Ramchandra Upadhyaya is an author who needs no introduction nor any supplement is required on his well explained write-up this time through his letter addressed to madam Chairman of State Bank of India on date on the anomalies concerning pension issues. The relative text is appended verbatim (without any annexure as referred to by him in his letter):
Pension Anomalies in SBI
Removal of Anomalies in Pension Payments
Writ Petition (civil) 1875/2013 filed by Pensioners’ Federation
From the contents of the first paragraph of the attached note it would be apparent that the pension rules of LIC were framed by the Central Government. Nevertheless, it would seem that LIC’s management was enthusiastic to extend the benefits of updation in pension to its employees as could be inferred from the contents of paragraph 2 of Supreme Court judgment dated 31.3.2016 in LIC & ors vs Krishna Murari Asthana, wherein it has observed that “The Life Insurance Corporation of India (for short’ ‘the Corporation’) at one point of time was enthusiastic to confer certain benefits on the respondent-employees, may be without appreciating the legal nuancesbut its action irrefragably instilled a concrete hope in thousands of employees. Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court, in paragraph 13 of its judgment dated 12.10.2015 in Asger Ibrahim Amin vs LIC had pointed out 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 same judgment, the court had also observed thus: “the Respondent being a model employer could and should have extended the advantage of these Regulations to the Appellant thereby safeguarding his pension entitlement.”
2. In the State of Rajasthan & ors vs Mahendra Nath Sharma (Civil Appeal no 1123 of 2015), the Supreme Court, vide its judgment dated 1.7.2015 had expressed its anguish about the tendency of the employers to deny their employees pension as per rules and resort to unnecessary litigation. The observations of the Court stated succinctly thus: “The antiquated notion of pension being a bounty a gratuitous payment depending upon the sweet will or grace of the employer not claimable as a right and, therefore, no right to pension can be enforced through court has been swept under the carpet by the decision of the Constitution Bench in Deokinandan Prasad v.State of Bihar3 wherein this Court authoritatively ruled 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 anyone’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. This view was reaffirmed in State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh.”We may hasten to add that though the said decision has-been explained and diluted on certain other aspects, but the paragraphs which we have reproduced as a concept holds the field as it is a fundamental concept in service jurisprudence. It will be appropriate and apposite on the part of the employers to remember the same and ingeminate it time and again so that unnecessary litigation do not travel to the Court and the employers show a definite and correct attitude towards employees. We are compelled to say so as we find that the intention of the State Government from paragraph 5 of the circular/memorandum has been litigated at various stages to deny the benefits to the respondents. It is the duty of the State Government to avoid unwarranted litigations and not to encourage any litigation for the sake of litigation. The respondents were entitled to get the benefit of pension.”
3. The observations of the Supreme Court, vide previous paragraph should have touched the conscience of any well-meaning person with a human heart. However, the management of the Bank, despite being armed with clear cut SBI Pension rules have denied legitimate pension to a multitude of pensioners since 1.11.1987 and have remained unperturbed about the devastation it has caused/has been causing to the pensioners and their families Are the officials constituting the management of the Bank become immune to the fact that the deaths of several pensioners were advanced/hastened due to their inability to lead a dignified life caused by embezzlement of their pension property by their employers, viz, the Bank for no fault of theirs? Madam, your tenure as Chairman would come to an end in September 2016. Please call for the statistics regarding the number of pensioners who lost their lives without receiving pension as per well defined regulations since the time you assumed charge to realise how the Bank had acted in a barbaric manner to its own past employees. The contents of paragraph 2.3 to 2.5 of the attached note should surely convince you that either the officials of your legal department did not apply their mind properly or they wanted to take the line of least resistance unmindful of the repercussions its approach would have on hapless pensioners.
4. Madam, the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 3.10.2005 in Bangalore Development Authority vs R.Hanumaiah &ors had observed thus: “The authority vested with the power has to act reasonably and rationally and in accordance with law to carry out the legislative intent and not to destroy it.” The authority vested with the powers to pay pension as per SBIEPFR are the Trustees, who by not acting reasonably and rationally and in accordance with law to carry out the legislative intent of the Regulations have not only destroyed the Regulations but with it they destroyed the pensioners and their families. I wish to add that since the Bank’s Central Board had obtained the previous sanction of the Central Government for framing the SBIEPFR, as observed in the same judgment, “the Government can issue directions which in its opinion are necessary or expedient for "carrying out the purposes of the Act." Madam, the Apex Court, in the same judgment had added that “The doctrine of promissory estoppel is not based on the principle of estoppel. It is a doctrine evolved by equity in order to prevent injustice. Where a party by his word or conduct makes a promise to another person in unequivocal and clear terms intending to create legal relations knowing or intending that it would be acted upon by the party to whom the promise is made and it is so acted upon by the other party the promise would be binding on the party making it. It would not be entitled to go back on the promise made.”
5. If you are really interested in the welfare of the hapless pensioners, who are NOT BECOMING YOUNGER WITH THE PASSING OF EACH DAY ,which I am sure, you are, in view of the Supreme Court judgments cited in the previous paragraphs, please arrange to instruct the Bank’s advocates to depose before the Bench that since SBIEPFR has a statutory force, the pensioners can’t be deprived of their property and the Bank would like to settle their rightful dues immediately,. By doing so, the Bank can atone for the heinous sins the previous managements had committed with the abetment of the legal department.
6. I hope that, as a human being you would respond and restore semblance of happiness among the members/surviving members of the hapless pensioners.
NB:KR Saini’s writeup more or less on the similar issues/ anomalies follows: