Can Gratuity be released pending Judicial Proceedings? Allahabad HC

A Full bench of Allahabad High Court comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal,
Justice Suneet Kumar and Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal answered
the question that was posed before the bench,
as to whether a government employee was entitled to retiral gratuity
and death gratuity if a civil or criminal proceeding
is pending before a court and if the same gratuity can be released before the conclusion of the trial.

Brief Details of the Case:-

The petitioners in the case were Police and Lekhpal Officials who had retired from the service,
but their gratuity and full pension were not released as cases were pending against them in various courts.

The case was heard by a single judge who had referred the matter to a larger bench. 

Before the Full bench of the Allahabad High Court, three questions of the law came up for consideration:-

  1. Whether after retirement, a government employee is entitled to his full pension and gratuity even if cases are pending against him?
  2. Can all the benefits be released to the government employee before the conclusion of the pending cases?
  3. The Court was also tasked to deliberate whether the procedure laid down in the Jai Prakash case was correct as per law.

To adjudicate the case, the Court delved deeply into various sections of law and also how they apply to the present case.

The first and foremost thing that the Court took into consideration was the concept of pension.

The Court took into account the decision of the Supreme Court in 
Deokinandan Prasad vs State of Bihar and State of Punjab vs IqbalSingh where it was held that pension was a right and
the government had no discretionary to withhold it.

The pension, in that sense, is a property of the employee and the due process under Article 300- A of the constitution should be followed.

The Judges also noticed that Article 353 of the Civil Service Regulations states that no pension can be granted to
an officer if he is removed from the service due to misconduct.

The Court concluded that even if a person retires due to super annuity, he cannot escape the liability of negligence or misconduct.

After going through various judgements of courts,
the full bench of the Allahabad High Court concluded that if a case was pending against a government employee,
then the employee is entitled to a provisional pension and not the full amount of gratuity till
the case has concluded and an order has been passed.

The Court also clarified that during the pendency of the trial,
the government employee/servant could not seek the intervention of another competent authority to get his full pension and gratuity.

If such a remedy is provided to them, then it will not be in
the spirit of the law as the Court cannot allow the person to walk away with full gratuity if a case is still pending against him/her.

It was also stated that the pendency of judicial proceedings could not be taken as a ground to request
the Court for the grant of full gratuity and pension amount as reiterated in the Fani Singh and the Ram Babu case.

The Court categorically held that Articles 351 and 351-A of Civil Service Regulation will only have an impact on the case after the conclusion of the trial and not during the pendency of the case.

Conclusion

The Court concluded the following 

  1. Future good conduct is an implied condition, and full pension can only be released if the service rendered by the employee was thoroughly satisfactory.
  2. The Governor and state government have the right to invoke Article 351 and 351 A, if there has been a pecuniary loss to the government,
    if the employee is held guilty of serious misconduct and if the employee is convicted of a serious crime.
  3. The Court also held that no gratuity is playable until the conclusion of the Judicial Proceedings.
  4. The employee is entitled to a provisional pension until the trial is concluded.
  5. The Court also overruled the order of the single judge as well as that of the Divisional Bench Stating that their views were contradictory and inconsistent.

About the questions of law that were placed before the Judges, they opined the following:-

  1. The Court, after going through the provisions of law, stated that if a judicial proceeding is pending before a court,
    then the government employee cannot claim full pension and gratuity.
  2. The Court held that the release of full pension/ gratuity will be subject to the outcome of the case.

The Court also stated that the procedure laid down in the Jai Prakash was indeed correct.

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