Pension is a hard-earned benefit accruing to an employee and has been held to be in the nature of property as upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court through the learned bench led by Justice Hrishikesh Roy in the case of Veena Pandey V. Union of India & Ors. (CIVIL APPEAL NO.6953 OF 2021)(Arising Out of SLP (C) No.15113 OF 2018).
The brief facts of the case are that the present appeal arises out of claims for pensionary benefits under the Coal Mines Pension Scheme, 1998. The appellant’s husband Ramashankar Pandey rendered service in the South Eastern Coal Fields Ltd., Bilaspur, after being transferred from Bharat Coking Coal Ltd in 1999. The employee retired on 31.05.2004 as Chief Personnel Manager at Bilaspur and later settled in Bhojpur, Bihar with his family. He opted for receiving 90% pension during his life time as provided under para 15 1(b) of the Pension Scheme, 1998 effective from 31.03.1998. Since the employee opted to receive 90% of the total admissible amount of the pension during his lifetime, on his death on 12.01.2011, the widow of the pensioner became entitled to receive in lump sum, an amount equal to 100 times his full monthly pension, in addition to family pension. The record shows that Rs.7091/- p.m. was sanctioned to the employee as Basic Pension under the Pension Scheme, 1998 w.e.f 01.06.2004 and 10% of his Basic Pension i.e. Rs. 788/- p.m. was deposited with the department. Following the employee’s death on 12.01.2011, as per the Pension Scheme, 1998 the widow of the pensioner made claim for a sum equivalent to 100 times the full monthly pension of her husband and vide letter dated 30.09.2012, she applied for payment of the lump sum amount in pursuance of para 15(1)(b) read with para 15(2) of the Pension Scheme, 1998. The appellant’s representation was however rejected. In the letter dated 22.01.2013 of the Regional Commissioner of the Coal Mines Provident Fund Organization it was stated that the pensioner had opted for payment of 90% pension under para 15 (1)(b) of the Pension Scheme, 1998, but the aforesaid provision was abolished w.e.f 21.02.2011. It was also intimated that the 10% surrendered amount had been refunded to all pensioners with interest under the order dated 30.01.2012 of the Coal Mines Provident Fund Commissioner. The appellant was refunded the surrendered amount of 10% with interest (Rs. 36,938/-) along with widow pension arrears (Rs.12,351/-), in total Rs. 49,289/-, whereas she claimed a higher sum under the now abolished provisions of the Pension Scheme. Aggrieved by the above stand of the employer, the appellant moved the High Court of Patna for disbursal of the pensionary benefits and also to quash the letter dated 22.01.2013 of the Regional Commissioner, CMPFO whereunder, it had been communicated that, no other payment is due to the appellant. Her C.W.J.C No.9837/2014 was however dismissed as not maintainable by the learned Single Judge on the ground that no cause of action arose within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court of Patna. This order was affirmed by the Division Bench by dismissal of the appellant’s LPA No.701/2017 with similar observation that the services rendered by the pensioner were outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Patna High Court and hence the writ petition filed by the widow of the pensioner was not maintainable. These orders of the High Court are impugned in this Appeal.
The Hon’ble Court held, “In the above peculiar circumstances of this case, without commenting on the legality of the decision to discontinue the said provision in the pension scheme by the employer, as the pensioner was not alive on All India Reserve Bank Retired Officers’ Association & ors Vs. Union of India & ors, (1992) Supp 1 SCC 664 2(2013) 12 SCC 210 Page 6 of 7 the date of discontinuance, we consider it appropriate to pass necessary orders in her favour in this proceeding itself. Resultantly, the sum due and payable under the Pension scheme be computed and the same is ordered to be disbursed to the appellant. The amount earlier refunded to the appellant be adjusted suitably during the remittance process. The respondent/ employer should do the needful in terms of this order, within 8 weeks from today. The appeal is allowed with the above order.”
Judgment reviewed by – Vandana Ragwani