On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to accept a sealed cover note from the Central government regarding their stance on the payment of One Rank One Pension (OROP) arrears to former military personnel.
The Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud led a bench that instructed the Attorney General (AG) R. Venkataramani to provide a note to senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, who was representing the ex-servicemen.
According to the Chief Justice, “We need to stop the practice of sealed covers in the Supreme Court,” in response to the AG’s statement that the note was confidential.
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Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, who were also part of the bench, questioned the necessity of secrecy in a case that concerns the enforcement of court orders.
The Chief Justice expressed his disapproval of sealed covers by stating, “I am personally averse to sealed covers. What happens is, we see something, he does not see. And we decide the case without showing it to him. This is fundamentally contrary to the judicial process. There cannot be secrecy in the court. The court has to be transparent.”
The bench emphasized that the payment of pension is in accordance with the court’s previous ruling. The Chief Justice then questioned the Attorney General, “What is the justification for maintaining such secrecy in this matter?”
The Attorney General (AG) stated that there are certain “sensitive issues” involved.
The bench made an oral observation that the practice of presenting sealed covers in the Supreme Court needs to be stopped, as it may lead to high courts also adopting the same practice.
The bench reiterated that this fundamentally goes against the basic process of fair justice.
During the hearing of the plea made by the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) on the payment of OROP dues, the top court made these observations. In the previous week, the top court rebuked the Central government for making a unilateral decision to pay OROP dues in four instalments.
The Supreme Court directed the Ministry of Defence on March 13 to devise a plan for the payment of arrears under the OROP scheme by next week. Additionally, the Court warned the Ministry not to take the law into its own hands by issuing communication regarding the payment of arrears in four instalments.
The top court requested the Attorney General to present a detailed note by the following Monday indicating the actions taken so far and the minimum time required to pay the arrears.
The Defence Ministry has submitted a compliance note to the top court, outlining the payment timetable for arrears of Rs 28,000 crore to ex-servicemen for the years 2019-22.