He already flooded the much needed arguments advocating the cause of retirees from State Bank of India who are passing their days with perilous miseries in the absence of a compatibly need based resource for the sustenance of themselves and their families. Ramchandra Upadhyaya, himself having been a senior executive in the top rung of the administrative mechanism of State Bank, knows well the loop holes and the lacunas in the system coupled with their propensity to callously ignore the mooings of the workforce, retired or otherwise, and he took up the Herculian task of mobilising it with sound arguments stage by stage in most convincing a measure. Unfortunately the most pertinent logics so put forth by him didn’t elicit any response as yet by the authorities that be –they only turned their stone walled drums of their ears and every thing was a cry in wilderness. His latest communication addressed to the Chairperson of State Bank of India is an eye opener so far as the facts behind anomalies and lapses on the issues are concerned. It is reproduced verbatim below. Though big enough for a blog, it is worth that much of space in the interest of the retirees/pensioners:
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.
SBIVRScheme 2000 Retirees
On behalf of the RETIREES, who are yet to receive even a single pension payment, and my behalf, I place before you in the following paragraphs, further evidences to establish that the Bank has been needlessly referring to the Central Government (CG) seeking its sanction for removing the existing anomalies in pension payments.
1.1. The SC, while disposing of Bank of India’s appeal against its employee K.Mohandas in the VRS 2000 scheme on 27.3.2009delivered a common judgment to dispose of 15 other appeals from different nationalised banks since the issue involved was common for all of them; from paragraph 9 of the judgment it can be seen that the Pension Regulations of all the nationalised banks have been framed by their respective Boards under Section 19 of the Banking Companies(Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act as per procedure followed by the Central Board of the Bank in framing SBIEPFR for the benefit of SBI employees. Importantly, the SC gave its decision on the Civil Appeals relying ONLY repeat ONLY on the provisions of the Regulations and did not elicit the views of the CG although a) in its judgment, it had reproduced the text of CG’s letter F.No.4/8/4/2000-IR dated 5.9.2000 addressed to the IBA, on the basis of which amendment to Rule 28 was brought about and b) it was aware that the VRS scheme was formulated at the instance and in consultation with the CG. In the following sub-paragraphs important excerpts from the judgment appear.
1.2. “Any interpretation of the terms of VRS 2000, although contractual in nature, must meet the test of fairness. It has to be construed in a manner that avoids arbitrariness and unreasonableness on the part of the public sector banks who brought out VRS 2000 with an objective of rightsizing its manpower.”-Para 34
1.3. The Special Scheme was, thus, oriented to lure the employees to go in for voluntary retirement. In this background, the consideration that was to pass between the parties assumes significance and a harmonious construction to the Scheme and Pension Regulations, therefore, has to be given.—para 34.
1.4. “Can it be said that statutory relationship of employee and employer brought to an end prematurely by contractual VRS 2000 amounted to alteration or amendment in the statutory Regulations? Surely, answer has to be in negative and that must answer this contention. The precise effect of Pension Regulations, for the purposes of pension, having been made part of scheme, is that Pension Regulations, to the extent, these are applicable, must be read into the Scheme. It is pertinent to bear in mind that interpretation clause of VRS-2000 states that the words and expressions used in the scheme but not defined and defined in the Rules/Regulations shall have the same meaning respectively assigned to them under Rules/Regulations. The Scheme does not define the expression `retirement’ or `voluntary retirement’. We have, therefore, to fall back on the definition of `retirement’given in Regulation 2(y) where under voluntary retirement under Regulation 29 is considered to be retirement. Regulation 29 uses the expression, `voluntary retirement under these Regulations’. Obviously, for the purposes of the Scheme, it has to be understood to mean with necessary changes in points of details. Section 23 of the Contract Act has no application to the present fact situation.”-–Para39.
1.5. “It was vehemently contended on behalf of the banks that VRS 2000 was a self-contained Scheme and it provided for special benefits in the form of ex-gratia. It was submitted that ex-gratia was not available to the employees claiming voluntary retirement under Pension Regulations and it was because of that, that Scheme did not envisage granting of pension benefits under Regulation 29(5) of the Pension Regulations, 1995, along with the payment of ex-gratia which was a substantial amount. It is true that VRS 2000 is a complete package in itself and contractual in nature. However, in that package, it has been provided that the optees, in addition to ex-gratia payment, will also be eligible to other benefits inter alia pension under the Pension Regulations.” –para-41.
“It, therefore, cannot be accepted that VRS 2000 did not envisage grant of pension benefits under Regulation 29(5) of the Pension Regulations, 1995, to the optees of 20 years service along with payment of ex-gratia.”-Para41
1.6. “We hold, as it must be, that the employees who had completed 20 years of service and were pension optees and offered voluntary retirement under VRS 2000 and whose offers were accepted by the banks are entitled to addition of five years of notional service in calculating the length of service for the purposes of that Scheme as per Regulation 29(5) of the Pension Regulations, 1995.” –Para 53
2.1. In this connection, while delivering the judgment in VRS SCHEME, CIVIL APPEAL NO.2463 OF 2015[Arising out of S.L.P. (Civil) No. 3686 OF 2007], Justice Dipak Misra had given excerpts from the counter affidavit filed by the Bank in Vipin Kalia &ors vs State Bank of India [para 19 (13)] which read as “We may also point out here that State Bank of India in the counter affidavit has explained that its Voluntary Retirement Scheme was a special and a distinct scheme offering a handsome package for the employees who were ready and willing to opt for retirement. It is also pointed out that the State Bank of India’s employees unlike employees belonging to other public sector banks were entitled to both contributory provident fund and membership of a pension fund. It is stated that employees of other public sector bank are eligible either for contributory provident fund or membership of pension fund” Notwithstanding this, Justice Dipak Misra had ruled that “In the absence of withdrawal, there cannot be any trace of doubt that the employees would be governed by the rules existing at the time of floating of the Scheme which has to be read into the Scheme, for the Scheme clearly stipulates that the employees availing the benefit of the Scheme would be entitled to pension as per the Pension Rules.”-paragraph 44.
2.2. Madam, there is hardly any difference between the VRS 2000 and SBIVRS 2000; the latter scheme too contained a clause reading “Pension in terms of SBIEPFRules on the relevant date (including commuted value of pension).” Since there was no amendment to SBIEPFR from the date of floating the SBIVRS2000, the 7th bipartite retirees are to be paid pension as per rules at 50% of their last drawn salary, as the pension payable to 7th bipartite retirees was not amended.
2.3. Madam, it may be noted that the CG, the brain behind VRS schemes, could not prevent the nationalised banks from paying pension as per rules to their 7th bipartite retirees as they dare not issue instructions to the banks to refrain from implementing the SC order. For having acted as per the instructions of the CG, the nationalised banks were rebuked by the SC, which observed “The banks in the present batch of appeals are public sector banks and are `State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution and their action even in contractual matters has to be reasonable, lest, as observed in O.P. Swarnakar, it must attract the wrath of Article 14 of the Constitution”, vide paragraph 33 of the judgment cited above. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The SC order in the above cited case is therefore equally applicable to SBI and you should not have any further apprehension whether removal of pension anomalies needs the approval of the CG.When SC can decide the appeals as per provisions of the Regulations of other banks, you should not hesitate to authorise payments to the RETIREES. At this juncture, I quote excerpts from paragraphs 4.6 &4.7 of Annexure I to the letter no CDO/PM/16/SPL/1187 dated 30.10.2002, addressed by the Bank to the CG, “After the 7th bipartite, the maximum basic pay was raised to Rs.23700 plus eligible allowances for the purpose of pension and accordingly the Bank put up its recommendations vide letter no CDO/PM/16/SPL/344 dated 26.7.2000. The Government didn’t approve the Bank’s recommendations and desired that it should work out pension taking into account the provision for computation of pension as per the industry level salary/bipartite settlement although these provisions were not applicable to the SBI. The intention of the Government of India was to bring parity in computation of pension with the nationalised banks. The computation of pension as per industry settlement is done on the basis of pre-1.11.1997/1.4.1998 plus D.A. payable up to 1616 CPI over 1148 points” It needs to be mentioned here that the Annexure I to the Bank’s letter dated 30.10.2002 cited above, acts as a compendium of steps initiated by the management out of its ignorance about CG’s powers over the affairs of the Bank, lack of understanding of pension rules and its general apathy towards legal, constitutional SC rulings and above all poor pensioners! It is a pity that the SBI management, instead of acting as per the SC order dated 23.2,1989 in writ petition (civil) 305 of 1987 started referring to the CG and tied itself into knots!
4. Madam, it is obvious that the CG’s approach is not based on any sound logic or legal provisions; its approach is more out of prejudice against the SBI officials. The CG a) does not have any legal power to exercise administrative authority over the Bank, b) doesn’t reimburse the Bank with the quantum of pension paid by the Bank to its retirees and c) more importantly does not assume responsibility for the instructions it issues in regard to pension matters as has been pointed in paragraph 2.3 (supra). That CG would not assume responsibility for its arbitrary instructions could also be inferred from burning problem the Bank is now facing arising on account of its hasty action in having perpetrated the irregularity in instructing branches to make ad hoc payments to the RETIREES on basis of their pre-revised salary. The relative Circular letter no CDO: PM: CIR:34 dated 31.10.2000,states that it had taken up with the CG regarding revision of pension payable to the RETIREES but till now, the CG had not advised the Bank in that regard. The reason behind the continued silence on the part of the CG is that if it approves the Bank’s action, it would be illegal. It has, therefore, decided to maintain silence and not worried about the RETIREES, with whom it has no legal (contractual) relationship. Madam, the CG can’t raise any objections if you remove the anomalies in pension payments as per the Regulations, which is why I have been exhorting you to act!
5. Madam, I have brought to your notice several SC rulings and excerpts from the opinion submitted by the ex-chief justice P.N.Bhagwati to succinctly prove that the CG does not have any legal power to control the Bank to facilitate removal of the anomalies by exercising powers vested in you as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Your responsibility at this stage is, therefore, far greater than the perpetrators of the anomalies as they had acted with the misconception that they were expected to act as per the instructions from the CG. Also, the RETIREES were comparatively younger then and were hoping that before long the anomalies would be removed. The RETIREES are now too old and are frustrated and disappointed at the thought that the Bank is still not paying their pension as per their entitlement due to the illogical, ill-conceived and baseless notion of the management that it needs sanction from the CG for payment of pension to its employees. After the SC dismissed the Bank’s appeal on 16.10.2015 in K.K.Jaipuriar’s case it should have been crystal clear that pension is payable on the last drawn salary. The decisions of the S C, cited in paragraphs 1&2 supra, further confirm that you can now act on your own. Madam, in final analysis, the future of the RETIREES hinges on the decision you take without fear or favour. Either you authorise payment of pension as per the provisions of SBIEPF REGULATIONS and the SC order dated 23.2.1989, which provides for payment of D.A as applicable to serving staff, which is lawfully acceptable or await clearance from the CG, which is not legally necessary but may be giving you a feeling that you have acted as per the irrational convention being followed albeit to the detriment of the RETIREES. If you choose the alternative approach, I am afraid, you may not derive the satisfaction of having helped the RETIREES by authorising payment of their legitimate pension during your tenure as Chairperson and the RETIREES would have to curse their fate as neither your successor would deviate from the stance you had taken nor would the CG relent. If it is your desire to help the RETIREES, whose remaining life span reduces with the passing of each day, please act NOW without hesitation!
Looking forward to an early payment of our pension from the date of our retirement,