Three decades after their battle began, and despite a victory in the Supreme Court in September, several thousand retired central government employees are yet to get their pension restored.
Unwilling to let the octogenarians celebrate with pension benefits, the Centre filed a review petition in the top court last month and decided to implement the restoration subject to its outcome. The Union ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions issued an office memorandum on December 21to give former central government employees who had litigated for years, including K Ganesan, a spearheading litigant who died during the process, this bittersweet news.
The issue centres around a pension rule that permitted central government employees to shift en masse from the 1960s to the 1980s to public sector undertakings (PSUs) that needed experienced workers at the time. To aid and promote the move, the Centre allowed the employees to avail of 100% lump sum pension in advance for 15 years.
The rules had till then permitted a partial one third commutation. Acomplicated formula is at work for pension calculations.Essentially, such employees who had claimed a lump sum upfront in a particular year, went on to fight for restoration of pension (effectively arrears) as per service years, after accounting for the lump sum payment made earlier. The issue was a fight against effective downgrade of pension slabs.
Several legal battles ensued, beginning in 1983. In 1987, the SC first allowed one-third restoration for Central government employees after a 15-year period, and a decade later extended the benefit to those who had shifted to PSUs.
K Ganesan, who was with the finance ministry and in 1986 moved to BHEL, a PSU, after availing of lump sum pension in advance, launched a fight in the Madras high court.In 2007, the court upheld the plea.
It significantly held that the Centre cannot wipe away the rights of an employee for restoration. It said an employee remains a pensioner under the Pensions Act, 1871. Navi Mumbai resident Satish Kate, part of another association and who worked with the Indian Bureau of Mines and retired in 2006 from Indian Oil Corporation, is among those awaiting restoration.
"Many of the 7,000-odd pensioners are aged over 80. They may not live to enjoy pension in their lifetime if the legal battle continues," he said. " The SC order applies to all of us who were absorbed by PSUs.The PM heads the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pension.”