Had it not been for the selfless contribution of these freedom fighters, we wouldn't be in a position to discuss these matters, the court said.

Madras HC sanctions pension of 2 freedom fighters after decades of struggle
news Law Saturday, January 27, 2018 - 17:05

Decades of struggle by two freedom fighters in separate cases finally came to an end at the Madras High Court around India’s 69th Republic Day.

In the first case, just a day before Republic Day, the court apologized to V Gandhi, an 89-year-old freedom fighter, who finally got his pension after 37 years of bureaucratic delay.

In the second, reported just a day after Republic Day, freedom fighter KP Muthiah’s five legal heirs were sanctioned the pension he struggled to obtain for over three decades -  until his death in 2002.

V Gandhi’s struggle

The Madras High Court apologised to Gandhi on Thursday for the man’s long wait for his pension, and ordered the Tamil Nadu government to sanction it within two weeks “at his door steps”.

“Sorry sir, you are made to suffer at the hands of our people too, as, unfortunately, this is how the bureaucratic dogmatism with wooden approach works, at times, in this country, for which you fought to get freedom," Justice K Ravichandra Babu said in the court order.

Gandhi had made the request on July 6, 1980. After a wait of almost four decades, he moved court.

The judge also pulled up state authorities for depriving a freedom fighter of his pension because of a mere discrepancy in his age on his ration card and voter ID card. He added that technical objections should not have been used an impediment when Gandhi’s bona fides had been verified Captain Lakshmi Sahgal of the Indian National Army.

According to a ‘Personal Knowledge Certificate’ issued by Captain Sahgal on April 15, 1994, Gandhi was a “genuine Indian National Army freedom fighter” who had joined the Indian Independence League in 194

“...the respondents have chosen to mechanically reject the claim of the petitioner with irrelevant and immaterial reason which only shows that they somehow wanted to wash off their hands and relieve themselves of their liability,” the judge said.

Justice Babu added that pension was not a charity but in fact the “conferment of an honour on such a selfless freedom fighter”.

He said that the respondents had failed to note that had it not been for the “selfless contribution” of those like Gandhi to the freedom struggle, they wouldn’t even be able to discuss these matters, and ordered that the arrears of pension from 1980 be calculated and disbursed within four weeks.

However, Gandhi only learned about the government order when a reporter from The Hindu visited his residence at Vyasarpadi in Chennai, and found him living in a “penurious condition”, and was overwhelmed that his struggle had finally come to an end.

KP Muthiah’s plight

The Madras High Court once again rapped authorities while sanctioning the pension of late KP Muthiah to his five legal heirs. Justice R Suresh Kumar said that granting pension to political sufferers or freedom fighters, whose invaluable services to India’s freedom struggle made it possible, could not be dealt with lightly.

Calling freedom fighters’ service to India “immeasurable”, Justice Kumar said, “Had they not fought for freedom, we, the 1.2 billion Indians, cannot live with liberty. Whenever the application for freedom fighter pension is received by the authorities, top priority must have been given to decide such application, of course on the basis of the documents, certificates etc., submitted by the claimants to the authorities, as per the schemes.”

The court allowed the petition filed by M Anjalai, Muthiah’s now deceased wife, and directed the Centre to sanction Muthiah’s pension to his five legal heirs.

Muthiah was lodged in the Jagarcha and Nilaganj camp jail for six months during the freedom struggle in 1945. However, the jail records were destroyed. And while the state government sanctioned his pension after he submitted relevant documents in 1969, he did not get a response from the central government even though he applied with necessary certificates in 1972.

Muthiah waited for his pension for over four decades, until he passed away on June 24, 2002. And although his wife filed the present petition, she too passed away on September 16, 2006, while it was still pending. His legal heirs had been impleading as petitioners thereafter.

Justice Kumar said that Muthiah’s contribution and participation in the freedom struggle should be not be disputed any longer. Given that the state government had already sanctioned his petition in 1969, there should be no further impediment from the Centre.

The judge directed the central government to sanction Muthiah’s pension from September 1972 to June 2002, and his wife’s pension from June 2002 to September 2006 and pay the arrears to his legal heirs.