The Karnataka High Court while deciding a writ petition preferred by a 102-year-old freedom fighter directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to pay the arrears of pension from November 1, 2017, to December 24, 2018, to her. The Court observed that a pension, is trite, not a bounty.

The issue before the Court was whether non-submission of a Life Certificate for a brief period of one year could take away the right of the petitioner to get a pension in the peculiar facts.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna held, “Pension, is trite, not a bounty. … in the peculiar facts of this case, by no stretch of imagination, can be construed to take away the right of the petitioner for grant of pension, particularly, in the teeth of the guidelines. Therefore, the Union of India and the Bank ought to have paid arrears of pension to the petitioner and not driven the petitioner to yet another round of litigation, third in line, at the age of 102 years. In view of the preceding analysis, the petitioner is held entitled to arrears of pension from 01-11-2017 to 24-12-2018, coupled with interest and cost of litigation.”

The Bench also said that it is a measure of socio-economic justice, which inheres to economic security, in the fall of life when the physical and mental capabilities of a pensioner begin to ebb corresponding to the aging process.

“The raison d’etre for grant of pension is the inability to provide for oneself due to such old age. This can be withheld, curtailed or taken away, only in accordance with law. Ebbing mental prowess and physical incapacity due to age was one of the prime reasons why the certificate could not be submitted in time”, noted the Court.

Advocate Veena J. Kamath appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Deputy Solicitor General of India Shanthi Bhushan, Advocate B.G. Nayana Tara, and AGA M. Vinod Kumar represented the respondents.

Brief Facts

The petitioner, a centenarian, now 102 years, sought a direction by the issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the MHA to pay Rs. 3,71,280/- along with interest being the arrears of her Central Gaurava Dhana. He was a recipient of Swatantra Sainik Samman Gaurava Dhana (Pension) being a freedom fighter from 1974 from the Government of India. Such an honorary pension was granted to the petitioner by both the Central and the State Governments respectively.

The pension of the petitioner was abruptly stopped and when asked about the same, he was informed that the Life Certificate for the year 2017-2018 was submitted. Hence, he submitted the same and then the Government issued a sanction letter releasing the pension but the arrears of the pension amounting to Rs. 3,71,280/- were not paid to him.

The High Court in the above context noted, “The Bank ought to have visited the petitioner and collected the Life Certificate and regulated pension. A caveat, not in every case the Bank is obliged to do so. In cases where there are genuine problems of pensioners who are unable to visit up to the Bank, it is the duty of the Bank officers to visit those persons and take Life Certificate and update them on the system.”

The Court also said that the petitioner was entitled to all the arrears along with interest, as the Bank failed to collect Life Certificate from the hands of the petitioner in terms of the guidelines.

“The pensioners could be septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians or centenarians like the petitioner. … the Bank officers ought to perform their duty in terms of the guidelines so as to avoid unnecessary litigation of the kind that has been generated not once, twice, but three times”, the Court asserted.

The Court, therefore, imposed a cost of Rs. 1 lakh on the respondents and directed the MHA to pay arrears of pension amounting to Rs. 3,71,280/- along with an interest @ 6% p.a. to the petitioner.

The Court also directed that such payment shall be made within 2 weeks.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea.

Cause Title- H. Nagabhushana Rao v. The Under Secretary & Ors.

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