"Normally, we would not entertain such a plea which has challenged a 27-year-old Defence Ministry decision denying gratuity to those who retired prior to June 3, 1993," said a division bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon, but as the cause raised in the petition related to disabled war veterans, it directed petitioner, Disabled War Veterans (India), to specify the number of such persons or their families and the amounts to be paid to them as gratuity.
The bench also asked the petitioners as to how the said issue is maintainable after more than two decades.
During the course of hearing, advocate Ajay Digpaul, appearing for the Defence Ministry, told the bench that the petition was not maintainable as it has been filed after 27 years of passing of the impugned order.
The court said that gratuity was not a recurring payment and the government cannot be expected to keep its books or accounts open for ever as doing so would lead to "throwing all the audits and financial plans to the winds".
It also noted that fixing a cut-off date for payment of gratuity does not appear to be discriminatory, and also that it would address the issue of delay in filing the matter.