LONDON: Former Gurkha soldiers from Nepal lost a test case against Britain’s Ministry of Defence over pension rights at the High Court in London today.
The ruling came after the British government last year granted Gurkha veterans the right to settle in Britain following a high-profile campaign led by actress Joanna Lumley.
The latest legal action was launched by the British Gurkha Welfare Society which says around 24,000 veterans and dependants who served in the British army before 1997 receive only a third of the normal payments. It said afterwards that it would appeal against the ruling.
“It is very regrettable that the Gurkhas were yet again forced to take the British government to court and disappointing that we did not win the case, though we have understood that this was not likely to be the end of the road,” said general secretary Chhatra Rai.
“This is above all a moral issue as the majority of Gurkha veterans in this group are now becoming increasingly old and fragile and do not have the level of English necessary to find a job. Most of these Gurkhas are therefore not able to work in their old age to supplement their pension,” Rai said.
Judge Ian Burnett spoke of the “high regard” British people had for Gurkhas but he rejected their challenge on the grounds the Ministry of Defence had not acted unlawfully.
The MoD had argued that because Gurkha pensions are payable over a longer time than regular armed forces pensions, Gurkhas end up receiving the same amount as British veterans.
In May last year the British government U-turned to allow all Gurkha veterans with a minimum of four years’ service to settle in Britain. Lumley subsequently visited Nepal and was hailed as a heroine.
A lawmaker supporting the move, veteran Conservative Ann Widdecombe, said: “The Gurkhas have always been an integral part of the British armed forces, fighting the same wars and carrying out the same duties as British soldiers. “It is an injustice to give these veterans a pension based on their country of origin instead of the country in whose army they loyally served.”