The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has said that if a soldier suffers from diabetes and hypertension due to being overweight or being obese, then he will not be applicable to the disability pension on the grounds that such diseases occur on account of military service. It has said that there is not a ‘casual’ connection between such disabilities being caused by overweight and service in the military.
These orders were passed by the AFT when it examined the Body Mass Index (BMI) of an Indian Air Force (IAF) sergeant at the time of the Released Medical Board (RMB) and connected it with the parameters prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In so far as disabilities for diabetes and primary hypertension are concerned, a perusal of the weight record chart of the applicant from January 10, 2017, to January 16, 2018, along with his BMI is well above the normal limit. The applicant was overweight by 47.61 per cent even at the time of his RMB,” the Times of India quoted the AFT as saying in its report.
In the detailed order, the Tribunal also took reference from a few medical bulletins which had information on the effect of excess weight and/or obesity on primary hypertension and diabetes.
The Division Bench consisted of Justice Anu Malhotra (retd), judicial member, and Rear Admiral Dhiren Vig (retd), administrative member of the principal bench of AFT Delhi. They dismissed the plea filed by ex-Sergeant Saji Kumar Damodaran. The latter had sought directions to set aside the order dated January 17, 2020 by the Air Headquarters and had asked the IAF authorities to grant him the disability pension with effect from the date of his discharge for life considering the disabilities as attributable and aggravated by military service.
The applicant joined the IAF on November 2, 1995, and was discharged on November 30, 2018, after 23 years in service.
The RMB was of the view that the applicant was fit to be discharged from service in the composite low medical category for hypertension and diabetes. The RMB clarified that these disabilities were neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service. The disability pension is higher than the normal pension and received by the soldier on his superannuation.
Before the plea, the applicant’s main contention was that at the time when he entered the IAF, he wasn’t suffering from these diseases. He got afflicted with them on account of service conditions.
According to BMI specifics, the applicant’s ideal body weight should be 63 kg as submitted by a counsel for the Centre. However, the applicant was overweight by 47.61 per cent at the time of RMB. The reason submitted for disability of hypertension and diabetes was morbid obesity of the latter.
Disability Pension is granted to members of the Indian military who typically sustain life-changing wounds sustained in the course of duty, or, develop illnesses or impairments during the course of service, which includes illnesses or impairments in harsh service conditions.