The Tripura High Court, while allowing the petition filed by an employee seeking retirement benefits from the old pension scheme, held that the deed of variance will not have retrospective effect.

The said employee had joined in the post of Research Officer (Engineering) under the Tripura State Council for Science & Technology, a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in the Department of Science, Technology and Environment in 1987.

A Single Bench of Justice S. Datta Purkayastha observed, “It is held that the post-retiral benefits of the petitioner will be guided by the scheme under the Deed of Trust i.e. LICI Linked Terminal Benefit Scheme as was introduced from 01.01.2016 and therefore, the petitioner will be entitled post-retiral benefits as per above said 3[three] schemes of LICI i.e. LIC’s New Group Gratuity Cash Accumulation Plan, LIC’s New Group Leave Encashment Plan and LIC’s New Group Superannuation Cash Accumulation Plan. It is also held that the Deed of Variance will have no retrospective effect and subsequently the letter dated 18.03.2023 issued by the Head of Office and DDO, Tripura, State Council to the Senior Manager, P & GS Unit, LICI of India, Division Office Meherpur, Silchar-15 [Annexure-15 of the writ petition] will have no application in case of the present petitioner.”

The Bench said that taking of option from the employee to come under the coverage of old scheme, was an implied promise of the employer giving rise to a legitimate expectation in the mind of the employee that he would be governed by the said scheme and would get all the benefits under the said scheme on his retirement.

Senior Advocate P. Roy Barman appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Senior Advocate D. Bhattacharya appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Facts of the Case -

The petitioner employee was later promoted to the post of Principal Scientific Officer (Space Application) in 2012 and ultimately retired from the service in 2019. When he was in service, the State Council in its meeting of Executive Committee passed a resolution in 2015 that a Trust would be formed to manage LICI (Life Insurance Corporation of India) Linked Defined Benefit Pension Scheme from 2016. Accordingly, a Deed of Trust was executed between the State Council and the Joint Member Secretary and the basic object of the said trust was for making provisions for some post-retirement benefits for employees. The EPF Pension Scheme as was prevalent at that time was discontinued and the petitioner employee exercised his option in favour of the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme. It was his grievance that after retirement, he was not given full and final payment of all benefits based on the said Deed of Trust or the amount payable under the defined schemes of LICI.

Meanwhile, the Special Secretary directed to revise the calculation sheet of the premium accrued with LIC based schemes. Thereafter, the Joint Member Secretary informed LICI that in pursuance of Finance Department’s instruction, the said schemes were to be discontinued. While the employee was in service, two departmental proceedings were initiated against him which were challenged by him in a petition with further challenge of the matter of discontinuation of old pension scheme. The High Court observed the such matter to be completely unrelated and allowed him to file separate plea for the same and hence he did the same. The Single Judge disposed of the petition and then the employee’s grievance was that despite the order, respondents did not comply the directions of the High Court. Hence, he filed contempt case claiming further amount under post-retirement benefits as per the original deed of trust.

In turn, the Joint Member Secretary of the State Council informed the employee that the amendment proposal as per observation of the Finance Department, Government Tripura and subsequent revision proposal, a deed of variance was executed by the Trustee of the State Council to provide retiral benefits to its employee at par with the benefits of the State Government employees and therefore, the employee being the retired employee of the State Council, provisions have been made to provide him benefits at par with the State Government employees under the amended LICI Scheme for which Deed of Variance was already registered. Finally, being aggrieved by such an action of the bodies, the employee approached the High Court again.

The core issue involved in the writ petition was that whether the post-retirement benefits of the petitioner should be paid as per the benefits as provided in the original Deed of Trust and LICI Schemes subscribed thereupon or as per the terms of Deed of Variation.

The High Court in view of the above facts noted, “In National Buildings Construction Corporation vs. S. Raghunathan and others, reported in (1998) 7 SCC 66, it was observed by the Apex Court that the doctrine of "Legitimate Expectation" has its genesis in the field of administrative law. The Government and its departments, in administering the affairs of the country, are expected to honour their statements of policy or intention and treat the citizens with full personal consideration without any iota of abuse of discretion. The policy statements cannot be disregarded unfairly or applied selectively.”

The Court said that just by highlighting and giving over emphasis on some portion of observations of the Bench that the Council-respondents have every right to make appropriate provisions for providing appropriate retiral benefits to its retired employees with the established principle of law, the respondents have attempted to bring the petitioner-employee under coverage of the benefits available under the Deed of Variance, which is not permissible at law.

The Court further referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and others etc. v. M/s. Tata Communications Ltd. etc. (Civil Appeal No. 1699-1723 of 2015) in which it was held that any Government circular/order cannot be given retrospective effect.

“… the Deed of Variance cannot be allowed to be applied retrospectively upon the petitioner by the respondents. As per enclosure R/3 of the counter affidavit as indicated above, under the previous scheme total 39 numbers of employees were covered and till 13.12.2018 total financial benefits of Rs.88,87,169/- was provided to the employees under the said scheme. Therefore, the petitioner cannot be allowed to be treated arbitrarily and inequally with other retired employees who have been already provided such benefits under the previous scheme. Indeed there is no dispute that the fund flow is sourced from the state exchequer and therefore, the respondents have their every right to make appropriate provisions for providing retiral benefits to the employees of the State Council but after such new provisions are made by the respondents, same cannot be applied retrospectively”, it added.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the writ petition and directed the respondents to make payment of all the post-retiral benefits to the petitioner as per the old scheme within 8 weeks.

Cause Title- Nataraj Datta v. The State of Tripura


Petitioner: Advocate Samarjit Bhattacharjee

Respondents: Addl. G.A. D. Sharma and Advocate Samar Das

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