While reiterating the golden rule that the provision of a pensionary law being beneficial to a homogenous class of pensioners should be interpreted liberally in their favor, the Calcutta High Court held that Government memorandum No. 539-SE dated Nov 01, 2010, still occupies the field relating to granting pensionary benefits to unmarried/widowed/divorced daughters of retired employees or family pensioner, in the absence of any provision affecting or restricting the same.

“The benefit of family pension can be extended to unmarried/widowed daughter of an employee who superannuated or died prior to coming in force of the Death-cum-Retirement Benefit Scheme, 1981, which came into effect on and from 1st April, 1981”, observed a three-judge Bench of Justice Harish Tandon, Justice Shampa Sarkar, and Justice Rabindranath Samanta.

The Bench also stated that the unaltered or unaffected Memoranda clearly demonstrate in unequivocal terms that teaching and non-teaching staff who retired prior to 1st April 1981 or after 1st April 1981 were entitled to get the pensionary benefits in terms of the DCRB Scheme, 1981.

Government Pleader Anirban Ray appeared for the Appellant, whereas Advocate Sourav Mitra appeared for the Respondent.

In this case, the respondent (Sabita Roy) was allowed a family pension by a Single Judge of the Calcutta High Court. The respondent claimed family pension as a widowed daughter of a deceased Assistant Teacher (Debobrata Roy) who retired from service on March 31, 1979 and died on Dec 31, 1991. After his demise, no family pension was granted to the mother of the petitioner. However, the retiral dues of her deceased father were disbursed in equal share amongst his legal heirs. The respondent became widowed on July 20, 2008, but before her mother died on Mar 09, 2012. She applied for family pension to the concerned authority, but her prayer was disallowed. Challenging the order by which her prayer for family pension was disallowed, she preferred a writ which was disposed of directing the concerned state authority to grant family pension to her.

After considering the submission, the three-Judge Bench of the High Court referred to the golden principles of extending pensionary benefits to an employee, which was enunciated in the decision of the Apex Court in D.S. Nakara-Vs-Union of India [AIR 1983 SC 130].

In the said decision of the Apex Court in unequivocal terms had ruled that the pensioners constitute a homogenous class and if any classification is made in such homogenous class in the revised pension formula between pensioners on basis of the date of retirement specified in the relevant memorandum, such classification would be arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The beneficial part of the scheme allowing revised pension to the pensioners shall be retained and made applicable to all pensioners.

The High Court elaborated that the legislative intent was to extend the benefits of family pension to the unmarried/widowed / divorced daughter of an employee who retired before or after Apr 01, 1981, or to unmarried/widowed / divorced daughter of a family pensioner.

“In such premise, the memorandum dated 1st November, 2010 should not stand in the way of extending such benefits in the absence of any express provision therein restricting or affecting the benefits”, added the Court.

The High Court also explained that the socio-economic justice stemming from the concept of social morality, if pressed into service, the memoranda granting social security of livelihood to the said classes of women by providing family pension should be construed liberally.

“Some isolated terms in the memorandum dated Nov 01, 2010 providing pension to living employees or their widows, in our view, cannot restrict the beneficial provisions contained in the memoranda”, added the Court.

Cause Title: The State of West Bengal and Ors. v. Sabita Roy and Ors.

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