The Bombay High Court on Monday emphasised that the right to pension is a valuable right vested with government servants which should not be denied on technical grounds. [Dr Pradeep Rangrao Nalawade v. Poona College of Pharmacy]
The Court made the observation while directing a college in Pune to condone a gap in an employee’s service so that he would be entitled to retirement benefits.
A Bench of Justice GS Patel and Neela Gokhale observed that pensionary provisions should be interpreted liberally as a social welfare measure.
“The right of pension is a valuable right vested in a government servant. It is a social welfare measure as a post retirement entitlement to maintain the dignity of an employee. Pensionary provisions must be given a liberal construction as a social welfare measure…the very basis for grant of pension must be kept in mind, i.e., to facilitate a retired government employee to live with dignity in the winter of his life and thus such benefit should not be unreasonably denied to an employee, more so on technicalities,” the order said.
The petitioner before the Court was appointed as a professor of Pharmacy in the college in October 1999. Till April 2009, he served on the post with intermittent breaks. The breaks occurred as the post was reserved for candidates from Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the petitioner’s services were being used due to there being no eligible ST candidate appointed to hold the post.
From July 2009 to September 2020, the petitioner rendered continuous service, after being appointed in an open category vacancy.
However, he was denied post-retirement benefits by the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), Maharashtra on the ground that there was a shortage of 1 month and 16 days for him to be eligible for pension. There was a gap of 674 days in his service owing to technical breaks and vacations.
The Court held that DTE had clearly erred in computing the qualifying service of the petitioner and wrongly rendered him ineligible for receiving a pension.
It proceeded to hold that the payment of salary, even during technical breaks, implied a contract. Thus, it concluded that there was no gap in service at all.
The Court also expressed its disappointment towards the college, the university and the DTE for their failure in selecting an eligible candidate for the reserved category post.
Furthermore, they were also criticized for employing the petitioner as a stop-gap arrangement for a decade, thereby strategically creating technical breaks to prevent the petitioner from completing the qualifying period for availing pension.
Hence, it allowed the petition and directed the respondents to disburse the pension to the petitioner as per the rules.
Senior Advocate NV Bandiwadekar, instructed by Advocate Aditi Naikare, appeared for the petitioner.
The respondent-college was represented by Advocate Mahindra Deshmukh.
The State was represented by Additional Government Pleader (AGP) VM Mali.