A recent judgment of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court can serve as a guideline for retired employees. The court ruled in favour of Union of India which had approached the judiciary against gratuity claims of two of its former employees for getting added pension benefits. “The retired employees, on the basis of their meritless, unreasonable and excessive claim, cannot be allowed to make money and enrich themselves unjustly by causing undue financial loss to the state exchequer,” a division bench comprising justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Ashok Bhangale ruled.
Two city based government employees working with the Postal Department – Venkatraman Rajgopalan and Mukund Paranjape – retired on superannuation on the afternoon of March 31, 1995. They applied for enhanced gratuity claims and other retirement benefits from the government which came into effect from April 1, 1995. However, it was rejected on the grounds that these benefits would be applicable to them if they had retired on or after this date. The senior citizen duo then approached Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Mumbai Bench camp at Nagpur. They pleaded that they should be deemed in service till midnight of March 31 and retired on next day.
The ministry of communication, however, opposed the move contending that the respondents retired on March 31 and not on April 1, and hence are not entitled to the benefits. However, the full bench of CAT decided in favour of the duo on October 15, 1999. It ruled that a government servant completing the age of superannuation on March 31, 1995, and relinquishing charge of his office in the afternoon of that day is deemed to have effectively retired from service with effect from April 1, 1995.
The ministry then moved the judiciary challenging the tribunal’s order in 2000. It cited Karnataka High Court verdict stating that “the date of retirement is the last date of the month in which the government servant retires and the gratuity is to be calculated as per rules in force as on that date”.
The judges observed that Rajgopalan was born on March 3, 1937, while Paranjape on March 29, 1937, and both of them retired on March 31, 1995. “But law clearly lay down that their date of retirement and last working day has to be the same. Due to Rule 5(2) of Pension Rules, they could continue till March 31; which in reality was beyond their actual completion of the age of superannuation. Legally, respondents retired on the last working day,” they stated.
The court before quashing CAT’s order stated that such benefits which were available with effect from the later operative date – April 1, 1995, but wrongly granted by the tribunal to the respondents who retired with effect from the previous date, were not only undeserved and unwarranted, but also were detrimental to the state exchequer/revenue.
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