Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: Akil Kureshi, CJ., dismissed a writ petition which was filed aggrieved about non-payment of gratuity and pension after retirement.

The petitioner had joined the service of the Government of Tripura in the year 1992 as a Lower Division Clerk on a reserved post for Scheduled Tribe wherein she had claimed that she belonged to Laskar(Tripuri) community which was recognized as a Scheduled Tribe in Tripura.

The question of Laskar community being recognized as a Scheduled Tribe became a focal point of long legal controversy. Eventually, the Supreme Court had upheld the judgment of the Tripura High Court holding that the Laskar community is not a recognized Scheduled Tribe in the State of Tripura. It was however decided that those belonging to Laskar community and who had been granted any benefit of reservation up to 31-03-1990, the same shall not be withdrawn looking at the longstanding disputes.

The cancellation of the petitioner’s caste certificate and consequentially, her appointment in Government service also went through several legal stages. At one stage, the Judge allowed the petition and set aside the order passed by the State Level Scrutiny Committee(SLSC) cancelling her caste certificate, in the writ appeal the Division Bench confirmed the above order. SLSC once again passed a fresh order, cancelling the caste certificate of the petitioner and the government acting upon the order cancelled petitioner’s appointment which was based on the false claim of Scheduled Tribe status.

The petitioner aggrieved by this had approached the High Court and the Judge had stayed the implementation of the order and accordingly, the petitioner had rejoined the duties.

While this petition was pending the petitioner retired and the petition was eventually dismissed, the decision was challenged, which was again dismissed. In the present petition direction for release of her gratuity and pension was prayed for.

The Court after perusal of facts and documents opined that based on the cancellation of the caste certificate, her appointment also stood cancelled and these orders had achieved finality since Single Judge, as well as the Division Bench, had dismissed the petition challenging this order. The Court further held that in this view of the matter, the petitioner cannot claim post-retiral benefits of pension and gratuity.

The Court while dismissing the petition however held that on the principles of quantum meruit, the salary already paid to the petitioner for the work done cannot be a subject matter of recovery but the benefits of Government employment, promotion or admission in educational institutions on the strength of false claim of reserved category candidate, would be withdrawn once it is proved that the caste status was falsely claimed.[Sipra Debbarma v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 380, decided on 29-07-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

For Petitioner(s): Ms A Debbarma and Mr Samarjit Bhattacharjee

For Respondent(s): Mr Biswanath Majumder, CGC and Mr S Dey

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

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Harsimran Singh Sethi, J. allowed the petition for the payment of the retiral benefit on the ground of law laid down by the court.

A writ petition was made for the release of benefit in respect of service rendered by her late husband.

The petitioner submitted that her husband died in May, 2013 and the benefit released to the petitioner much after the said date. The reason given by the respondent for not releasing the remaining amount was a paucity of funds as the same were not released by the Government of India.

The Court after submission made by the parties brought in light the case of A.S. Randhawa v. State of Punjab, 1997(3) SCT 468 in which it was held that an employee should be paid the benefits within a period of two months from the date of retirement. In the present case, the husband of the petitioner died in May, 2013 and therefore, within a period of two months, all the benefits should have been released to the petitioner. The Court opined that the paucity of fund was not a valid ground for the delayed payment as also held by the court in case of Ram Karan v. PEPSU Road Transport Corpn., 2005 (4) S.C.T. 438, wherein it was held that the weak financial position is no valid ground to withhold the payments in respect of the retiral benefit. The Supreme Court in a plethora of judgment discussed a similar issue. The extract from the judgment on the similar issue held by the Supreme Court reads as that the financial difficulties of the institution cannot be above the fundamental right of a citizen. An employer is not only to look forward to the economic growth but also to look after the welfare of its employees including health, social security and other human needs The Courts in such a situation are obliged to issue necessary directions to mitigate the extreme hardship of the employees involving violation of their human rights by the State or its functionaries like the respondent-Corporation, which are fully controlled by it.”

Thus, the court held that reason forwarded by the respondent for the delay in releasing the amount cannot be considered as a valid ground and thus application for release of fund was allowed.[Davinder Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1511, decided on 14-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi J., allowed the petition and held that past service of the petitioner shall be taken into consideration for calculating his retiral benefits.

The factual matrix of the instant petition that in the year 1981, an advertisement was published by the Principal, Bokaro Steel City College, Bokaro for filling up the vacancies for different posts. The petitioner was selected and joined the post on 28-05-1985. The service book of the petitioner also depicted that the date of joining of the petitioner is May, 1985. However, when the 5th Pay revision pay fixation and the chart has been issued by the respondent in which the date of joining has been stated as 1-8-1993 and have substantially reduced the scale of the petitioner. 

Learned counsel for the petitioner, Saket Upadhayay submitted that based on all the documents the date of joining of the petitioner is 28.05.1985 and that the past service of an employee who has worked for such a long period cannot be denied to be taken for other benefits. In this regard, reliance has been placed upon the case of Jharkhand State Forest Development Corporation Ltd. v. Chandreshwar Prasad, 2014 1 JCR 732 (Jhr).

Learned counsel for the respondent, I.S. Choudhary submitted that the appointment with effect from 1985 was temporary and as such the petitioner is not entitled to other retiral benefits. She relied upon the case of Kashi Yadav v. State of Jharkhand, 2017 SCC OnLine Jhar 780, which was distinguished by this Bench as not applicable to facts and circumstances of the present case. Further, she relied upon the case State of Karnataka v. M.L. Kesari, (2010)9 SCC 247 wherein the Supreme Court considered about the appointment which are illegal and irregular. The Bench in this Court held that this judgment, in this case, the appointment of the petitioner cannot be said to be irregular and illegal in view of the fact that the University issued admit card and subsequently the appointment has been made. The counsel for the respondent further placed reliance upon State of Karnataka v. Uma Devi wherein it was considered that the writ petitioners were working as a casual employee. The Bench herein held that the petitioner appointment was made after following the due process of law hence he was not a casual employee.

In view of the above, the Court held that the appointment of the petitioner was not irregular and illegal because after advertisement and following the due process of law the petitioner was appointed on that post. The date of joining is held to be 28-05-1985 and consequently, past service of the petitioner shall be taken into consideration for calculating his retiral benefits.[Nandeshwar Ram v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 906, decided on 10-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. has held that a Government servant is not entitled to make a Will of the family pension which is granted in accordance with the service rules.

Vijay Kumar Kaushik, Head Constable in the Police Department, died in harness. He had two wives and children from each of them. After his death, the first wife and her children (petitioners) made an application under Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 for grant of Succession Certificate claiming family pension, gratuity, and other benefits. This was opposed by the second wife and her children (respondents) contending that Vijay Kumar had already made a Will in their favour and also nominated them in service records, and therefore the petitioners were not entitled for grant of succession certificate. Petitioner’s application was rejected by the trial court, which decision had been affirmed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioners filed the present revision petition under Section 388(3) of the 1925 Act.

Shivali Dubey, Advocate appeared for the petitioners; Devesh Chandra Verma, Advocate represented the respondents (second wife and her children); and Hari Agrawal, Advocate appeared as amicus curiae, whose assistance was appreciated by the Court.

Applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Jodh Singh v. Union of India, (1980) 4 SCC 306; Violet Isaac v. Union of India, (1991) 1 SCC 725; and Nitu Singh v. Sheela Rani, (2016) 16 SCC 229, the High Court recapitulated the guiding principles of law relating to retiral benefits vis-a-vis their testamentary disposition:

(i) An employee has no power of testamentary disposition with respect to something which was not payable to him during his lifetime.

(ii) If the qualifying event/benefit occurs only on the death of the deceased while he is in service and due to this, some monetary benefits accrue, it would not form part of the estate of the deceased and the same cannot be disposed by testamentary disposition because there is an element of uncertainty of happening of event.

(iii) If the scheme and/or service rules designate certain persons who are entitled to receive benefits out of the scheme, then no other person except those designated persons can be entitled to the said benefits.

(iv) If the employee makes no contribution to the benefit, he has no control over the same to dispose it by testamentary disposition.

(v) If the scheme/Rules do not provide for the nomination of any person during the lifetime of the deceased employee, he has no title to the same and it cannot be disposed by testamentary disposition.

However, it was made clear that the said principles are not exhaustive and the condition laid above are independent of each other and not mutually destructive and in the event of any of the conditions being fulfilled, it cannot be said that testamentary disposition can be made with respect to the said benefit.

In light of the principles, the Court decided the present revision petition under different heads. The disbursement of the family pension, gratuity and other retirement benefits in the present case were governed by Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1976. As far as family pension was concerned, it was held that same was payable only to the family of a deceased employee, and Petitioner 1 being the legally wedded wife of Vijay Kumar, she was entitled to the entire amount of the said pension. Similarly, ex-gratia amount and police welfare amount were payable only after the death of the employee. As such, they did not form part of the estate of the deceased and thus could not be disposed by way of testamentary disposition. However, the benefits under the heads of gratuity, leave encashment, group insurance scheme, family benefits fund and department provident funds formed part of the estate of the deceased employee and therefore could be disposed by in terms of the Will made by the deceased employee.

Consequently, the petitioners were held entitled to the Succession Certificate with regard to family pension, ex-gratia and police welfare payment. The revision petition was disposed of in such terms. [Samunda Bai v. General Public, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 29, dated 15-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Shekher Dhawan, J., dealt with a writ petition for the release of retiral benefits i.e. leave encashment to the petitioner. 

Petitioner had filed the instant petition for the release of leave encashment as a retiral benefit. Facts of the case were that a charge sheet was filed against the petitioner after which he got retired from the service. Petitioner contended that an employee like him, if had already retired, only his gratuity could have been withheld but not other retiral benefits in accordance with the case of Punjab State Civil Supplies Corpn. Limited v. Pyare Lal, 2014 SCC OnLine P&H 15012.

High Court viewed that controversy was restricted to petitioner’s prayer for leave encashment and by virtue of decision referred above it had already been decided that leave encashment cannot be withheld. With the above view, the petition was disposed of. [Pawan Kumar v. Punjab State Co-operative Societies,2018 SCC OnLine P&H 1677, decided on 02-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: A Single judge bench comprising of Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, CJ. while dealing with a civil writ petition filed by a retired employee ruled that delay in release of retrial benefits cannot be justified on grounds on a financial crunch.

Brief background of the matter was that the petitioner worked as a driver in the respondent corporation. Though he had retired from service on 31-12-2017, his retrial benefits had not been released to him. Aggrieved by inaction on the part of respondent, he filed the instant writ petition. The respondent corporation pleaded that the retrial benefits had not been released since it was facing acute financial crisis and thus its resources were not enough to meet the petitioner’s demand.

The court dismissed the contention forwarded on behalf of the respondent holding that an employee has a vested right of getting retrial benefits on retirement and the release of such benefit cannot be linked with the financial health of the employer. It is for the employer to mobilize his resources to ensure that the retired employee gets his retrial benefits.

In the present case, the respondent – corporation could not be permitted to delay the benefits due to petitioner and thereby subject him to misery, mental agony and financial hardship. It was further stated that it is not only the petitioner but his entire family who were suffering in such a situation. As such, a guaranteed right to retrial benefits could not be delayed pleading financial crunch of the employer. On the aforesaid holding, the court High Court directed the respondent to ensure that all retrial benefits that the petitioner was entitled to, be sanctioned and released in his favour within two months. [Phlester Swer v. Meghalaya Transport Corporation,2018 SCC OnLine Megh 180, decided on 01-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sambuddha Chakrabarti, J. allowed a writ petition which sought directions to the respondents to release post retiral benefits of the petitioner.

The petitioner was employed at the post of Director (Finance) in National Jute Manufacturers’ Corpn. Ltd. He sought for issuance of a writ in nature of mandamus commanding the respondents to release post retiral benefits including gratuity, leave encashment, maximum allowance and perks as provided for in the conditions of employment. The question for consideration before the High Court was whether NJMC could withhold post retiral benefits of the petitioner on the ground that after his retirement, certain alleged irregularities have been detected.

The High Court was of the opinion that a departmental enquiry is initiated by issuing a formal chargesheet against a delinquent employee. NJMC may have had a preliminary enquiry which was in nature of an informal enquiry but that was no legal basis to proceed against an employee. Moreover, now the petitioner had retired and it was observed as a settled principle of law that no departmental proceeding can be initiated against a former employee unless the relevant service rules provide for the same. The present was a case where neither NJMC Service Regulations, 1982 nor NJMC (Conduct, Discipline, and Appeal) Rules, 1982 contain any provision for initiation of any departmental proceeding against an employee after his retirement. Thus, no departmental proceeding could be initiated against the petitioner now that he had retired. In such case, the High Court held that respondents had no right to sit over retiral dues not released to the petitioner. They were accordingly directed to release the dues within six weeks with interest. The petition was allowed with costs of Rs 10,000 imposed on NJMC. [Sukanta Kumar Mondal v. National Jute Manufacturers’ Corp. Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 6987, dated 27-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Dr S.N. Pathak, J., partly allowed a writ petition filed against the order of the respondent authorities, whereby the authorities recovered the Academic Grade Pay (AGP) granted to the petitioner behind his back on the ground that only promoted employees are entitled for AGP.

The main issue for consideration, in this case, was whether the respondent authorities can recover the AGP granted to the petitioner without following the principles of natural justice.

The Court observed that if excess money is given to a government employee, then it can be duly recovered since such money does not belong to the payer or the payee, it belongs to the public at large. However, in the instant case the petitioner had superannuated on 31-03-2016 and without adhering to the provisions of law, the amount has been ordered to be recovered.

The Court held that it is a settled proposition of law that no recovery can be done from the retiral benefits without conforming to the principles of natural justice and without following the due process of law and hence the respondent authorities cannot recover the AGP granted to the petitioner in the present case. However, the pension of the petitioner was directed to be fixed as per the pay-scale which the petitioner was actually entitled to receive. Accordingly, the petition was allowed in part by the Court.[Ram Pyare Mishra v. State of Jharkhand,2018 SCC OnLine Jhar 781, order dated 03-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court:  A Single Judge Bench comprising of Jaspal Singh, J. directed the State to compensate the petitioner by way of interest for delayed payment of retiral benefits.

The petitioner had received the retiral benefits after an inordinate delay, for which no interest was paid. He sought payment of interest on the delayed payment at the rate of 18% per annum.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was indeed a delay as alleged by the petitioner. The Court referred to the instructions issued by the State of Punjab and held that as per the instructions, the retiree was entitled to the interest if the retiral benefits are not disbursed to him within a period of three months from the date of his retirement. In the case at hand, in fact, there was much more delay. Accordingly, the Court thought it fit to grant the petitioner the interest on delayed payment at the rate of 9% per annum. [Paramjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 908, dated 02-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the question as to whether the services rendered by some Judicial Officers as Fast Track court Judges is liable to be counted for their pensionary and other benefits, the bench of J. Chelameswar and SK Kaul, JJ answered the question in affirmative and said:

“The appellants were not appointed to the Fast Track courts just at the whim and fancy of any person but were the next in line on the merit list of a judicial recruitment process. They were either part of the select list, who could not find a place given the cadre strength, or those next in line in the select list. Had there been adequate cadre strength, the recruitment process would have resulted in their appointment.”

Noticing that the judges have rendered services over a period of nine years and have performed their role as Judges to the satisfaction, otherwise there would have been no occasion for their appointment to the regular cadre strength, the bench said:

“it is a matter of great regret that these appellants who have performed the functions of a Judge to the satisfaction of the competent authorities should be deprived of their pension and retiral benefits for this period of service.”

The Court took note of the fact that the Fast Track Court Scheme was brought in to deal with the exigency and the appellants were appointed to the Fast Track courts and continued to work for almost a decade. It was also noted that the appellants were part of the initial select list/merit list for recruitment to the regular cadre strength but were not high enough to be recruited in the existing strength. Even at the stage of absorption in the regular cadre strength, they had to go through a defined process in pursuance of the judgment of this court and have continued to work thereafter

It was, hence, held:

“the methodology of non-creation of adequate regular cadre posts and the consequent establishment of Fast Track courts manned by the appellants cannot be used as a ruse to deny the dues of the appellants.”

[Mahesh Chandra Verma v. State of Jharkhand, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 520, decided on 11.05.2018]

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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Paying heed to the plight of the retired Government Servants who had alleged unfair treatment pertaining to reimbursement of medical claims under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), the bench of R.K. Agrawal and Ashok Bhushan, JJ directed:

  • with regard to the slow and tardy pace of disposal of MRC by the CGHS, all such claims shall be attended by a Secretary level High Powered Committee in the concerned Ministry which shall meet every month for quick disposal of such cases.
  • the concerned Ministry to device a Committee for grievance redressal of the retired pensioners consisting of Special Directorate General, Directorate General, 2 (two) Additional Directors and 1 Specialist in the field which shall ensure timely and hassle-free disposal of the claims within a period of 7 days.
  • There shall be a timeframe for finalization and disbursement of the claim amounts of pensioners. The Court, hence, said that after submitting the relevant papers for claim by a pensioner, the same shall be reimbursed within a period of 1 (one) month.

The Court was hearing the matter where, out of the total bills amounting to Rs. 13,84,440, a 70-year-old pensioner was paid only Rs. 5,84,885. Hence, the petitioner was denied Rs. 7,99,555. The State had, on the other hand, contended that the rates charged by the hospitals were exorbitant whereas the rates charged for such facility shall be only at the CGHS rates and that too after following a proper procedure given in the Circulars issued on time to time by the concerned Ministry. The Court, however, noticed that the petitioner was taken to hospital under emergency conditions for survival of his life which requirement was above the sanctions and treatment in empanelled hospitals and hence, it directed the reimbursement of the due amount.

The Court said:

“The relevant authorities are required to be more responsive and cannot in a mechanical manner deprive an employee of his legitimate reimbursement. CGHS was propounded with a purpose of providing health facility scheme to the central government employees so that they are not left without medical care after retirement. It was in furtherance of the object of a welfare State, which must provide for such medical care that the scheme was brought in force.”

[Shiva Kant Jha v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 370, decided on 13.04.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Jharkhand: The Single Judge Bench comprising of S.N.Pathak, J., recently addressed a petition wherein the petitioner prayed for the payment of her deceased husband’s retiral benefits including gratuity and leave encashment, arising out of 23 years of service. The petitioner also prayed to the Court for directing the respondents to provide appointment to her son on compassionate grounds, owing to her husband’s death.

The petitioner had initially filed a petition for addressing her grievances which was disposed of by directing the initial respondents to make necessary payments to the petitioner. Despite the order, in the absence of the respondents complying with it, the petitioner filed another petition which was rejected by the respondents consequent to which the petitioner filed the present petition. Counsel for the petitioner argued that the respondents had not adhered to the Full Bench judgment of this Court in Ram Prasad Singh v. State of Jharkhand, 2005 SCC OnLine Jhar 553 despite the deceased being a work-charge employee and so being entitled to retiral benefits. The opposite party contended that since the deceased was not a regularized employee, he wouldn’t be given the retiral benefits, the wife contends she should be entitled to.

The Court held that the issue had been addressed in the case mentioned by the petitioner wherein it was held, “the work-charged employees, who have completed more than five years of continuous service against one post in the work-charged establishment and otherwise eligible, have a right of consideration of their cases for taking over their services in the permanent (regular) establishment” and “The dependents of work charged employees are not entitled to claim appointment on compassionate ground”.

Hence, the Court directed the respondents to pay the entire retiral benefits and quashed the plea for employment of the petitioner’s son on compassionate grounds. [Meera Devi v. State of Jharkhand, 2017 SCC OnLine Jhar 2690, order dated 18.8.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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]