The Chennai regional bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has granted 50% disability pension to an Air Force man who, on being chased by a swarm of bees, fell into a ditch and fractured his shin and heel bones.

Ex-sergeant Trilochan Behera, 50, enrolled in the Indian Air Force (IAF) in December 1986. After being promoted as sergeant, he was transferred from the Hakimpet station near Hyderabad to Chandigarh. On March 15, 2009, at 10am, he went to seek the assistance of a fellow airmen to pack his luggage. He was attacked by a swarm of bees. He fell into a ditch and was taken toa hospital in an unconscious state.

At the time of his discharge from service in December 2012, the release medical board assessed Behera’s disability as 30% for life. The board said his disability was ‘neither attributable nor aggravated by service.’ His two appeals to the board were rejected on the grounds that at the time of sustaining injuries, he was not on duty.

Behera then moved the tribunal. A bench said, as per IAF regulations, joining time counted as duty. But, as there was a doubt on the nature of duty and circumstances under which the injuries occurred, the rules mandated ordering a court of inquiry. The Commanding Officer (CO) failed to do so.

 It is obvious that the injuries were of such serious nature that he (Behera) stayed in the hospital for more than 15 days and thereafter, he was sent on sick leave and ultimately he was placed in a medical category…which in plain terms is a serious injury,” said the tribunal. As the personnel had suffered injuries inside the air force station, it was ‘imperative and prudent’ to hold a court of inquiry. So the CO’s dispensing with the court of inquiry was ‘bereft of any valid reasons.’ The CO’s decision had caused ‘grave injustice’ to Behera, the tribunal said.
As the accident had occurred while on duty in circumstances beyond Behera’s control, he was entitled to disability pension. As the CO had ‘shown poor judgement, bordering on negligence,’ the tribunal slapped a fine of 5,000 on the IAF.