An eye opener and sumptuously laden with logic and reasoning coupled with bold expressions on pension anomalies, given below are the contents of a letter dated the 19th October’2015 addressed to the Chairperson of State Bank of India by a top rank champion of the pensioners cause Ramchandra Upadhyaya. The contents of the letter are of utmost importance to the pensioners and deserve to be preserved by them as a permanent record. I profusely thank and express gratitude to the author of the letter under reference on behalf of all the pensioners. The letter is too big to fit into a blog post but I am managing it to publish keeping in view its immense value:
PENSION ANOMALIES IN SBI
Nonpayment of Pension to 7th Bipartite Pensioners of SBI (RETIREES)
For about a decade and a half due to the Bank’s inaction.
I write with reference to the email dated 6.10.2015 sent by the DGM (PM&PPG) in reply to the appeal made to you on behalf the RETIREES and myself on 26.7.2015.
2. The letter mentions, inter alia, that “Writ petitions are pending in several High Courts in which the said issue is the subject matter and judgment is awaited.” Madam, I don’t wish to dwell on the reasons for the pending writ petitions, which are too well known. The main bone of contention between the RETIREES and the Bank management is that a) they are being paid an ad hoc payment in lieu of pension and b) they are also being denied 100% neutralisation in D.A which is being paid to others. However, the other RETIREES and I sincerely salute you for your efforts in cutting the Gordian knot, if I may say so. The very fact that the Bank had put up its recommendations for removing the existing irregularities in pension payments being made to the RETIREES, 5th, 6th and 8th bipartite retirees is a sure enough indication that it is fully convinced of the legal position obtaining in regard to the pensioners’ demands which is being contested in courts. When the Bank is convinced of the injustice being done to its pensioners, why await judgments?Already, the Madras and Kerala High courts had passed judgments in favour of the pensioners. I also reproduce hereunder excerpts from the judgments delivered in the Calcutta and Delhi high courts, the contents of which are self-explicit:-
Excerpts from Calcutta High court judgment dated 29.4.2015 in APO 351 of 2013. “The learned Single Judge by judgment and order dated September 13, 2012 allowed the writ petition and directed the Bank to calculate the pensionary benefits of the writ petitioner on the basis of the revised pay received by him under 7th bipartite settlement as the pensionary benefits had been disbursed to him since his retirement. The bank, being aggrieved, preferred the instant appeal. In 2012 the Bank was, however, not able to obtain any interim order of stay. Hence, the authority complied with the said order and the original respondent no. 1 enjoyed the benefit of the said order till his death.
Excerpts from the judgment in the Delhi High court ruled in R.P no 305/2015 in W.P (C) 2353/2014 delivered on 3.7.2015.
“the legal position would be that if post superannuation of an employee wages are increased from a date anterior from a date of superannuation and differential paid, for purposes of computing pension while indexing the last twelve months drawn wages the pension would have to be re-fixed keeping in view the increased pay on the same being revised.”
In its order dated 14.9.2010, while disposing of the writ petition (civil) 27929 of 2003, in favour of the pensioners, the Kerala High court in its order had observed “SBI had submitted in the court that the pension in the State Bank of India to the employees of the State Bank of India can be paid only in accordance with the State Bank of India Employees’ Pension Fund Rules framed under the State Bank of India Act.”
2.1. It may be noted that while the Calcutta High court had stated that the original Respondent no.1 enjoyed the benefit of the order passed by the Honourable single Judge, it follows from the Delhi High court order that if pensioners were in receipt of the revised pay and allowances, as per the legal position, for computing pension, the increased pay received during the last months should be taken into account. Besides, the Bank had submitted before the Kerala High court that pension can be paid only in accordance with the Rules framed under the SBI Act.
2.2. Madam, the Supreme Court judgments in the D.S.Nakara case, U.P.Raghavendra Acharya vs the State of Karnataka, Jharkhand Case, relevant excerpts from which were cited in my various letters, would also be applicable, mutatis mutandis, to the SBI pensioners since pension Rules are universally acceptable. If while disposing of the Civil Appeal no 1123 of 2015 on 1.7.2015, the Supreme Court had relied on the judgment in D.S.Nakara &ors vs Union of India delivered on 17.12.1982, nothing should come in the way of the Bank implementing the Supreme Court order dated 23.2.1989, in the writ petition (civil) 305 of 1987 concerning the Bank, which was delivered much later.The Bank, being a State under Art12 of the Constitution, could and should have acted in accordance with any of these judgments. In any case, it can’t explain why it had not acted on the Apex court ruling dated 23.2.1989.
2.3. In paragraph 13 of the judgment delivered on 12.10.2015, in Civil Appeal no 10251 of 2014 made by Asgar Ibrahim Amin against LIC of India, , the Supreme Court held that “The commendable objective of the Pension Rule is to extend benefits to a class of people to tide over the crisis and vicissitudes of old age, and if there are some inconsistencies between the statutory provisions and the avowed objective of the statute so as to discriminate between the beneficiaries within the class, the end of justice obligates us to palliate the differences between the two and reconcile them as far as possible. We would be failing in our duty, if we go by the letter and not by the laudatory spirit of statutory provisions and the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”In the concluding sentence of the next paragraph of the same judgment, the Court had stated “The State being a model employer should construe the provisions of a beneficial legislation in a way that extends the benefit to its employees, instead of curtailing it”. Madam, it must be obvious to you that there were no statutory provisions which compelled the Bank to discriminate the RETIREES and other beneficiaries within the class of pensioners. Madam, judging by the observations of the Apex court, it was indeed a barbaric act on the part of the management to have curtailed the benefits to the Bank’s employees when there no provocations for such an inhuman act!
2.4. The legal position obtaining in regard to the demands of the pensioners, being clear, and inasmuch as the RETIREES, in particular were paid the revised salary and allowances, the Bank should arrange with its advocates for revival of the hearing of the writ no 1875 of 2013 filed by the Pensioners’ Federation. I am making this request as the writ had not been heard for about six months after April 2015.
3. The email under reference also mentions that “Strong persuasion is also being made with the GOI in the above matter.” My comments on this observation are given hereunder.
3.1. Madam, when we joined the Bank, payment of pension was as per our Service condition which was unqualified meaning that it was not subject to the obtention of sanction there for from the Central Government; the CG is also not required to reimburse the Bank the quantum of pension paid by it.
3.2. As per the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 18 of the SBI Act (23 of 1955), the Bank shall be guided by such directions in matters of policy involving public interest as the CG may, in consultation with the Governor of the RBI and the Chairman of the SBI, give to it. Payment of pension by the Bank to its employees does not involve any public interest. Even in matters of policy decisions, the CG is required to consult the Chairman SBI. It follows that the Bank needn’t be guided by the CG in matters concerning payment of pension to employees.
3.3. In the judgment dated 17.12.1982 delivered by the Supreme Court, it had cited the ruling in Deoki Nandan Prasad v. State of Bihar & Ors. (1) that pension is a right and the payment of it does not depend upon the discretion of the Government but is governed by the rules and a Government servant coming within those rules is entitled to claim pension. It was further held that the grant of pension does not depend upon any one’s discretion. It is only for the purpose of quantifying the amount having regard to service and other allied matters that it may be necessary for the authority to pass an order to that effect but the right to receive pension flows to the officer not because of any such order but by virtue of the rules. If even in case of Government employees, the latter can’t exercise its discretion, how can it interfere in matters concerning payment of pension to SBI Employees?
3.4. I would like to emphasise that as per the SBI Act, the Bank’s Central Board is required to obtain CG’s prior sanction for framing SBIEPFR. In view of what is stated in paragraph 3.3 (supra), the Trustees have to merely sanction payment of pension to its pensioners having regard to their length of service as per the Rules/Regulations.Madam, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, you are empowered to sanction payment to the Bank’s pensioners. It is surprising that an autonomous, Statutory corporation of the stature of the Bank, whose finance has no connection whatsoever with consolidated funds of the Union of India, keeps seeking approval from the CG in pension matters, over which the latter is in no way connected!
4. Madam, it is true that the officials of the CG were keen that the Bank should adopt the definition of pay, for the purposes of computation of pension to the RETIREES as per the 7th bipartite settlement. However when the entire Banking industry sans SBI is paying pension to the 7th bipartite pensioners at 50% of the last drawn salary, the officials of CG did not care to advise SBI that it can also fall in line with the other Banks. In the present scenario and for the reasons mentioned in the following sub-paragraphs, the CG can no longer insist that the Bank should continue the irregular practice of computing pension for the RETIREES as per their pre-revised salary. It can’t also give its approval to the Bank’s proposal for the reasons stated in the following sub-paragraphs.
4.1. Madam, in paragraph 1(i) a) & 1(i) b) of the Bank’s letter dated 17.12.2014 and in paragraph 2 (i) a) of its letter dated 27.1.2015 both addressed to the Central Government, the Bank had proposed aligning pension to the last drawn salary of 5th & 6th bipartite retirees and accordingly sought approval for revising the ceiling from Rs.2400 to Rs.3775, being 50% of the highest scale. The CG would not convey its approval in writing for the Bank’s proposal as this would facilitate in the Federation getting a favourable judgment in its Writ Petition (Civil) no 1875 of 2013, which is being heard in the Delhi High court and also for what is stated in paragraph 4.2 (infra).
4.2. The contents of the Bank’s letters dated 17.12.2014 and 27.1.2015 refer to practices being followed by it in payment of pension, which are against the conceptual purity of the Pension rules. To elaborate, paragraph 2(ii) of the Bank’s letter dated 17.12.2014 mentions about sub-sections. It is embarrassing to the CG to recognise existence of such sub-sections and convey its approval there for in writing. As per the judgment in D.S.Nakara case, SBI pensioners form a class for purpose of pensionary benefits and there can’t be mini- classification within the class designated as pensioners. If the CG were to give its approval, it would be seen as a violation the Arts 14 &16 of the constitution. I wish to bring to your notice excerpts from the Supreme Court ruling dated 12.5.2006 in U.P.Raghavendra Acharya vs the State of Karnataka “The Pension Rules envisage that pension should be calculated only on the basis of the emoluments last drawn. No order, therefore, could be issued which would be contrary to or inconsistent therewith. Such emoluments were to be reckoned only in terms of the statutory rules.” In view of this ruling, the CG can’t also refuse to give its approval for the Bank’s recommendation in respect of the RETIREES! In both ways, the Bank’s letter had put the CG in a fix. This is perhaps the reason behind the statement “SBI may adhere to the existing provisions of SBIEPFRegulations” made in paragraph 2 of letter no 4/8/6/2006-IR (Vol-II) dated 31.3.2015.
5. Madam, Imagine for a moment the height of injustice the RETIREES were subjected to by the Bank. The RETIREES, who were actively and zealously involved in the successful implementation of the various schemes formulated by the Central Government (CG) and the Bank for the development of the Nation by providing financial assistance to poor and small scale industries, were driven to a state of misery and penury by plundering their hard earned benefits over the years by the deadly duo of the CG and the then management of the Bank, by framing Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), which was meant to benefit the Bank and not the employees. What a reward for the commitment and hard work put in by the RETIREES! Madam, the Bank lured about 22,000 employees by offering ex-gratia payments and plunged them into deep misery and sorrow by abusing its powers, brazenly disregarding pension rules, human feelings and scant respect for its Central Board. It instructed its branches to compute pension with reference to the old scale of the RETIREES as if their salary and allowances were not revised. The subsequent managements ensured that the writ petitions filed by the RETIREES were not decided by exploiting the loopholes in the legal process.
5.1. Madam, after your assumption of office as Chairperson, we, the RETIREES have noticed that the Bank had not gone on appeal against court decisions in our favour. It is also observed that no sooner you had become the Chairperson, than you started taking steps to remove the anomalies in pension payments. Thus you have demonstrated absolute honesty and fairness, two of the essential qualities of a leader. However, as a leader, since you are dealing with people, provision of prompt Justice assumes greater significance more so while dealing pension matters. You may perhaps be aware that Justice delayed is Justice denied and the need for provision of prompt Justice to we RETIREES, can’t be overemphasized because of our advancing age. In view of this, continued denial of justice due to your hesitation to exercise the powers vested in you under SBI Act, Central Board Resolution, and Supreme Court order dated 23.2.1989, several Supreme Court rulings and SBI Employees’ Pension Fund Regulations is intriguing. I don’t really understand the need for any hesitation as the problem on hand is not one of lending any large amount to a prospective borrower or taking a complicated decision but in paying the Bank’s pensioners as per the existing Regulations, which is the Bank’s liability and a statutory liability too. It is indeed ironical that ignoring all these decisions in favour of the pensioners, you have been after the CG who can’t override any of these court decisions, vide paragraph 3.4(supra).
5.2. The Bank which takes pride in acting as a catalyst in the growth of its customers by providing funds should not contribute to the destitution of its loyal workers, who had played a major role in shaping its destiny, by forcibly retaining their hard earned benefits. You had made a great leap forward in wiping off the tears of the aggrieved pensioners. Please don/t look back and act. The CG is least interested in what the Bank would do in this regard. It may be a matter of concern for it if your act were to create ripples in the industry. When all other banks, who were really the ones to compute pension as per the definition of pay agreed to in the 7th bipartite settlement which the CG wanted SBI to adopt, have been paying pension at 50% of the last drawn salary, what justice is there in SBI employees alone receiving pension as per pre-revised salary? Remember, the CG can’t question a transaction which is legally valid.
6. Madam, incidentally, as per the concluding sentences of paragraphs 1(a) and 1 (b) of the Bank’s letter no CDO/PM/16/16/SPL/2082, dated 27.1.2015,the Bank’s proposal would entail payment of pension to approximately 1100 surviving pensioners of 5th bipartite and the corresponding figure of surviving 7th bipartite pensioners being about 4500 pensioners. I am not sure how these figures have been arrived at. While the figures in respect of 5th bipartite may be correct, in respect of 7th bipartite surviving pensioners, it should be around 32,000. I request that the correctness of these figures be verified by the concerned officials.
7. Madam, the stalemate with regard to the existing anomalous situation in pension payment would continue to remain unresolved till all the aggrieved pensioners die UNLESS you decide to act according to the Law of the land and not listen to the CG officials who neither have the authority to overrule law nor have anything to do with the Bank’s pension payments. It is up to you to decide whether the surviving pensioners should get pension as per rules before they die. Please decide and act without further delay. All the RETIREES are pinning their hopes on you and anticipating a positive action from you with bated breath.