Pensionary Benefit of pensioner should be protected from recoveries & disbursement while recasting seniority at belated stage: Supreme Court
Hon’ble Supreme Court has stated in CA 6026-28/2021 Malook Singh and Others v/s State of Punjab and Others that when most of the pensioners have retired from service several years ago, it would be in the interests of justice if the pensionary benefits which they are now receiving are duly protected both against recoveries and in respect of their disbursement for the future. Such a direction would be manifestly in the interest of justice and accordingly we issue an order under Article 142 of the Constitution to that effect. The extract of judgement is being reproduced below:-
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
Civil Appeal Nos 6026-6028 of 2021
(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos 14029-14031 of 2011)
Malook Singh and Others …Appellants
State of Punjab and Others …Respondents
Civil Appeal No 6024 of 2021
(Arising out of SLP (C) No 25310 of 2013)
Civil Appeal No 6025 of 2021
(Arising out of SLP (C) No 22674 of 2012)
J U D G M E N T
Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud
1. Leave granted.
2. This batch of appeals arises from a judgment and order dated 15 March 2011 of a Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
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3. For convenience of reference, the facts as they emerged in the lead Civil Appeal (CA 6026-6028/2021 @ SLP(C) 14029-14031/2011) may be set out.
4. The appellants were appointed as clerks in 1975-1976 in the Punjab Civil Secretariat on an ad hoc basis. On 3 May 1977, their services were regularized with effect from 1 April 1977 pursuant to a policy of regularization. The policy of regularization notes that in anticipation of regular appointments, ad hoc appointments were resorted to by various appointing authorities in “administrative interest” after notifying the vacancies to the employment exchange or, as the case may be, by issuing advertisements. Since the ad hoc employees had acquired experience, and their ouster after a considerable period of service would entail hardship, their services were regularized, subject to certain terms and conditions. Clause (5) of the policy on regularization contained the following stipulations:
“5. The seniority of the ad hoc employees whose appointments are regularized in terms of the above policy shall be determined in the following manner:-
(a) After approval by the Appointing Authority the regularization of their appointments shall date back to 1st April, 1977 from which date their seniority shall be determined vis-à-vis candidates appointed on regular basis after selection through the prescribed agencies;
(b) The service rendered on ad hoc basis shall be taken into account for purposes of determining inter se seniority among the ad hoc employees themselves and a person having a longer service shall be senior and if the date of appointment on ad hoc basis is the same, then the older member shall be senior to a younger member.”
5. From the above stipulations, it becomes evident that the regularization in terms of the policy dated 3 May 1977, was to become effective on 1 April 1977 from which date their seniority would be determined in relation to candidates who were appointed on a regular basis after following the normal procedures for selection. However, as between the ad hoc employees who were regularized, it was stipulated that service rendered on an ad hoc basis shall be taken into account so that a person having a longer service shall be senior and if the date of appointment on ad hoc basis was the same, the older member would rank senior to the younger.
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22. Having resolved the above issue, as a matter of principle, the Court is then left with moulding the relief. Both the appellants and the private respondents, as well as the appellants in the companion appeals have from time to time received their promotions during the pendency of these proceedings and have retired from service. Some among them have retired nearly a decade ago. There may be some merit in the submissions which have been urged by Mr P S Patwalia, learned senior counsel that the judgment in CWP No 2780 of 1980 must govern those who are parties to the proceedings and cannot be resiled from by the State which was bound by the ultimate direction. Recasting the seniority of persons who have retired from service after receiving promotions and reworking the dates of notional promotion at this stage for the entire cadre going back all the way to 1 April 1977 is a daunting exercise for the State of Punjab. This is a point which was emphasized by Ms Anusha Nagarajan in the course of her submissions. Revising the seniority at this length of time would cast an insuperable burden on the State. During the pendency of these proceedings, an exercise was directed to be conducted on a limited basis, for which several months were required. Retrieving correct data to rework seniority commencing from April 1977 would be extremely difficult, resulting in further litigation. With this backdrop, when most of the pensioners have retired from service several years ago, it would be in the interests of justice if the pensionary benefits which they are now receiving are duly protected both against recoveries and in respect of their disbursement for the future. Such a direction would be manifestly in the interest of justice and accordingly we issue an order under Article 142 of the Constitution to that effect. Insofar as the private respondents are concerned, they too like the appellants have been promoted from time to time during the pendency of these proceedings since 2011 and are in the receipt of pensionary benefits. The matter, in our view, must rest there so that the pensioners are not left in a state of uncertainty at this stage of their lives after rendering long years of service to the State in the Punjab Civil Secretariat.
23. Consequently, while we affirm the judgment of the Division Bench on the issue of the principle which has been decided above, we direct that:
(i) The pensionary benefits which are being disbursed to the appellants shall not be disturbed. Likewise, the pensionary payments which are being disbursed to the respondents shall be paid over in accordance with law;
(ii) No recoveries shall be made of any nature whatsoever from the appellants; and
(iii) Insofar as the companion appeals are concerned, as recorded earlier, CWP No 16925 of 2003 and CWP No 4490 of 1994 were instituted on the basis of the observations of the Single Judge in Malook Singh’s case. That aspect has been duly clarified both in the Letters Patent Appeal and by the Single Judge in the judgment dated 5 January 2011. Hence, no further directions are required in the companion appeals. Both sets of appeals are disposed of.
24. The appeals are accordingly disposed of.
25. Pending applications, if any, stand disposed of.
[Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]
[B V Nagarathna]
September 28, 2021
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