The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) here has directed the Union government to resolve a long pending anomaly due to which the House Rent Allowance (HRA) of officers posted at Hard Non Military Stations (HNMS) was not being reimbursed even when there was no government accommodation available.
The order was given by an AFT bench comprising Justice M S Chauhan and Vice Admiral A G Thapliyal recently.
Lt Col M K Hooda, an affected officer, was posted to Rewari as Registrar of Sainik School, which was under raising and there was no official accommodation available.
Such stations, called HNMS, entitle officers to retain their families at a selected place of residence and in case no military family accommodation is available in the selected station, the personnel are entitled to HRA for renting their own house.
Hooda kept his family at Gurgaon when military authorities officially conveyed the non- availability of accommodation.
However, the Controller of Defence Accounts rejected the HRA claim of the officer on the pretext that while Rewari had been declared HNMS in 1991 for officers posted to NCC units, it wasn't declared HNMS for Sainik School since it was raised in 2009.
The claim of the petitioner was also taken up by the Army HQ but was finally rejected by the Defence Ministry which admitted there were anomalies in the matter but those were under consideration for resolution.
The petitioner then challenged the non-reimbursement of HRA on the grounds that his rightful claim could not be kept pending till the anomaly was resolved and that it was discriminatory to grant the same to Army officers posted to NCC units in the same station but not to officers posted at Sainik School since it was the station that was to be treated as HNMS and not any particular unit in the station.
Allowing the petition, the AFT directed the government to release the HRA to the officer and observed with anguish that officials responsible for looking after the welfare of soldiers exhibit complete lack of empathy.
The tribunal has added that it was distressing that the list of HNMS had not been upgraded and the anomalies had not been removed even after two decades of issuance of the original letter.
The AFT further observed that it was its earnest hope that the authorities will rise to the situation and remove such anomalies to save unnecessary inconvenience to affected personnel.
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