Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of Hemant Gupta and A.S. Bopanna, JJ., expressed that

Government accommodation is only meant for in-service officers and not for the retirees or those who have demitted office.

The right to shelter does not mean right to government accommodation.

Challenge 

Decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has been challenged in the present matter.

Background

Single Bench allowed the petition of a Kashmiri migrant, respondent – Onkar Nath Dhar who shifted to Jammu in the year 1989 or so. He was transferred to the office of the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi. Later, he was transferred to Faridabad, wherein he was allotted a government accommodation. Respondent attained the age of superannuation in the year 2006.

Respondent on making a representation to the appellant was allowed to retain the government accommodation till the circumstances prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir improve and Government makes it possible for him to return to his native place.

An eviction order was passed against Dhar under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupant) Act, 1971, but the same was stayed by the Additional District Judge, Delhi.

Later, the Single Judge Bench relied upon an order passed by this Court in J.L. Koul v. State of J&K, (2010) 1 SCC 371, wherein it was held that it was not possible for Dhar to return to his own State and that due to which eviction order shall be kept in abeyance. The same was affirmed by the Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Supreme Court opined that the High Court Orders were unsustainable.

In view of the plethora of Judgments referred by the Court, Bench affirmed that

Government accommodation could not have been allotted to a person who had demitted office. No exception was carved out even in respect of the persons who held Constitutional posts at one point of time.

Therefore, decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was erroneous on the basis of compassion showed to displaced persons on account of terrorist activities in the State.

Further, reasoning its decision, Bench stated that compassion could be shown for accommodating the displaced persons for one or two months but to allow them to retain the Government accommodation already allotted or to allot an alternative accommodation that too with a nominal licence fee defeats the very purpose of the Government accommodation which is meant for serving officers.

If a retired government employee have no residence, they have an option to avail transit accommodation or to receive cash compensation in the place of transit accommodation. 

Right to Shelter?

Elaborating more, the Court stated that the right of shelter is taken care of when alternative Transit accommodation is made available to the migrant to meet out the emergent situation.

Government accommodation is meant for serving officers and officials and not to the retirees as benevolence and distribution of largesse.

Policy of Centre to provide accommodation? | Terrorism in J&K

Answering in negative, Court stated that Centre or State do not have any policy to provide the accommodation to displaced persons on account of terrorism in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Adding to the above discussion, Bench held that there is no indefeasible right in any citizen for allotment of government accommodation on a nominal licence fee.

In view of the decision of J.L. Koul  v. State of J&K, (2010) 1 SCC 371  the Kashmiri migrants are entitled to transit accommodation and if transit accommodation could not be provided then money for residence and expenses.

Dhar and such like persons are not from the poorest section of the migrants but have worked in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. To say that they are enforcing their right to shelter only till such time the conditions are conducive for their safe return is wholly illusory.

Concluding the matter, Supreme Court found that the orders of the High Courts were wholly arbitrary and irrational, therefore the present appeal was allowed.

Though, the Court directed respondent-Dhar to hand over vacant physical possession of the premises on or before 31-10-2021, i.e., after 15 years of his attaining the age of superannuation. [Union of India v. Onkar Nath Dhar, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 574, decided on 5-08-2021]

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

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

Calcutta High Court: The writ petition was preferred by a primary school teacher, aggrieved that an amount of Rs. 68, 556 was deducted from the pension payment order by the authorities, due to alleged over-drawl.

Learned counsel on behalf of the petitioner, by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision of Shyam Babu Verma v. Union of India, (1994) 2 SCC 521 contends that the excess amount can’t be recovered from the retiral benefit of an employee unless it is due to some fraud or misrepresentation. In the case of Syed Abdul Qadir v. State of Bihar, (2009) 3 SCC 475 the Supreme Court observed that “the relief against recovery is granted by courts not because of any right in the employees, but in equity, exercising judicial discretion to relieve the employees from the hardship that will be caused if recovery is ordered.”

Therefore,  Arijit Banerjee, J. quoted the observation of another learned Judge, “the choice is like choosing between the devil and deep sea” and ordered that, by considering the decisions of the Hon’ble Division Bench in the cases of Shyam Babu Verma, Syed Abdul Qadir, Chandi Prasad Uniyal v. State of Uttarakhand, (2012) 8 SCC 417 and State of Punjab v. Rafiq Masih, (2014) 8 SCC 883 held that no recovery can be made from a retired employee who is due to retire within one year from the order of recovery. Further, no recovery could be made in the present case from the retrial benefits of the petitioner even after a delay of 15 years by considering the decision of the case of Union of India v. Tarsem Singh, (2008) 3 SCC 648, as it did not affect the third party rights. [Jaynal Alam v. State of West Bengal, 2017 SCC OnLine Cal 10406, decided on 12.07.2017]