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Pension is a ‘Property’ under Article 300 of the Constitution: Bombay High Court

We direct the Registry of this Court to forward the copies of this Judgment to the Centralized Processing Pension Centres of all the Nationalized Banks and also to the Reserve Bank of India and the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, to consider the question of the constitution of separate cell and release of appropriate guidelines so as to attain the constitutional goal of providing respect, dignity, care, sensitivity, assistance and security to all the pension account holders in the Banks held by the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in Shri Naini Gopal V. Union of India & Ors.( R) [LD-VC-CW-665 OF 2020] by Justice R.K. Deshpande and Justice N.B. Suryawanshi.

Facts related to this case is While imposing a cost of Rs. 50,000 on State Bank of India for deducting more than 3 lakhs from petitioners account held that pension is a property under Article 300 A of the Constitution of India and it is a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petitioner is a retired Assistant Foreman and a drawing basic pension of Rs. 25,634 post the recommendation of the 5th, 6th and the 7th pay commission. The petitioner’s bank (SBI) deducted more than Rs. 3 lakhs from the account stating that an amount of Rs. 872 per month was ‘erroneously paid’ in excess to the petitioner due to a technical error in the system. The petitioner approached the Hon’ble High Court with a letter from the former employer stating that the pension at the rate of Rs. 26,000 has been correctly notified. Relying on clause (C) of an RBI circular the bank claimed to have any authority to recover the excess payment made to the petitioner and further contended that no memo was received by the bank from the former employer of the petitioner of enhancement of pension.

The Hon’ble court held that the bank was liable and observed that the action of the bank was arbitrary, unreasonable, unauthorized and in flagrant violation of the principles of natural justice and cannot be sustained. The Hon’ble court further observed that the pension payable to the employees upon superannuation is a ‘property’ under Article 300-A of the Constitution of India and it constitutes a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The deprivation, even a part of this amount, cannot be accepted, except in accordance with authority of law.”

Direction given by the Hon’ble court taking consideration of sensitivity to the problems of the senior citizens needs to be addressed. The mechanism for immediate redressal of grievance needs to be provided. The officers having a degree or master’s degree in Social Work or Psychology, who can be in personal touch with and genuinely understand and redress the grievances or complaints of the senior citizens, can be appointed.

“Rule is made absolute in the aforesaid terms. No order as to further costs”.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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