Financial Constraint Can Be Valid Ground To Fix Cutoff Date For Granting Benefit Of Revision Of Pension/Pay: SC
The Supreme Court has observed that financial constraint can be a valid ground for introducing a cutoff date while introducing a pension scheme on revised basis.
The Bench of Justice MR Shah and BV Nagarathna made this observation while setting aside the decision of the Tripura High Court striking down Rule 3(3) of the Tripura State Civil Services (Revised Pension) Rules, 2009.
As per Rule 3(3) of the Pension Rules, 2009, pension will be computed notionally and will take effect from date of retirement of a college teacher who retired after January 1, 2006 but financial benefit would be admissible only from January 1, 2009 or date of retirement, whichever is later.
The original writ petitioner-retired Reader-cum-Vice Principal had moved High Court praying for quashing of Rule 3(3) of the Pension Rules, 2009. It was submitted on behalf of the original writ petitioner that the policy decision was arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and should be struck down.
A counter affidavit was filed opposing the writ petition in which it was specifically submitted on behalf of the State that due to the financial burden on the State, it was not in a position to bear the additional burden of revised pension.
The High Court refused to accept the plea of financial crunch raised by the State and consequently struck down Rule 3(3) of the Pension Rules, 2009. The High Court directed the State to pay the original writ petitioner the arrears of pension (revised pension) from the date of her retirement to the end of 2008.
Aggrieved, State approached Supreme Court.
Advocate Shuvodeep Roy appeared on behalf of the State and Advocate Ravinder Agarwal appeared for the Respondent.
The Supreme Court noted that the High Court without any cogent reasons refused the submission of the state regarding financial crunch.
"When specific statistics were provided before the High Court justifying its policy decision and the financial crunch/financial constraint was pleaded, there was no reason for the High Court to doubt the same.", the Court observed.
The Court further noted, "From the affidavit filed before the High Court reproduced hereinabove, we are satisfied that a conscious policy decision was taken by the State Government to grant the benefit of revision of pension notionally from 01.01.2006 or from the date of superannuation till 31.12.2008 and to pay/grant the benefit of revision of pension actually from 01.01.2009, which was based on their financial crunch/financial constraint."
The Court noted the Judgment in the case State of Punjab and Ors. Vs. Amar Nath Goyal and Ors relied upon by the State where the Supreme Court had held that financial constraint can be a valid ground for fixation of cutoff date for grant of benefit of increased quantum of deathcumretirement gratuity.
Therefore, the Court held that "…we are of the opinion that in the instant case before us, the cutoff date has been fixed as 01.01.2009 on a very valid ground i.e., financial constraint. Therefore, the High Court manifestly erred in striking down the Rule 3(3) of the Pension Rules, 2009 being arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution."
Accordingly, the Court set aside the decision of the Tripura High Court striking down Rule 3(3) of the Tripura State Civil Services (Revised Pension) Rules, 2009. However, the Court directed the state to not recover the arrears from the respondent as it was already paid.
Cause Title- The State of Tripura & Ors. v. Anjana Bhattacharjee & Ors.