A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna, while interpreting a Government Order (GO) issued with reference to Rule 29(a) Part III of Kerala Service Rules, has held that the sandwiched non-qualifying service as a break in two services is condonable and the prior public service shall be reckoned as qualifying service for pension. The Bench granted the benefit of the GO to the Appellant, though the GO was issued post the retirement of the Appellant, since his review was considered after the GO was issued.
An appeal was preferred against the order of the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court which had set aside the order of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT). The KAT had allowed the application of the Appellant granting the benefit of pension by condoning the period of break-in service.
In this case, the Appellant had worked as a Technician in the Telecom Department for a period of 10 years. Thereafter, he joined as an Engineer in Steel Industries Limited, Kerala (SILK) a PSU, and worked there for 3 years. This was followed by the Appellant joining the Technical Education Department, where he served for 19 years and subsequently retired on attaining the age of superannuation.
The Appellant filed a claim for receiving pensionary benefits by reckoning the service of 10 years in the Telecom Department which came under Central Government. He was informed that since there was a break between the Central and State Service for 3 years, unless the same is condoned by the State Government, the Central Service cannot be reckoned as qualifying service for pension.
The representations made by the Appellant and a review petition against the adverse decision were rejected by the State Government, after which he approached KAT.
The issue which was dealt with by the Court was whether the break in service, interrupting the service rendered in Telecom Department and the Technical Education Department was condonable.
The Apex Court noted that what the Appellant had sought was to exclude the service rendered in SILK and condone that period of 3 years from being considered as disjoint or break between two pensionable services, as one was under Central Government and the other was under State Government. The Appellant did not claim that the service at SILK was pensionable service.
The state government has passed an order in 2014 to condone the sandwiched non qualifying service as a break between the two services. It was contended by the Respondent that the Appellant will not get the benefit of the said GO since he had retired in the year 2006.
The Bench rejected the argument of the Respondent upon finding that the review of the Appellant was rejected only in the year 2015 i.e. after the GO was issued.
"A perusal of the Government Order noted above indicates that the benefit sought for by the appellant is provided and the sandwiched non qualifying service as break in the two services is condonable and the prior public service shall be reckoned as qualifying service for pension," the Court held.
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the Kerala High Court, and restored the order passed by the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT).