Disability Pension for Primary Hypertension

disability pension for primary hypertension

The Hon’ble Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Kochi in the case of Col. Vijaya Kumar. B  Vs.  Union of India & Ors (OA No. 91 / 2017 decided on 25 Aug 2017) declared the officer applicant entitled for disability pension for Primary Hypertension.  

Case Summary 1. The Original Application has been filed seeking disability element of pension with the benefit of rounding off. The applicant was enrolled in the Army on 28 September 1974 and was later granted Commission on 15 December 1984. The applicant’s request for voluntary retirement was approved with effect from 31 March 1999 and he was sanctioned service pension. Subsequently, the applicant was commissioned into the Territorial Army on 06 September 2000. The learned counsel submitted that at the time of joining the Territorial Army, the applicant was in medical category SHAPE1. The applicant superannuated from Territorial Army with effect from 31 May 2013. The Release Medical Board held at the time of superannuation, assessed him to have the disabilities of Primary Hypertension, aggravated by service at 30% for life.  Reflux Esophagitis grade ‘A’ & Antral Gastritis, both attributable to service and assessed at 20% for life, and Osteoarthritis (both knees) aggravated by service at 20% for life with composite assessment of all his disabilities at 60% for life. The learned counsel further submitted that despite the disabilities of the applicant being held as attributable to/aggravated by military service, his claim for disability pension was rejected by the competent authority stating that the disabilities were neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service. Before allowing the case of disability pension for Primary Hypertension, the Hon’ble Tribunal Considered the relative points of Casualty Pensionary Awards, 2008 as per which the following conditions were brought out for diseases case: –

Attributablity: 10(b) Diseases: (i) For acceptance of a disease as attributable to military service, the following two conditions must be satisfied simultaneously (a) that the disease has arisen during the period of military service; and, (b) that the disease has been caused by the conditions of employment in military service. (ii) Diseases due to infection arising in service other than that transmitted through sexual contact shall merit an entitlement of attributability and where the disease may have been contracted prior to enrolment or during leave, the incubation period of the disease will be taken into consideration on the basis of clinical course as determined by the competent medical authority. (iii) If nothing at all is known about the cause of disease and the presumption of the entitlement in favour of the claim is not rebutted, attributability should be conceded on the basis of the clinical picture and current scientific medical application.

Aggravation: Para 11 of the Pensionary Awards, 2008 A disability shall be conceded aggravated by service if its onset is hastened or the subsequent course is worsened by specific conditions of military service, such as posted in places of extreme climatic conditions, environmental factors related to service conditions e.g. Fields, Operations, High Altitudes etc.

Para 43 of Chapter VI, Guide to Medical Officers (Military Pensions), 2002, as amended in 2008.

43. Hypertension. The first consideration should be to determine whether the hypertension is primary or secondary. If secondary, entitlement considerations should be directed to the underlying disease process (e.g. Nephritis), and it is unnecessary to notify hypertension separately. As in the case of atherosclerosis, entitlement of attributability is never appropriate, but where disablement for essential hypertension appears to have arisen or become worse in service, the question whether service compulsions have caused aggravation must be considered. However, in certain cases the disease has been reported after long and frequent spells of service in field/HAA/active operational area. Such cases can be explained by variable response exhibited by different individuals to stressful situations. Primary hypertension will be considered aggravated if it occurs while serving in Field areas, HAA, CIOPS areas or prolonged afloat service.”

In the instant case, apart from spending over 24 years in the Army, the applicant had subsequently served 13 years in Territorial Army, which included nearly 04 years in field/modified field/CIOPS areas. In our view, the assessment of the Release Medical Board that the applicant’s disability of Primary Hypertension was aggravated by service, was in keeping with the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 2008, as well as guidelines given in the Guide to Medical Officers. It was also observed that the Medical Board had clearly amplified the reason for assessing the disability as aggravated, by stating that “aggravation conceded due to stress and strain as the onset was within one year of the individual moving from field/CIOPS area”. In the case of Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Others vs. A.V.Damodaran (Dead) through LRs. and Others, (2009) 9 SCC 140, had held that Medical Board is an expert body and its opinion is to be given due weight, value and credence. Therefore in our view, it was incorrect on the part of the pension sanctioning authority, as well as the Appellate Committees to have overruled the findings of the Release Medical Board, that too, without a reexamination of the applicant. It is also observed that the Hon’ble Apex Court while examining the case of Union of India vs. Rajbir Singh, also considered two other cases, Civil Appeal Nos. 5840 of 2011 and 5819 of 2012, wherein the respondents (original applicants) were suffering from Hypertension and it was held that the disability must be presumed to be attributable to, or aggravated by military service in the absence of any specific reasons recorded by the Medical Board. Therefore, based on the principles enunciated by the Hon’ble Apex Court in Rajbir Singh (Supra), the applicant was declared entitled for disability pension for Primary Hypertension at the time of his discharge from service.

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