The Supreme Court on Monday observed that the defence ministry should not attempt to take the law into its own hands, Bar and Bench reported.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud made the remark while hearing a petition about the delay in clearing arrears under the One Rank One Pension scheme for armed forces personnel.

Under the One Rank One Pension scheme, a uniform pension is paid to all retired military personnel of the same rank, and the same duration of service, irrespective of when they retire.

Justice Chandrachud was referring to the communication issued by the ministry on January 20 that the arrears will be paid in four instalments.

The communication was issued despite the Supreme Court’s order on January 9 that had directed the government to clear the arrears by March 15. This was the second extension granted to the government after it had moved the Supreme Court in June seeking an extension of three months to make the payments.

At the last hearing on February 28, the court had taken an exception to the ministry’s decision to clear the arrears in instalments.

The court had ordered the defence ministry secretary to the pension scheme to file a personal affidavit to explain his “unilateral decision”. It had also warned the ministry that an interest rate of 9% will be imposed if arrears were not cleared by March 15.

At Monday’s hearing, Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the court will hear the government once it receives the affidavit from the secretary, reported Bar and Bench.

The bench, also comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, asked the Ministry of Defence to provide a roadmap for the payment of arrears by next week.

“Show us the note on Monday,” the bench said. “How much is left, what is the prioritisation? The oldest people, widows etc can be taken into account [for payments], like above 75 etc.”