Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Dr S.N. Pathak, J., allowed the present petition, directing the respondents to make payment of the entire retiral benefits to the petitioner within 10 days.

The instant writ petition has been preferred by the petitioner for payment of his retiral dues i.e. pension, gratuity, arrears of pension and leave encashment and other benefits.

The facts of the case were that the petitioner was appointed to the post of Assistant Engineer under Rural Works Department on 28-03-1979 in the erstwhile State of Bihar. It is the case of the petitioner that he was denied the salary for several months and on several occasions without any rhyme and reason. The petitioner after his cadre allocation to the State of Jharkhand, superannuated from the services on 31-07-2011 from Rural Works Department, Work Division, Garhwa. The petitioner after superannuation in 2011, filed several representations for payment of retiral benefits but the respondents have not paid any heed to the same, therefore, the present petition.

Saibal Mitra, the counsel appearing for the petitioner urged that though the petitioner superannuated in the year 2011, he has not received a single farthing under the head of retiral benefits.

The High Court directed the Treasury Officer to immediately make payment of the entire retiral benefits to the petitioner within a period of 10 days since entire amount under the heads of retiral benefits have been sanctioned only a month’s back after eight years of the retirement. The Court also held that the Petitioner is entitled to retiral benefits along with 12% statutory interest. Reliance in this regard was placed on the judgment passed in case of Uma Agrawal v. State of U.P., (1999) 3 SCC 438 wherein it is settled principle of law that retiral benefits are not bounty to be given to the employees after retirement. Rather, it is the right of the employees to get retiral benefits.[Sukhram Prasad Mani v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1137, decided on 20-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. disposed of the writ petition saying that the petitioner should approach the appropriate forum, in accordance with law as the respondents have complied with the condition to provide the reason for denying pension to the petitioner.

In this case, the petitioner was ordered to represent the dues payable to him and the respondent University was required to consider and pay the admissible dues of the petitioner within three months, failing which the dues were to carry simple interest at the rate of 10% per annum.

It was the duty of the respondents to give a reasoned order with regard to the admitted dues and details with regard to payment made, including a calculation chart. The learned counsel for the petitioner raised two grievances on account of earned leave and arrears of pension from February, 2003 to 31-12-2005. With regard to earned leave, he specifically mentioned that amount for 217 days was due whereas the University has sanctioned only 134 days, with the absence of a calculation chart to show the reasons for such a restriction.

The respondents filed a show-cause notice against the petitioner which said that the prayer for payment of arrears of pension from February, 2003 to December, 2005 had been rejected on the ground that the petitioner had opted for a different option which did not provide for the pension.

The Court held that their jurisdiction was to see whether the order of the writ Court has been complied with by the respondents. As there was no specific direction on merit with regard to payment of a pension or the number of days of earned leave, the respondents cannot be said to be in contempt if they have either denied or paid the earned leave for a lesser period. The Court advised the petitioner, to assail the same in accordance with law before the appropriate forum and ordered the respondents to provide a detailed calculation chart.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was disposed of accordingly.[Savitri Choudhary v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1236, decided on 29-07-2019]

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved a new Central Sector Scheme, a historic decision that will empower farmers across India. This is a path-breaking scheme that will provide pension cover to our industrious farmers who toil day and night to keep our nation fed. It is also for the first time since independence that such a pension coverage has been envisioned for farmers.

It is estimated that 5 crore small and marginal farmers will benefit in the first three years itself.  The Central Government would spend Rs. 10774.50 crore for a period of 3 years towards its contribution (matching share) for providing social security cover as envisaged under the scheme.

The salient features of this scheme are:

A voluntary and contributory pension scheme for all Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) across the country.

Entry age of 18 to 40 years with a provision of minimum fixed pension of Rs 3,000 on attaining the age of 60 years.

For example, a beneficiary farmer is required to contribute Rs 100/ – per month at median entry age of 29 years.  The Central Government shall also contribute to the Pension Fund an equal amount as contributed by the eligible farmer.

After the subscriber’s death, while receiving pension, the spouse of the SMF beneficiary shall be entitled to receive 50% of the pension received by the beneficiary as family pension, provided he/she is not already an SMF beneficiary of the Scheme.  If, the death of the subscriber happens during the period of contribution, the spouse shall have the option of continuing the Scheme by paying regular contribution.

Synergy between schemes, prosperity for farmers:

An interesting feature of the Scheme is that the farmers can opt to allow his/her monthly contribution to the Scheme to be made from the benefits drawn from the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme directly. Alternatively, a farmer can pay his monthly contribution by registering through Common Service Centres (CSCs) under MeitY.

Fulfilling core promises, empowering the agriculture sector:

For seventy years after Independence, such coverage for farmers was never thought. It was in the run-up to the 2019 Parliamentary elections that PM Narendra Modi first mooted such an idea, which gradually found resonance across the length and breadth of India. Such a plan was mentioned in the BJP manifesto and in the first Cabinet meeting after the formation of a new Government, it has become a reality.


[Dated: 31-05-2019]

Cabinet

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ. and N.S. Dhanik, J. allowed a special appeal by State of Uttarakhand, preferred against the order of learned Single Judge, setting aside the same impugned order.

Facts, to the limited extent necessary, are, the respondent was Class IV employee in Inter Rural Road Construction Scheme, started by Government of Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Cane and Sugar Commissioner. The State of Uttar Pradesh bifurcated in Uttarakhand formerly known as Uttaranchal in 2000, and the respondent opted to be located in Uttarakhand for his service till the date of superannuation. The respondent had contended earlier that he was paid all the retiral benefits but a pension. The Government denied his pension stating that such benefits are applicable to the ‘government servants’ only and being in the service of Road Construction Scheme he is not deemed to be a ‘government servant’.

The learned Single Judge, relied on the Supreme Court judgment and granted the order in favor of the respondent earlier, he further stated that judgment of the Supreme Court was binding and there is no substance in the contentions of State. Supreme Court, in Vinod Kumar Goel v. State of Uttrakhand, (Civil Appeal No. 2511 of 2004 and 227 of 2014, Order dated 10-01-2004) where the matter in issue was exactly same, held, that “the Supreme Court has never rejected the contention earlier, that aggrieved individual was not a ‘government servant’ when working under the Cane Commissioner. Further, it was held by  Court that, “Rules of the State were applicable to the appellant for the purpose of superannuation and other consequential benefits; the earlier decision was binding on both the parties; and the respondents could not deny the retiral benefits, including pension, to the appellant.”

Aggrieved by the order of learned Single Judge, the State including the Commissioner, filed the appeal to the Court. The contentions of the appellant were that, the alleged proceedings before the Commissioner were not challenged by the respondent and the order passed in 1997 was the basis of the judgment of the Supreme Court. Hence, the order of the Commissioner in 2006 is valid and respondent’s inaction was not considered by the Single Judge while adjudication. The Commissioner has earlier observed that, there were no separate rules for the employees and officers working in the headquarters, districts, and areas under the Scheme, due to which various kinds of difficulties were arising in taking decisions in establishment related cases, the employees and officers of the Scheme would be covered by the Service Rules, as are applicable from time to time, in equivalent posts of the Cane Development Department. The Commissioner clarified that any other provision, and order prevailing in this regard, will not qualify any employee, employed under the Scheme, as a Government employee.

The appellant emphasized on the order of the Commissioner in 2006, which was relevant at the time when the respondent’s claim was decided and eventually ignored by the respondent, it was the only order which was effective as on that date, and was effective on the date of superannuation therefore, the claim of respondent was liable to be dismissed and rejected by the learned Single Judge. They further contended that the ruling of the Supreme Court was also not in conformity with the order passed by the Commissioner in 2006 but that of in 1997.

High Court, based on the aforementioned contentions of the appellant, set aside the order passed by the learned Single Judge in favor of respondent and issued a direction that it shall examine, the question whether, in view of the subsequent order passed by the Commissioner in 2006, the orders of the Supreme Court, based on the earlier order of the Commissioner in 1997, would apply to the case of the respondent.[State of Uttrakhand v. Gopal Singh Bisht, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 340, Order dated 01-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of M.G. Giratkar, J., partly allowed a criminal revision application by modifying the maintenance amount being provided to the wife in respect of the husband’s pension.

In accordance, the present case, the learned counsel of applicant/husband, P.K. Mishra, submitted that before retirement, the husband was getting the salary of Rs 1, 53,000 per month and after retirement, his pension was Rs 72,000 per month. Further, it was stated that the husband was not in a position to pay Rs 30,000 per month as maintenance to his wife, the reason being an exorbitant amount. He added that “As per Section 11 of the Pensions Act, 1871, the pension cannot be attached.”

Hence, the High Court on considering the facts and circumstances of the case stated that maintenance amount at Rs 30,000 per month granted by learned Magistrate appears to be exorbitant. Pending disposal of domestic violence proceedings before learned Magistrate, at this stage amount of Rs 20,000 per month towards interim maintenance appears to be proper. “Maintenance allowance granted to wife cannot be considered as debt – She is not a creditor hence exemption under Section 11 cannot be granted to husband.” Also, pensions can be attached to recover the amount of maintenance.  Therefore,

  • The criminal revision application is partly allowed.
  • Order of interim maintenance is maintained. However, the amount at Rs 30,000 per month is modified.
  • Instead of Rs 30,000 per month, the applicant shall pay Rs 20,000 per month towards interim maintenance to his wife during the pendency of D.V. Act proceedings.
  • The order of attachment of pension is hereby quashed and set aside subject to the applicant/husband clears all arrears of maintenance within a period of one month.

In view of the above, the criminal revision application stands disposed of. [Bhagwant v. Radhika, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 607, Order dated 05-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court- A Bench of Manoj K. Tiwari, J., disposed of a petition finding no scope for interference in the writ petition.

In the present matter the petitioner after resigning from the appointment of Lower Division Clerk in Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA), Air Force, Ministry of Defence, accepted appointment as Lower Division Clerk in Punjab National Bank (PNB). Now since he has retired from service of Punjab National Bank on 31-01-2010, has sought benefit of services rendered in CAD, Air Force for pension purposes. His representation to the Bank claiming full pension on the basis of the services rendered by him was rejected.

The Court relied on the revelation made by the bare perusal of Regulation 24 of PNB (Employees’) Pension Regulation as pointed by the Bank, which makes it clear that military service rendered by a bank employee shall not be counted towards qualifying service for pension. Therefore, the past services will not count as qualifying service for pension and thus, the petition was dismissed.[K.R. Joshi v. Controller General of Defence Accounts, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 150, Order dated 07-03-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT): The bench of Sunita Gupta, Member (J), Lt Gen Philip Campose, Member (A), allowed an application praying for revision of pension in accordance with the last rank held before retirement.

In the pertinent matter, the applicant in pursuance of the circular by the Government of India (GoI) approached the Tribunal, wherein the circular clarified that, 10 months continuous service in the last rank held is not required for grant of pension in such rank. They relied on Thiagrajan v. Union of India, O.A. No. 93 of 2014, where the ten months were waived-off and the Tribunal opined that “pension cannot be deprived to an individual to a rank for which he has already rendered his service and that the applicant has earned his pension in the rank of JWO already, and therefore, is entitled to be paid pension in the rank of JWO. Even if, for some reason, such a pension is found to be less, the applicant is entitled to receive the highest pension he earned already...

The respondent conceded that the requirement of holding the last rank of 10 months before retirement has been dispensed with in keeping with the circular and further contended that they are correct in giving pension to the applicants on the lower rank as it is financially more beneficial.

The Tribunal held that the argument of the respondents, where a junior promoted to a senior rank should be pegged at a pension of his last but one rank, is fallacious, while placing reliance on D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, 1983 (1) SCC 305. Further on the method of calculating the exact pension, relied on the explanation in P. Gopalakrishnan v. Union of India, the complete import and implication of Circular 430 dated 02-02-2009 Regulations for the Air Force Part 1, Ministry of Defence (MoD) letter dated 07-06-1999 and came to the conclusion that “the basis of calculation being pursued in the instant case was detrimental for the pension of petitioner..”. And it further directed the respondents to calculate the pension based on the last held rank by him before retirement and arrears to be paid accordingly.[Dhanushkodi Rajarajan v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 4, Order dated 20-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: On the question as to exclusion of unauthorised leaves for determination of pensionary benefits, the 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Deepak Gupta, JJ has held that

“the period of leave for which salary is payable would be taken into account for determining the pensionable service, while the period for which leave salary is not payable would be excluded. The Rule is crystal clear and does not brook any two interpretations.”

The Court said that Rule 21 of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972  is quite clear in its terms, i.e., “all leave during service for which leave salary is payable” would count. The corollary is that if an employee is not paid for leave, that period has to be excluded from the period to be counted for admissibility of pension. Rule 3(1)(q), while defining “qualifying service” provides for service rendered while on duty “or otherwise which shall be taken into account for the purpose of pensions and gratuities admissible under these rules.”

The Court, hence, said that it had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that to avail of the benefit of Pension Rules, an employee must qualify in terms of the Rules.

The Court was hearing the plea of ex-employees of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), who availed of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) but were held disentitled to pension on account of exclusion of period when they remained absent without authorisation for which period they were  held not entitled to salary.

On the issue that the respondents were not governed by these Rules, but by the Employees Contributory Provident Fund Scheme, the Court said:

“The Pension Scheme was sought to be introduced only couple of months before the VRS, and that too was not implemented till 1995. Not only that, it was not implemented through the LIC but ultimately by the appellant-Corporation itself, much later in 1995. Thus, the occasion for making any entries for this leave period in the service record, in terms of the Rules did not even arise at the stage when the VRS was applied. There may have been some significance to these aspects if the Pension Rules were already applicable over a period of time and entries had not been made, though, even there, it would not be in supersession of the plain language of the Rule. … The qualifying period for the VRS would have to be governed by that Scheme and cannot ipso facto be imported into the entitlement of pension, contrary to the plain wordings of the Pension Rules.”

[Delhi Transport Corporation v. Balwan Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 276, decided on 26.02.2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT): The Bench of S.V.S. Rathore, J. and Air Marshal BBP Sinha; Members, dismissed an application claiming disability pension, on the grounds that the disease was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military service.

In the present case, the original applicant (deceased) developed pain and swelling in his right thigh following an injury while doing the parade. The Categorisation Medical Board was held on 14-08-1964 at Military Hospital, Lucknow for the disability “Leomyo Sarcoma Right Thigh” and the applicant was placed in category CEE (temporary) for 6 months. On account of the said disability, grant of disability pension was sought for. The respondents filed a counter affidavit stating that the documents relating to the case were destroyed after the expiry of the period of retention i.e. 25 years and in the absence of a medical report, it is not possible to give any specific finding.

The Court opined that it was not in the position to accept that the disease of the applicant was either attributable to or aggravated by military service, primarily since, there was a substantial delay of 44 years and also because the reason as to why the disease could not be detected at the time of enrolment cannot be scrutinised to decide attributability.[Faquir Baksh Singh v. Union of India, Original Application No. 543 of 2017, Order dated 18-02-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT): The Bench of S.V.S. Rathore, J. and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Member) dismissed a Lance Naik’s claim for pension on the ground that he had been declared as a deserter and dismissed from service.

Petitioner herein joined the Indian Army on 31-10-1985 and was sanctioned casual leaves for five days from 08-05-2001 to 12-05-2001. During the course of casual leave, he became mentally disturbed and could not reach his home. In the year 2003, after recovering, he reported to his unit on 25-03-2003. Petitioner pleaded that he was entitled to service pension as he had completed 15 years of service; but since no pension was sanctioned in his favour, he filed a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad. The said Court transferred his petition to this Tribunal under Section 34 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

Respondents’ contention was that petitioner did not report back after availing casual leave therefore, he was declared a deserter and apprehension roll was issued against him on 28-05-2001. He was advised to report to his unit, but the petitioner never approached his unit and continued to remain a deserter. Thus, he was dismissed from service with effect from the date of his desertion and, since his entire service was confiscated, he was not entitled to any pension.

The Tribunal noted that the petitioner had been declared as a deserter and dismissed from service under Section 20 (3) of the Army Act. He claimed for a pension without challenging his dismissal order and hence the said dismissal order had become final. It was concluded that since the petitioner had been dismissed from service, therefore, in view of provisions contained under Regulation 113 (a) of Pension Regulations for Army, 2008, his entire service stood confiscated and he had no pensionable service to his credit.

In view of the above, the instant application was dismissed.[Lal Chand Ram v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 2, Order dated 07-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:

“The legitimate expectation is not a wish or a desire or a hope, therefore, it cannot be claimed or demanded as a right.”

The Bench of Dr DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta, JJ said this in the appeal against Patna High Court’s order in which the State of Bihar was directed to provide financial assistance for payment of the arrears as well as current pension to the employees of the Anugraha Narayan Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna.

The provision in question was Section 8(1) Anugraha Narayan Sinha Institute of Social Studies Act, 1964 which provides that the State Government is to contribute a sum of rupees two lacs in each financial year or such other sums for research or education work, publication, buildings and for proper maintenance and development of the Institute. It was argued before the Court that the State Government had been releasing Grant-in-aid including amount towards pension since the Board has passed the resolution in the year 1985. Hence, the contribution towards the amount of pension has created legitimate expectation of the employees of the Institute that they are entitled to pension at par with the employees of Patna University. Thus, the employees have legitimate expectations of receipt of pension from the State Government. Therefore, the order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court does not call for any interference.

The Court, however, disagreed with the said stand and explained the provision by stating:

“Sub-Section (1) of Section 8 of the Act mandates the State Government to contribute a sum of rupees two lacs in each financial year for the maintenance of the Institute, whereas, sub-Section (2) empowers the State Government to contribute from time to time, such additional sums as it may deem fit for special items of research or education work, publication, buildings and for proper maintenance and development of the Institute. Such payment for the special projects, is in discretion of the State Government in view of the object for which the grant is to be disbursed, but sub-Section (2) does not include disbursement of the amount of pension as the contribution is for limited purpose which is not recurring in nature.”

The Bench said that the resolution of the Board of the Institute to implement a retirement benefit scheme from its own resources will not bind the State Government to pay the amount of pension to the employees of the Institute. The employees of such Institute cannot be treated at par with the employees of the State Government nor the State can be burdened with the responsibility to pay pension to the employees of the Institute.

Stating that the payment of pension in the past will not confer an enforceable right in favour of the Institute or its employees, the Court held that the order of the High Court was not legally sustainable.

[State of Bihar v. Dr. Sachindra Narayan, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 108, decided on 30.01.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ. issued certain directions for enforcing elderly people’s rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court was considering a petition filed for recognition and enforcement of elderly people’s rights under Article 21. The petitioner prayed relief with respect to four issues: (i) Pension of the elderly; (ii) Shelter for the elderly; (iii) Geriatric care and medical facilities for the elderly (iv) Effective implementation of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (‘MWP Act’).

After discussing all the issues, the Court was of the opinion that this was perhaps first such petition on the subject. It had stated that right to life provided under Article 21 must be given expansive meaning. The Court focused on three rights articulated by the petitioner: (a) right to live with dignity; (b) right to shelter; (c) right to health. the Court also found favour with petitioner’s alternative submission that even if constitutional rights are nor enforceable due to difficulties in “economic budgeting”, even then such rights of elderly people are protected under MWP Act which is a statutory law and the Government cannot make excuse of lack of finances in implementing the law that it had framed. The Court also considered the submissions made by the respondents including Union of India and was satisfied with their efforts in the matter.

While complementing the parties to the petition for their spirited support of the rights of the elderly, the Court issued certain directions till the time a finality is attained in the matter. The directions include:

(i) Union of India to file a status report on the number of old age homes, medical facilities and geriatric care facilities in the country.

(ii) Making senior citizens aware of their rights.

(iii) Effective implementation of provisions of MWP Act, 2007

(iv) Union and State Governments must revisit grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more realistic.

Finally, the Court directed Union of India to file the status report on or before 31-01-2019. the matter will be listed for further hearing after receipt of status report. [Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2804, decided on 13-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: The Bench comprising of Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, CJ. and S.R. Sen, J. directed the government to adhere to the principles of equal pay for equal work.

The writ petition was filed wherein it was contended that the government teachers were getting their pension and other benefits after their retirement while the deficit/Adhoc/aided college teachers were not getting anything except the Contributory Provident Fund (CPF).

It was to be admitted that both the categories were equally qualified who gave the same services rather some teachers in the deficit colleges were giving better service than the government teachers along with the fact that the former were also assigned with other duties from time to time. Thus it was against Articles 14, 16 and 39(d) of the Constitution of India as it was in deprivation of their right to receive a pension which was a post-retirement necessity.

The Court appreciating the petition stated that, “We must remember that teachers are the backbone of the society and it is through their contribution, dedication and hard work which has molded us to become what we are today; be it a Judge, a Minister, a Lawyer, a Doctor or an IAS Officer etc., and that, we can never forget.” Hence the respondent shall strictly adhere to the spirit the principle of Doctrine of Equality, Articles 14, 16 and 39(d) of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India i.e., equal pay for equal work.

Accordingly, the Court provided for the correction of the Contributory Provident Fund immediately with retrospective effect.[Meghalaya College Teachers Association v. State of Meghalaya,2018 SCC OnLine Megh 218, decided on 01-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Arijit Banerjee, J. disposed of a writ petition by granting payment of interest to a retired employee on the amount of delayed payment of pension.

The petitioner was retired in 2007 while working as a teacher in a higher secondary school. The first payment order was issued in 2007 itself. Under ROPA Rules, 2009 there was a revision of pensionary and gratuity amount payable to the petitioner which order was made in 2012. The arrear revised pension was disbursed in 2013. The petitioner claimed interest on delayed payment of revised pension.

The High Court, at the outset, observed that the Limitation Act in terms does not apply to writ petition. Furthermore, it is a settled law that a retired employee is entitled to some amount of interest on delayed payment of pension. In the present case, it was a bounden duty of the State to disburse the due date. If it failed to do so and released such amount after an unexplained delay, it was obliged to pay interest to the retired employee. In such view of the matter, the Court directed the Director of Pension, Provident Fund and Group Insurance to pay interest to the writ petitioner at the rate of 9% per annum on the arrear of revised pension calculated on and from 1 June 2009 till actual date of payment. The petition was disposed of in the terms above. [Purna Chandra Mondal v. State of W.B.,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 7366, dated 03-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Single judge bench comprising of Alexander Thomas, J. dismissed a civil writ petition challenging the validity of Central Swatantrata Sainik Samman (SSS) Pension Scheme, 1980 for conferring eligibility only to dependent unmarried daughter and widow of a deceased freedom fighter, for grant of Freedom Fighters’ Dependent Pension.

The present challenge came to be filed when the petitioner, who is the divorced daughter of a freedom fighter, was denied the grant of Freedom Fighters’ Dependant Pension under the SSS Scheme. The competent authority had based its rejection on the ground that as per clause 5.2.2 of the SSS Scheme, only a dependent widow and dependent unmarried daughter of the deceased freedom fighter are eligible for the grant of dependent pension; and a widowed/divorced daughter is not eligible for such pension.

The court held that it was a settled law that if a Central scheme prescribes that only the dependent widow and dependent unmarried daughter of the freedom fighter, alone are eligible for the grant of dependant pension then no other category of legal representatives of the deceased freedom fighter can avail the benefit of scheme. It was further observed that a question of hostile discrimination does not arise at all since the eligibility is confined specifically to widows and unmarried daughters. As such, there was no illegality or unreasonableness in the rejection order of the competent authority. On the said holding, the present writ petition was dismissed. [Reeja Latha v Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 3481, decided on 18-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma, ACJ and Manoj Kumar Tiwari, J., heard a writ petition which was treated as public interest litigation wherein a prayer was made to provide financial assistance to the priests with respect to the hardships faced by them.

The Court took cognizance of a letter addressed by the petitioner, highlighting the financial difficulties faced by the Hindu Priests who performed the Vedic rites and religious ceremonies throughout the State of Uttarakhand. It was stated that they lived a life of penury which disabled them to impart education to their children and, therefore, they prayed for financial assistance and pension from the State Government. The Court pressed upon the fact that though there being a prima facie case, it could not be studied in isolation as similar financial hardships would also be faced by the priests of all the religions including Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc.

The Court was of the view that priests assisted the citizens in enjoying the freedom of conscience and to profess, practice and propagate their respective religion and hence the prayer shall be considered. Accordingly, the State Government was directed to apprise the Court on what financial assistance could be rendered to the Hindu Priests, Maulwis, Granthis/Raagis and Christian Priests which enabled them to make both ends meet within the parameters of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. The matter is listed on 06-09-2018. [Subhash Joshi v. State of Uttarakhand, WP (PIL) No. 117 of 2018, order dated 29-08-2018]

Bail Application
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. allowed the family pension to be paid to the parents of a Martyred Armyman after his wife performed the second marriage. The Court based its Judgment on an earlier decision of Kerala High Court.

The petitioners were parents of an Armyman enrolled in Assam Rifles who died in a terrorist encounter. Respondent 5, his wife, was receiving family pension. Subsequently, she performed the second marriage, and according to the petitioners, this disentitled her to the family pension which then ought to have been paid to them. Official respondents cited provisions of CCS Rules, contending that parents are not entitled to a pension in the event of the death of an employee of Paramilitary  Forces.

While adjudicating, the Court found that the issue was squarely covered by the decision of Kerala High Court in Panchami v. Union of India,2013 SCC OnLine Ker 24322, wherein the said High Court perused Liberalised Pensionary Awards (LPAs) as framed by the Union as well as notifications/orders issued thereunder, to hold that the family pension is intended to all the dependents of the deceased. Since, on re-marriage of the widow, she may not be able to take care of the parents of the deceased, the parents are entitled to the pension subject to limits mentioned in Section 4(4) of LPAs. In the context of placing reliance on the decision of another High Court, Neon Laboratories Ltd. v. Medical Technologies Ltd., (2016) 2 SCC 672 was referred wherein Supreme Court observed that every High Court must give due deference to the law laid down by other High Courts. In view of the aforesaid, the Court found merit in the petition and held the petitioners entitled to a pension to an extent of 75% of the pay last drawn by the deceased. [Bhagwati Devi v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 847, decided on 05-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Rajendra Menon, CJ, and Ravi Ranjan J., held in a challenge made by the petitioner that withholding his gratuity and encashment of earned leaves was valid if, at the time of superannuation, departmental or criminal proceedings were pending.

In a nutshell, the brief facts of the case are that the petitioner was working with the Public Works Department and a case was registered against him in the year 2013 when a raid was conducted in which the property and money found on his premises was found to be disproportionate in reference to the known source of income of the employee. Therefore, petitioner was booked under Sections 13(2) with Section 13(1) (e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in the continuance of these proceedings, he superannuated in the year 2015.

The submissions of the petitioner stated that he was sanctioned 90% of the provisional pension. Provident fund dues, 10% pension, full gratuity and admissible leave encashment were withheld. He placed reliance on a Supreme Court case of State of Bihar v. Md. Adris Ansari; 1995 Supp (3) SCC 56 in which it was stated that “until and unless the employee concerned is held guilty of the misconduct levelled against him or punished in the judicial proceedings pending, in view of the provisions of Rule 43(b) pension, gratuity and leave encashment cannot be withheld.” Similarly in the case of Bajrang Deo Narain Sinha v. State of Bihar; 1999 SCC OnLine Pat 673, the Court again placed reliance on Rule 43(b) of the Pension Rules, stating that “the dues of the petitioner including gratuity, pension and leave encashment cannot be withheld.

However, on recordance of the stated statutory provisions and various circulars, it was clear that 10% pension could be withheld during the pendency of the departmental proceedings or a criminal case, whereas 90% provisional pension is to be granted. The High Court stated that if an employee is facing a criminal case or a departmental proceeding at the time of his retirement, the government has the power to withhold leave encashment.

Therefore, by stating the case of Vijay Kumar Mishra v. State of Bihar; 2017 (1) PLJR 575, it was held that leave encashment of a Government employee can be withheld and its withholding by executive instructions is permissible. [Arvind Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar; 2018 SCC OnLine Pat 749; dated 02-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: A civil writ petition praying for granting pensionary benefits to the petitioner after 25 years of death of her husband, was allowed by a Single Judge Bench comprising of Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, CJ.

The husband of the petitioner who retired from Assam Rifles, had died in 1993. After that the pension and other benefits were not given to her by the respondents, creating an impression on her that same was not permissible. The petitioner continued to live in destitute and a literary magazine, working towards improving lives of old aged men and women, espoused the cause of the petitioner. However, the respondents refused to allow payment of pensionary benefits. Aggrieved thus, the present petition was filed.

The High Court perused the record and found that the petitioner was an illiterate woman living in far off area; thus the delay of even around 25 years ought to be condoned and that would not stand as a bar to the claim of the petitioner. Further, simply alleging that the petitioner had eloped with another man during her marriage with the deceased husband, as was done by the respondents, was without meaning or logic. Lastly, since the parties were Hindus, the alleged divorce between the petitioner and her husband could have been granted under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act 1995. In absence of any such decree, this contention of the respondents was also liable to be rejected. In such facts and circumstances, the petition was allowed and the respondents were ordered to pensionary benefits to the petitioner as were due to her since the death of her husband. [Dhan Maya v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine Megh 52, dated 31-5-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Upholding the Constitutional validity of certain Amendments made to the Salaries, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, the bench of J. Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, JJ held that the expression “allowances” of MPs occurring under Entry 73 of List ­I of the Seventh Schedule is wide enough to cover the payment of “pension” and the other benefits covered by the impugned provisions to MPs or ex­-MPs. Even otherwise the authority of Parliament under Entry 97 of List ­I is wide enough to cover the impugned legislation.

Regarding the contention that the silence in Article 106 of the Constitution operates as a prohibition for payment of pension to the former MP, the Court said:

“The fact that there are express references to the payment of pension in the Constitution for certain Constitutional functionaries and not for others, in our opinion does not lead to the conclusion that   the   Constitution by its silence prohibits the payment of pension to those constitutional functionaries.”

It further said:

“if we were to accept the argument that those Constitutional functionaries who are entitled to pension by the text of the Constitution form a distinct class exclusively entitled to the payment of pension the result would be that the CAG, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Parliament or State Legislature, and Ministers of the Centre and State would be disentitled to pension.”

The petitioner also argued that pension is payable to an employee of State after his superannuation.  Since MPs are not employees of State, they are not entitled for pension nor the Parliament is competent to provide payment of pension to the   ex­MPs. Rejecting the said argument, the Court said that presuming that pension is only payable to former employees of State and nobody else, is erroneous as there are various other categories of payments made by State which are called ‘pensions’, such as, Old Age Pension, Widow Pension, and Disability Pension etc.

The Court, however, ended the judgment by stating that:

“these questions are in the orbit of the wisdom of the Parliament in choosing/changing the legislative policy whether the various benefits created under the impugned provisions are rational having regard to the affluent financial status of some of the MPs or the poverty of the millions of the population etc.”

[Lok Prahari v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 379, decided on 16.04.2018]