[READ JUDGMENT] Pension is Succour for Post-Retirement period. It is not a bounty payable at will, but a social welfare measure: SC

A Three Judges Bench of Supreme Court Comprising Justice S.K. Kaul, Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Aniruddha Bose delivered Judgment in the case of V.Sukumaran vs State of Kerala and Anr. (Civil Appeal No. 3984 of 2020), holding that the period rendered as Casual Labour Roll Worker shall be counted for the purpose of Pension.

Facts:

The Appellant before the Supreme Court initially on 7.7.1996 joined the Department of Fishiries , Government of Kerala as a Casual Labour  Roll Worker. He worked upto 29.11.1983 rendering 7 years, 4 months and 23 days of service as a CLR worker whereupon the District Officer, Kerala Public Service Commission (for short ‘KPSC’) advised him to join the Revenue Department, Kannur District as Lower Division Clerk (for short ‘LDC’) on his participation in a direct recruitment process.He accordingly reported for duty on 30.11.1983. On having rendered a few years of service, the appellant sought an inter-departmental transfer from the Revenue Department back to the Fisheries Department and returned to Thiruvananthapuram and joined on 18.9.1987 on probation of two years with the service being subsequently regularised on 18.9.1989. The appellant earned his promotion as Upper Division Clerk (Higher Grade) (for short ‘UDC’) from which post he retired on attaining the age of superannuation on 31.12.2008. The total service rendered by the appellant was about 25 years, but excluding the service as CLR. 

Appellant made a representation dated 27.11.2006 to the Assistant Director of the Fisheries Department for passing orders to treat his period of CLR service of more than 7 years as qualifying service for pension.  

The State Government finally did not accept the recommendation of the Fisheries Department and rejected the representation of the appellant vide letter dated 16.5.2007 as according to the State Government the benefit could not be extended to the appellant since he was appointed by the KPSC and had not been absorbed in the Fisheries Department from the CLR service. 

The Appellant Challenged the Order before the Kerala High Court, however the Claim of the Appellant was rejected by the Court on the ground that the appointment of the appellant to the Revenue Department was in pursuance of his selection by the KPSC and, thus, he could not compare himself with the CLR workers, who had obtained regularisation as SLR workers 

Grounds/Contention before SC:

  1. 29 SLR posts were created to regularise those CLR workers who had completed 500 days of work, and had the appellant continued in service of the Fisheries Department, he would have found a place in one of those 29 posts having worked for 1678 days.
  2. The G.O. dated 21.8.2006 provided for 200 or more days of work in a calendar year during the period of service as CLR worker prior to the permanency, calculated as equivalent to one year regular service qualifying for pension and, thus, the appellant was entitled to 8 years of qualifying service of pension on account of his service as CLR worker. 
  3. The details sought and disclosed vis-a-vis the other casual workers vide letter dated 4.12.2006 showed that the appellant was second senior most person and the first person had got his CLR service regularised as SLR worker with pension being granted to him accordingly. 
  4. The rejection by the State Government of the recommendation of the Fisheries Department was wrongful. 
  5. The appellant would be entitled to his maximum pensionable service only if the CLR service was regularised as qualifying service on parity with his co-workers and had he continued to work in the Fisheries Department, he would have undoubtedly been regularised.

Stand of Government:

  1. Benefit of G.O. dated 21.8.2006 was available only to those CLR workers who were regularised as SLR workers and none of the G.O.s would govern the appellant. 
  2. The benefit of Rule 4(f)(iii) of the Pension Rules was pleaded to be not extendable to the appellant and all these would have applied had he continued to work as a CLR worker for the Fisheries Department. 
  3. The appellant was, however, appointed by the KPSC and not absorbed in the department from the CLR service and for this the rules of pension were entirely different as under Part II of the Service Rules. 

The Court held

It is not in dispute that appellant was transferred to the Fisheries Department albeit at his own request and demitted office from there after earning promotion. To say that the appellant would be denied the benefit of the period spent as CLR worker for his pensionary benefit would be to treat his case as inferior one to the case of other CLR workers, who never went through a system of recruitment for regularisation but were regularised in the Fisheries Department to provide better working conditions and monetary benefits to the employees. Can it really be said that a regularly recruited person like the appellant should not get the benefit which the other people who were CLR workers would get, having spent more than 7 years in that capacity? The answer, in our view, is in the negative, as it would amount to whittling away long years of service as a CLR worker of 1678 days (7 years 4 months and 23 days). 

Direction

We are, thus, of the view that for all the aforesaid reasons, the appellant is entitled to succeed in the present appeal and the impugned orders are liable to be set aside. We also find that the rejection of the recommendation of the Fisheries Department, respondent No. 2, by respondent No. 1 was consequently improper and unsustainable. The benefit of the service rendered as a CLR worker would, thus, be liable to be counted for determining the pensionary benefits of the appellant at par with other CLR workers and the pension be accordingly calculated. The arrears of pension be remitted to the appellant within a maximum period of eight (8) weeks from today with admissible interest as applicable to outstanding pension amounts.

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