Women military officers are finally entitled to pension

The women army officers will get their pension for February along with arrears running into several lakhs by the month-end, said an official who too asked not to be identified.

 SSC women officers became eligible for permanent commission and pension only two years ago after the SC passed a judgment to close the gender gap in the armed forces.

 In a letter sent to the country’s top defence pension sanctioning authority on Thursday, India’s Defence Accounts Department (DAD) has asked it to comply with a two-year-old Supreme Court order and grant pension to women army officers who have not received the retirement benefit for almost a year, officials familiar with the development said.

 Accounts (Pensions), or PCDA (P), to swiftly process the pension cases of short-service commission (SSC) women officers in line with the top court’s order and the government’s clarification on the matter, said one of the officials cited above, asking not to be named.

These officers will get their pension for February along with arrears running into several lakhs by the month-end, said a second official who too asked not to be identified. DAD is headed by the Controller General of Defence Accounts.

Some national daily papers had recently published the plight of SSC women army officers who in spite of the 2020 Supreme Court order had not been paid pension for a year.

It also follows a clarification from the defence ministry’s department of ex-service welfare (DESW) that the SSC women officers who retired after 20 years of service are eligible for pension in line with the top court’s order. The minimum service for defence officers to get a pension is 20 years.

 

SSC women officers welcomed the development saying it had taken a load off their minds.

“I am delighted that we will finally get our dues. The long wait is over. We can finally plan our finances,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sarita Satija (retd), who served in the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) for almost 21 years before retiring in April 2021. At least 15 women SSC women officers will receive arrears along with their February pension.

SSC women officers became eligible for permanent commission (PC) and pension only two years ago after the SC passed a judgement to close the gender gap in the armed forces. The apex court’s directions on pension were unambiguous.

In the order dated February 17, 2020, the court said, “SSC women officers with over 20 years of service who are not granted PC shall retire on pension in terms of the (government’s) policy decision.”

The government is updating its new online pension disbursing system called SPARSH, or System for Pension Administration (Raksha), to process the cases of SSC women officers. “Changes have been initiated in SPARSH to process pension cases of SSC women officers who retired after 20 years of service,” said a third official.

While a group of SSC women officers have been drawing pension for months after they retired last year, other similarly-placed officers were deprived of the retirement benefit. The ones drawing pension had their cases processed manually and not under SPARSH, which was then not updated to process pension cases of SSC women officers. They are entitled to a monthly pension of around ₹1 lakh.

SPARSH was implemented last September to ease different aspects of defence pensions including initiation, sanction, computation, revision and disbursement.

According to PCDA (P), the SPARSH comprehensive pension package, an end-to-end online system, seeks to ensure “the right payment to the right pensioner at the right time” through digital processing of the pensions of more than three million defence pensioners. PCDA (P) says the need for SPARSH was felt to “obviate and address” the existing challenges in the pension sanctioning and disbursement process.