodic review, done once in five years, during the hearing of a plea in connection with in the armed forces.
A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asked the Centre's counsel that after agreeing to OROP, whether the government went back on its decision over automatically passing on any future enhancements in pension to the pensioners.
The petitioners have questioned the November 7, 2015, notification issued by the Centre while implementing OROP, in which the government adopted a modified definition of the expression, under which the gap between the rates of pension of current and past pensioners were to be bridged at periodic intervals.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM), said the government's decision is arbitrary and mala fide, as it creates a class within a class and effectively grants one rank, different pensions.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, noted that the government agreed to OROP in the Parliament in 2014, and put a volley of questions to Additional Solicitor General N. Venkatraman, who represented the Centre.
Venkatraman argued that petitioners say the base year for OROP implementation should be prospectively from 2013 and not 2014, and following this, there would be no end to it.
Citing the November 7, 2015 decision, he said it was a policy decision, which was formulated after holding extensive discussions between different stake-holders and inter-ministerial groups.
As the top court queried whether the government went back on its decision to automatically pass on the future enhancements in pension, besides granting uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank and service tenure, regardless of retirement date, the ASG said that automatically passing the future enhancements in pensions, is inconceivable in any kind of services.
He emphasised that a policy decision involves different buckets like economics, socio-economic, politics, psychology, and budget.
Venkatraman added that OROP seeks to bridge the gap -- first the lowest and the highest pension is taken within that rank of pensioners, holding the same rank and same service tenure to reach an average. He added the exercise of bridging the gap is to be carried out periodically once in five years.
The hearing in the matter will continue on Wednesday.
The top court, in July 2016, sought Centre's response on a petition by IEMS seeking implementation of OROP as recommended by the Koshyari Committee with an automatic annual revision, and not the periodic review of once in five years.