Allahabad High Court: Coming down heavily on the State Government for not paying the GPF (General Pension Fund) amount for more than two decades to the petitioner who had retired in 1994, the Bench of Sudhir Agarwal and Shamsher Bahadur Singh, JJ. held that the amount of GPF is obviously the money which belongs to an employee and if a person is not paid his own money for more than two decades, there can be nothing more serious and harsh on the part of the respondents which is liable to be condemned in the strongest words. “It is like a person starving today is assured food to be provided after a month or two by which time he may die of hunger or the food stuff itself may rot. If this is not unconstitutional then what else can be.”
Observing that retiral dues is a fundamental right of a retired employee within the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution, the Court observed that the authorities continue to cause constant harassment to poor retired employees taking advantage of their helplessness, terming it “really unfortunate and shameful”. In a democratic system governed by rule of law, the government does not mean a lax government. The public servants hold their offices in trust and are expected to perform with due diligence particularly so that their action or inaction may not cause any undue hardship and harassment to a common man.
The Court held that “In our system, the Constitution is supreme, but the real power vest in the people of India. The Constitution has been enacted ‘for the people, by the people and of the people’. A public functionary cannot be permitted to act like a dictator causing harassment to a common man and in particular when the person subject to harassment is his own employee.” Expressing severe disapproval, the Court held that “withholding of pension and other retiral benefits of retired employees for years together is not only illegal and arbitrary but a sin if not an offence since no law has declared so. It is morally and socially obnoxious. It is also against the concept of social and economic justice which is one of the founding pillar of our Constitution”.
The Court critically observed that “A system controlled by bureaucrats can create wrangles to device something which is formulated by policy-makers for the benefit of the citizen is writ large from this case. A beneficial scheme made for social welfare of old and retired employees, can be twisted by the system creating a nightmare to retired employees, as is quite evident. The constitutional obligation though pen down to reach the people but Executive, habitual of remaining static or move slow or no movement at all, can render such scheme quite ineffective and inoperative … The pain and torture faced by retired employee and his family, in such circumstances, can be easily visualised and felt but cannot be assessed in the same way only those who really suffer, know it. This pain and humiliation cannot be compensated in terms of money.”
On the aspect of award of interest on delayed payment, the Court observed that if retiral benefits are paid with extraordinary delay, the Court should award suitable interest which is compensatory in nature so as to cause some solace to the harassed employee. No government official should have the liberty of harassing a hopeless employee by withholding the lawful dues for a long time and thereafter to escape from any liability. Every authority howsoever high must always keep in mind that nobody is above law. It is also the constitutional duty of a court of law to pass suitable orders in such matters so that such illegal acts may not be repeated and serve as a lesson to everyone committing such unjust act.
Directing the State Government to ensure the payment of 10% GPF amount along with 12% compound interest to be computed after six months from the date of petitioner’s retirement till actual payment, the Court also imposed costs of Rs 50,000 on the respondents to be recovered from the officer/s concerned, found responsible for the lapse after due enquiry. [Sant Lal v. Chief Audit Officer, 2015 SCC OnLine All 154, decided on May 18, 2016]