Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of Aparesh Kumar Singh and Kailash Prasad Deo, JJ. was hearing a writ petition of mandamus under Article 226 of the Constitution of India pertaining to the validity of allowance of pension under the Employments Pension Scheme, 1995.
The petition has been filed by Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (Employees Provident Fund Organisation) and Accounts Officer, EPFO, Ranchi against the orders of Central Administrative Tribunal, Patna Bench which directed them to pay a pension to the respondent under Employees Pension Scheme, 1995 (EPS). Under the EPS, criteria for availing pension was the completion of 10 years of eligible service till the age of 58 years i.e. on 31-12-2010 but he continued to pay the remittances till the date of his superannuation on attaining the age of 60 years i.e. on 31-12-2012. it is to be noted that the BSNL was covered under EPS, 1995 on 29-06-2004 w.e.f. 01-06-2002
The counsel for petitioner Gautam Rakesh submitted that eligibility to avail superannuation has not been fulfilled till the employee attained the age of 58 years i.e. on 31-12-2019, therefore, the orders of Tribunal should be dismissed. Further, the counsel submitted that if 10 years of eligible service is not completed the provision for withdrawal benefits is given. Also, the counsel submitted that the scheme applies uniformly to all employees.
The counsel for respondent 1 M.M. Pal, submitted that Clause 2(ii) of EPS counts the period of service from 16-11-1995 or from the date of joining, whichever is later. Later it was submitted that Para 2(iv) of EPS, 1995 states that contributory service means the period of actual service for which contribution to fund has been received. Further, it was submitted that pensionable service under Para 2(xv) of EPS, 1995 means service rendered for which contribution has been made. Also, the counsel put forth that under Para-16-A of EPS, 1995 none should be denied pensionary benefits.
The counsel for respondents 2 and 3 B.K. Pathak, submitted that irrespective of respondent 1 completing the age of 58 years the petitioners had not stopped accepting remittances and not informed that the respondent is no more covered under the scheme. Hence, the respondent’s denial of superannuation pension after paying the remittances until the age of 60 years is not lawful.
The Court held that the service should be counted from the date when the scheme came into effect for BSNL i.e. from 01-06-2002. For the clauses and parts argued by the counsels it was held they should not be interpreted in isolation but as a whole. Membership cannot continue after the attainment of the age of 58 years and would be given superannuation pension only if the member has completed 10 years of eligible service. The criteria are not fulfilled in this case. About 6 crore employees are a part of EPS hence, it is impractical for the petitioners to separate individuals. However, in such cases, the petitioners deposit the remittance in the Provident Fund Account of the employee. It does not violate the scheme formed under Employment Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
Considering the facts and laws related to the case, the court decided that the orders of the Tribunal cannot be upheld as they are violating the laws and directed the petitioner to release the admissible benefits to the respondent if not yet released within 12 weeks. [Regional Provident Fund Commr. v. Shankar Roy, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1946, decided on 03-12-2019]