A two-judge Bench of Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice Hrishikesh Roy, while choosing not to comment on the legality of the decision of the employer to discontinue a provision under the pension scheme, has held that since the Appellant-Widow was forced to litigate over a decade to secure the pension benefits, the sum due and payable be paid to her.
Advocate Mr. Santosh Kumar appeared for the Appellant while Additional Solicitor General Ms. Madhavi Divan appeared for the Respondents.
An appeal was preferred by the Appellant-Widow assailing the judgment of Patna High Court which had dismissed her Writ Petition on the ground that no cause of action arose within the territorial jurisdiction of Patna High Court. This order was also affirmed by the Division Bench of the Court holding that the services rendered by the pensioner were outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Patna High Court, hence that the Writ Petition of the pensioner was not maintainable.
In this case, the Appellant's husband had opted to receive 90% of the total admissible amount of the pension during his lifetime. On his death his wife i.e., the Appellant became entitled to receive 100 times his full monthly pension, in addition to his family pension. However, when she applied for payment of the lumpsum amount her representation was rejected.
It was stated that the provision of opting for 90% pension under para 15 (1)(b) of the Pension Scheme, 1998 was abolished. The Appellant was refunded 10% of the surrendered amount with 10% interest. The Appellant, however, claimed a higher sum.
It was contended by the Appellant that she was suffering as she had been non suited by the Court on the ground of want of territorial jurisdiction.
The Apex Court observed, "The Coal Mines Pension Scheme, 1998 was framed as a measure of social security for ensuring socio-economic justice for the employees in the coal sector under the powers conferred by Section 3-E of the Coal Mines Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1948."
Further, the Bench relied on the precedent State of Jharkhand and Others Vs. Jitendra Kumar Srivastava and Another, where it was held, "Pension as is well known, is the deferred portion of the compensation or rendering long years of service. It is a hard-earned benefit accruing to an employee and has been held to be in the nature of property by this Court."
"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 the date of discontinuance, we consider it appropriate to pass necessary orders in her favor in this proceeding itself," the Court opined.
The Court additionally held that the sum due and payable under the Pension Scheme be computed and the same was ordered to be disbursed to the Appellant.
Furthermore, the Court asserted, "The amount earlier refunded to the appellant be adjusted suitably during the remittance process."
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal and directed the Respondent-Employer to do the needful within 8 weeks.