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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 16:49 GMT
Ex-Gurkhas take MoD to court
Current members of the Gurkhas in East Timor
Current members of the Gurkhas in East Timor
Seven former Gurkhas have taken the UK Government to court, claiming they suffered "inferior" pay, conditions and treatment to that of British colleagues.

In the test cases, the Nepalese fighters claim their human rights have been breached by the "irrational and discriminatory" attitude of the Ministry of Defence.

The Gurkhas are being represented by the prime minister's wife Cherie Booth QC, in the High Court hearing which is expected to last four days.

If the case succeeds, the government may have to offer the Gurkhas the same conditions of service, including pay and pension rights, as those of other British soldiers at an estimated cost of 2bn.

Former Gurkha Rag Prasad Purja
We are asking for the same rights and pensions as the British soldiers who served alongside us

Rag Prasad Purja
The MoD argues there has been no breach of the human rights laws, and that too much time has elapsed between the time the men were serving and the case being brought.

Launching the seven test cases, Ms Booth told Mr Justice Sullivan there was "systematic and institutionalised less favourable treatment of Gurkha soldiers... on the grounds of their race and nationality".

"On the one hand Gurkhas are acknowledged to be brave fighters who have provided loyal service to the Crown for nearly 200 years... and even today serve in Kuwait," she said.

"But on the other hand, they are treated as different and inferior in relation to other parts of the British Army on terms and conditions of service."

Test case Gurkhas
Ram Kaji Rai
Yambahadur Gurung
Nardev Pun
Lal Bahadur Limbu
Rag Prasad Purja
Gopi Raj Lama
Chandra Bahadur Pun
The seven involved in Tuesday's test case challenges have all retired in the past couple of years from the Brigade of Gurkhas, to which all the Gurkhas in the British Army are recruited.

Many complaints over the treatment of Gurkhas had recently been dealt with by the MoD, said Ms Booth.

But there were outstanding grievances relating to pay, pensions, retirement, and conditions of service - including discrimination over family leave and the educational provision for the children of soldiers.

'Discrimination'

The seven are Ram Kaji Rai, Yambahadur Gurung, Nardev Pun, Lal Bahadur Limbu, Rag Prasad Purja, Gopi Raj Lama and Chandra Bahadur Pun, who on retiring returned home to Nepal.

Three of them - Mr Purja, 36, Mr Lama, 38, and Mr Chandra Pun, 35, - returned to the UK for the hearing.

They were joined in a packed courtroom by at least a dozen other members of the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO).

Mr Purja, a former corporal from Pokhara, Nepal, served with the British Army in Hong Kong, Brunei, the UK, Kenya and Kosovo.

He said: "There has been discrimination against us for almost 200 years, and now we are asking for the same rights and pensions as the British soldiers who served alongside us."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The Gurkhas don't like being made to feel second class"
See also:

06 Dec 02 | Wales
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