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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 14:17 GMT
Former Gurkhas win compensation
Gurkha troops
Current members of the Gurkhas in East Timor
Three elderly former Gurkhas stand to receive 10,000 in compensation after winning their test case against the government on Wednesday.

The three Second World War veterans had challenged a Ministry of Defence ruling which prevented them from claiming compensation for the brutality they suffered at the hands of the Japanese.

In the High Court their lawyers successfully argued the soldiers - who fought for Britain - had been the victims of unequal treatment and racial discrimination by the UK Government.


To be acknowledged for this at my age of 81 is very important to me

Pahalman Gurung, one of the three ex-Gurkhas

After winning their case the three ex-soldiers are now eligible for "ex-gratia" payments of 10,000 from a fund set up to benefit surviving British prisoners-of-war.

The former Gurkhas were excluded from the fund - set up two years ago - because at the time of their service the regiment formed part of the Indian Army.

The successful outcome could influence more than 300 other surviving ex-Gurkhas, the claimants' solicitor said.

Solicitor Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, announcing the win at Preston Crown Court, said: "The Gurkhas have fought enough battles to prove their loyalty and dedication to Britain."

'Irrational and racist'

The case had been heard by Mr Justice McCombe, sitting in London, as a matter of urgency because of the age and health of the applicants - Pahalman Gurung, Gaurisor Thapa and Hukumsing Pun.

All three are now in their 80s and living in Nepal.

Giving his judgement, Mr Justice McCombe said the decision to exclude the Gurkhas from the compensation scheme had been both "irrational and racist".

He said the Gurkhas had been treated differently to servicemen from other countries in the British Empire purely because of their race.

The former soldiers' lawyers argued that the decision by the MoD not to compensate them had been a breach of their human rights.

One of the three Gurkhas, Pahalman Gurung, said: "I am delighted to have won.

"I was proud to remain loyal to my British oath in the Second World War and as a consequence I took severe punishment from the Japanese.

'Issue of principle'

"To be acknowledged for this at my age of 81 is very important to me.

"It is an issue of principle for me and others that we should be treated equally and recognised for our service to the British."

The challenge was one of a series of discrimination cases being brought by Gurkha soldiers against the British Government.

The main case, which is expected to be heard early next year, alleges discrimination against them in pay and pensions.

A win by the Gurkhas could cost the MoD 2bn.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Hunt
"The three former Gurkhas are in their 80s and live in Nepal"
Phil Shiner, solicitor
"The case of the Gurkhas is unique"
See also:

31 Oct 02 | South Asia
20 Nov 00 | Wales
20 Nov 00 | UK
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