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A plea citing disparity between the allowance paid to Indian military officers in Bhutan and the foreign allowances paid to the Ministry of External Officers Personnel (Indian diplomats and missionaries) in Bhutan comes up before the Supreme Court

A bench comprising of Justices N V Ramana and Mohan M Shantanagoudar has began hearing an appeal filed by the Union of India challenging the High Court decision which was in favour of the Indian military officers at Bhutan. The present appeal arises from the main issue, which is that the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned officers of the Indian Army, stationed in Bhutan, who were paid Bhutan Compensatory Allowance, had seen a huge disparity between the allowance paid to them and the Foreign allowances paid to the Ministry of External Officers Personnel (Indian diplomats and missionaries) in Bhutan. This was pointed out to be highly discriminatory and is in violation of Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. There used to be periodic revisions for the diplomats and other IFS officers with regards to their allowances, whereas, in the cases of military personnels, there were only two necessary revisions, in 2001 and 2005. These persons were deputed in high cost area in Bhutan, and it was found unreasonable as to why such a discriminatory approach was being carried out by the authorities.

It is also pertinent to mention that from the period of 1973 to 1997, there was equivalent allowance paid to both classes of Indians residing in Bhutan. The Cabinet had also come up with new decisions in 1999 where they had tried meeting the demands of the army officers by fulfilling their demands regarding allowances and the rates of deductions. But, the 1999 decision have not been put into practice till 2005. The High Court had directed the Government to implement the cabinet decision which shall be in force from 1999 in contrary to the Government’s resolution of implementing them after September 2005.

Presently, ASG Vikramjit Banerjee who appeared for the Centre argued that foreign allowance is governed by Indian Foreign Service Rules and  applies to Indian Foreign Service Officers. Also, the nature of the work between the two classes of Indians are completely different. Military persons are on deputation unlike the IFS officers. Even their sources of recruitment are different. These two sets of people should not be equated.

—Sankalan Pal

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