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2015 (2) TMI 1197 - SUPREME COURT

2015 (2) TMI 1197 - SUPREME COURT - TMI - Entitlement to pension - request for voluntary retirement - Held that:- In the case at hand, it is clear as day that the Rule carves out two categories of retirement, one, normal retirement on superannuation and second, retirement on request i.e. voluntary retirement, ordinarily called the golden handshake and, therefore, the scheme was floated. In the instant case, as I perceive, the Scheme which is more beneficial was provided. It had the pension and t .....

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JJ. Mr. Sanjay Kapur, AOR, Mr. Anmol Chandan, Adv., Ms. Priyanka Das, Adv., Ms. Daisy Hannah, Adv. for the Appellants. Mrs. K. Sarada Devi, AOR, Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, AOR, Mr. Ankur S. Kulkarni, AOR, Mr. Jagjit Singh Chhabra, AOR and M/s. Mitter & Mitter Co. for the Respondents. JUDGMENT Dipak Misra, J. Leave granted in S.L.P. (Civil) No. 3686 of 2007. 2. Having regard to the commonality of controversy in this batch of appeals it was heard together and is disposed of by a singular judgment. F .....

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nt Scheme (V.R.S.) and the appellant-Bank adopted the Scheme with certain modifications, despite it having its own Voluntary Retirement Scheme in the existing service conditions meant for its employees to seek voluntary retirement/premature retirement/resignation. The Scheme, namely, S.B.I. Voluntary Retirement Scheme (for short the Scheme ) was adopted by the State Bank of India on 29.12.2000. The Scheme was to remain open during the period 15.1.2001 to 31.1.2001 with the option either to close .....

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tirement under the Scheme were to be submitted during the period i.e. 15.1.2001 to 31.1.2001. The 1st respondent submitted his application seeking voluntary retirement and it was accepted on 17.3.2001 with effect from 31.3.2001. On 27.3.2001, the respondent No. 1 submitted an application to withdraw his request for voluntary retirement. The said application was declined by the Bank on 18.4.2001 stating that the date for withdrawal of application had already expired on 15.2.2001. It is apt to not .....

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. The Writ Court took note of the fact there was acceptance of the voluntary retirement on 17.3.2001 with a stipulation that the employee would be relieved from his duties at the close of business hours on 31.3.2001. The Division Bench referred to the decision in Mohinder Pal Singh v. Punjab and Sind Bank and others 2002 (2) SLR 716 and the decision of this Court in Bank of India and others v. O.P. Swarankar etc. (2003) 2 SCC 721 and after reproducing the directions of from Swarankar s case came .....

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eptance. It was only the procedural part under which the petitioner continued to work till 31.03.2001. In the ultimate analysis, the High Court did not find any merit with regard to refusal by the Bank in not accepting the application for withdrawal submitted by the employee. Determination on the said score is not under assail in any of the appeals before this court. 6. The next question that emerged for consideration before the High Court was whether the employee was entitled to pension in term .....

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er the cases like that of the petitioner. In justification of the said submission, reliance was placed on the Division Bench judgment of the High Court of Delhi in Vipin Kalia and Ors. v. State Bank of India and Ors. decided on 28.2.2007 in L.P.A. No. 410 of 2002 and also on a decision rendered by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in C.W.P. No. 2098 of 2006. 7. The Division Bench referred to the anatomy of Rule 22 and after analyzing the scope of the rule distinguished the decision of the High Co .....

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o an employee of the Bank, who had been discharged if he was eligible for pension and as it had been found that the petitioner was entitled to pension in terms of the Pension Rules he would be entitled to leave encashment as well. 8. In this batch of appeals, the question that emanates for consideration whether the respondent-employees are entitled to get pension. There can be no cavil over the fact that their right to seek withdrawal from the scheme of voluntary retirement has been negatived by .....

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e age of fifty years or if he is in the service of the Bank on or after 1.11.93, after having completed ten years pensionable service provided that he has attained the age of fifty eight years or if he is in the service of the Bank on or after 22.5.1998, after having completed ten years pensionable service provided that he has attained the age of sixty years; (b) After having completed twenty years pensionable service, irrespective of the age he shall have attained, if he shall satisfy the autho .....

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capacitated by bodily or mental infirmity from further active service (such infirmity not being the result of irregular or intemperate habits) may, at the discretion of the trustees, be granted a proportionate pension. (iii) A member who has been permitted to retire under Clause 1(c) above shall be entitled to proportionate pension. 9. Keeping the aforesaid Rule in view, it is obligatory to scrutinize the analysis made by the High Court in the backdrop of the facts. The High Court has taken note .....

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was in service of the Bank as on 1.11.1993 and had completed ten years of service and attained the age of 58 years. The High Court took note of the fact that the counter-affidavit was silent regarding the claim of the 1st respondent under second part of Clause (a). Analysing further in this regard, the High Court opined as follows:- The petitioner has submitted his offer for voluntary retirement in terms of the Pension Rules existing in the month of January, 2001. On the said date a member of th .....

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. Even after the amendment on 09.03.2001, another clause has been added i.e. 3rd part of Clause (a) as mentioned above, which does not affect the claim of the petitioner for pension as he is entitled to pension in the second part of Rule 22(1) (a). 10. The High Court referred to the voluntary Retirement Scheme floated on 29.12.2000, and reproduced the relevant part of the said Scheme which is as follows:- 5. Amount of Ex-Gratia: The staff member whose request for retirement under SBIVRS has been .....

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ich the employee ceases to be in service of the Bank as a consequence of the acceptance of the request for voluntary retirement under the scheme. For the purpose of calculation of ex-gratia, 60 days salary mentioned in the Scheme is to be taken as equivalent to 2 months salary (with reference to salary for the month in which employee is relieved from service on (Voluntary Retirement). Income Tax shall be deducted at source in respect of ex-gratia exceeding ₹ 5.00 lakhs or such other ceilin .....

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extended to officers/others such as retention of accommodation, telephone, car, continuation of housing loan etc., will be extended to officers/others retiring under SBIVRS as per present dispensations, at the discretion of Competent Authority. However, in such cases of retention of physical facilities, 50% of the amount of ex-gratia payable will be released only after the employee surrenders the facilities. No interest, however, will be paid for the amount so withheld. All other outstanding loa .....

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use 6 it ruled that it deals with gratuity, provident fund contribution, pension in terms of the Rules on the relevant date (including commuted value of pension), encashment of balance of privilege leave and certain other benefits. The Court also took note of the clarificatory circular issued by the Bank on 10.1.2001. While answering the question, whether or not, the employee completing 15 years of pensionable service as on relevant date the Court held he would be entitled for pension benefit. 1 .....

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sionable Service are not eligible for pension. 13. Having noted the rule relating to pension on which the case is founded and the scheme on which reliance has been placed by the High Court, it is necessary to notice how various High Courts have approached this problem. I have already stated that the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has opined that the employee who had opted for voluntary retirement is entitled to pension in the second part of Rule 22 (1) (a). Now, I shall advert to the analysis .....

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ected adversely by the notification being given retrospective effect. He repelled the contention of the bank that the voluntary retirement scheme itself provided that payment of pension was dependent upon the rules prevalent on the date on which the employee would cease to be in service of the bank and admittedly the writ petitioner therein had ceased to be an employee on 31st March 2001 and, thereafter, the amendment of the pension rules effecting from that day was binding upon him and as such .....

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l being preferred the division bench referred to Section 17 and 19 of the Contract Act and came to hold as follows:- In the case before us, on the date of acceptance of the contract, it was known to the bank that it had already decided to amend its pension rules by which the appellant would be deprived of his right to get pension although on the date of acceptance if he retired he would be entitled to get pension. The employee ad no means of knowledge of such change of pension rules at the time .....

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pension even under the amended rules. Therefore, the silence maintained by the employer in such a situation amounted to fraud on its part. As pointed out in illustration (b) to S. 17 of the Contract Act, if it becomes a duty of a father to disclose the defect of the horse proposed to be sold to his just grown up daughter, in the same manner, it is also the duty of the employer to inform his employee about the future amendment of the pension rules causing prejudice to his employee at the last st .....

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ion of the scheme and also on the date of acceptance of the offer of the employee under voluntary retirement scheme. If the proposed amendment was disclosed to the writ petitioner in advance, he would not have accepted such prejudicial terms of voluntary retirement scheme and offered for the scheme. We do no for a moment dispute the submission of Mr. Gupta, the Ld. Sr. Advocated appearing on behalf of the appellant that the contract was competed by acceptance of the offer of the employee under t .....

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at the rate 12% per annum on arrears amount of pension. 16. As far as the High Court of Allahabad is concerned, the learned Single Judge had remitted the matter to the bank to consider the case of the writ petitioner for his entitlement for grant of pension. In the intra-court appeal, the Division Bench addressed to the lis on merits, referred to clause 6 (c) of the scheme which provides that pension shall be granted in terms of State Bank of India Employees Pension Fund Rules on the relevant da .....

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les and the amended rules which I shall refer to at a later stage. It was contended by the writ petitioner before the Division Bench that he was covered under second part of the Rule 22 (i) (a) inasmuch as he was in the service of the Bank on and after 1.11.1993 and he had completed 10 years of pensionable service, and attained the age of 58 years before the date he retired. The bank resisting the said stand contended that the clarificatory circular issued by the bank and contended that the empl .....

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e retires upon a request in writing being made by him, he has to complete 20 years of service. Thus the voluntary retirement being a retirement pursuant to the employees request, it is this clause which will be applicable to him and it will not be proper to give him pension because he comes under another clause i.e. Clause (a), which was merely introduced to accommodate late entrants into service when the retirement age was raise to 58 on 1.11.1993 and then to 60 on 22.5.1998. Clause (a) was ins .....

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ment of Clause (c) will lose all meaning. 17. Thereafter the division bench referred to Clause 15 of the Bank Fund Rules which permits retirement on request by the bank employee provided a sanction is made by the competent authority. After referring to the said clause the court held thus:- In our opinion, the voluntary retirement under the scheme should not be equated to a retirement to clause 15 of the Pension Fund Rules. It might be that Clause 22(c) made to cover pension aspects for Clause 15 .....

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fit of a permissive clause, then that cannot be denied to him on the basis of purpose if construction of a statutory rule. This type of purposive construction is far less, if at all, applied to contracts. Contacts are, generally speaking, strictly interpreted on the basis of the language agreed upon by the parties. The Court does not make out the parties contract, they make their own contact. On this basis of strict interpretation, the writ petitioner clearly comes within Rule 22(i)(a) although .....

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on although one would not under the second or third parts of Clause 22(i)(a). Thus each part of the contractual document is left with a meaning even if the interpretation in favour of the writ petitioner is wholly accepted. 18. At this juncture, it is apt to appreciate the decision rendered in case of Vipin Kalia (supra) by the division bench of Delhi High Court. In the said case the division bench dealing with the State Bank of India Voluntary Retirement Scheme where under the option exercised .....

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ter which I think it appropriate to reproduce. Indian Bank's Association Stadium House 6th Floor, Block 2 Veer Nariman Road Mumbai-400020 PD/CIR/76/G2/G4/ December 11,2000 Designated officers of all Public Sector Banks. Dear Sirs, Voluntary Retirement Scheme in Public Sector Banks-Amendments To Bank, (Employees') Pension Regulations, 1995. Please refer to our circular letter No. PD/CIR/76/G4/933 dated 31st August 2000 convening the 'No Objection' of the Government in banks adopti .....

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except under circumstances as in Regulations 29, 30, 32 and 33. We had, therefore, taken up with the Government the need to incorporate necessary provisions in the Pension Regulations by way of amendments to Regulation 28 so that employees who retire as above under special/ad hoc schemes formulated by the banks, after serving for a prescribed minimum period would be eligible for pro rata pension. Government of India has after examining the proposal conveyed its approval and desired that IBA adv .....

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age of superannuation on that date. Yours faithfully, sd/- (Allen C A Pereira) PERSONNEL ADVISER 19. It was contended before the High Court that under the said recommendation the bank was obliged to pay pension to them but the said contention was not accepted by the Single Judge on the ground the said letter is not a binding circular under Section 18 of the State Bank of India Act, 1955. The learned Single Judge had also opined that voluntary retirement scheme was a package by itself and it was .....

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who were eligible and the period during which an offer for voluntary retirement could be made. Reference was made to Clause 5 and 6 of the scheme that provides for ex-gratia payment to the officers who had opted for voluntary retirement. The court referring to the letter dated 11.1.2001 opined that the payment of pension to an employee retiring under the voluntary retirement scheme are to be governed by the relevant pension rules, and as per the existing rules, an employee who had not completed .....

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arankar (supra) and accordingly it was held as follows:- The appellants, therefore, cannot be allowed to wriggle out of the terms and conditions accepted and agreed upon by the two parties viz. the appellants and the respondent-bank. The appellants had entered into the said contract with open eyes and fully conscious and aware of what benefits they would be entitled to by opting under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme. They were conscious and aware and in fact specifically informed by way of clari .....

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etter/circular dated 11th December, 2000 refers to amendment to Bank (Employees') Pension Regulations, 1995. The said regulations are not applicable to the employees of State Bank of India. The Pension regulations applicable to the State Bank of India employees are different. As far as employees of State Bank of India are concerned, the Bank Employees' Pension Regulations, 1995 are not applicable. The amendment suggested by letter/circular dated 11th December, 2000 by Indian Bank's A .....

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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. 14. Learned Counsel for the appellants, however, also relied on the judgment of a single Judge of this Court in the case of Punjab and Sind Bank Officers Association and Ors. v. Union of India and Anr. on 11th May, 2006. In the said case, learned single Judge was examining regulations 28 and 29 of .....

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erms were not ambiguous. The employees including the appellants were fully conscious of the decision taken by them and the benefits they would be entitled to. The appellants voluntarily, with open eyes entered into an agreement and after having retired and enjoyed the benefits, they cannot go behind the concluded contract and claim further benefits. It must be remembered that a Voluntary Retirement Scheme is formulated and conceived in public interest. Interest of the respondent bank is also to .....

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High Court had directed the payment of provident fund in terms of rules but denied the relief of pension. The Court referred to Rule 22 of the rules and opined had the officer sought retirement on that basis and allowed the retirement from service he would have been entitled to pension on completion of 20 years of pensionable service but removal would not entitle him to get pension. Interpreting Clause 22(i)(c) the two-Judge observed thus:- Clause 22(i)(c) envisage only that after completing 20 .....

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to the contentions and came to hold as follows:- 12. On a close look at the relevant provisions of the Rules, it is not possible to agree with this contention. The appellant, in order to earn pension under Rule 22(1) clause (c) as amended in 1986 has to satisfy the following twin conditions: (i) at the time when the amended clause (c) applied, i.e., from 22-9-1986, he should be a member of the pension fund; (ii) he should have by then completed 20 years of pensionable service, and should have p .....

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who accepted VRS could be relieved at a time or batch by batch depending on availability of funds. Further funds may be made available early or late. If the argument of the respondents that relieving date should be taken as effective date for calculating terminal benefits and financial package under VRS, the dates may be fluctuating depending on availability of funds. Hence it is not possible to accept this argument. When the employees have opted for VRS on their own without any compulsion know .....

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mployee who opts for voluntary retirement pursuant or in furtherance of scheme floated by the Nationalised Banks and the State Bank of India would be precluded from withdrawing the said offer. The court dealing with the concept of voluntary retirement held as follows:- 59. The request of employees seeking voluntary retirement was not to take effect until and unless it was accepted in writing by the competent authority. The competent authority had the absolute discretion whether to accept or reje .....

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ts that the applications of the employee would be an offer which could be considered by the bank in terms of the procedure laid down therefor. There is no assurance that such an application would be accepted without any consideration. 60. Acceptance or otherwise of the request of an employee seeking voluntary retirement is required to be communicated to him in writing. This clause is crucial in view of the fact that therein the acceptance or rejection of such request has been provided. The decis .....

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ought to invoke their power of amending the Scheme. Once the Scheme is amended and/or an apprehension is created in the mind of the employees that they would not even receive the entire benefits as envisaged under the Scheme, they were entitled to revoke their offers. Their action in our considered opinion is reasonable. It may be that some of the employees only opted for the provident fund benefit which did not undergo any amendment but the same would not change the attitude on the part of the .....

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ice is curtailed, which is permissible in law. Such a scheme is ordinarily floated with a purpose of downsizing the employees. It is beneficial both to the employees as well as to the employer. Such a scheme is issued for effective functioning of the industrial undertakings. The court further observed that although the Company is a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, the terms and conditions of service would be governed by the contract of employment. Thus, unless the term .....

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untary retirement is not governed by any statute, the provisions of the Contract Act, 1872, therefore, would be applicable too. In this context reliance was placed on O.P. Swarankar s case (supra). After so stating, the Court ruled: We have noticed that admittedly thousands of employees had opted for voluntary retirement during the period in question. They indisputably form a distinct and different class. Having given our anxious consideration thereto, we are of the opinion that neither are they .....

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relevant factor both for floating a scheme of voluntary retirement as well as for revision of pay. Those employees who opted for voluntary retirement, make a planning for the future. At the time of giving option, they know where they stand. At that point of time they did not anticipate that they would get the benefit of revision in the scales of pay. They prepared themselves to contract out of the jural relationship by resorting to golden handshake . They are bound by their own act. The parties .....

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ourt referred to V. Kasturi Case (supra) and understood it in the following manner:- It has not been suggested that voluntary retirement, in the absence of any express statutory rule governing the field, would bring about a case of superannuation. In V. Kasturi, a new rule was introduced providing for pension of an employee after retirement on completion of 20 years of service, provided he requested in writing therefor. The questions which fell for consideration therein were that if a person was .....

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the case of first category the benefit of the amended provisions would be applicable, but in the second it would not. V. Kasturi also, thus, in our opinion, is not applicable to the fact of the present case. 27. In this backdrop, I am required to scan the anatomy of Rule 22 and the appropriate interpretation is required to be placed on the same. Rule 22(i) (a) postulates that members shall be entitled to pension under the said rule on retiring from the bank s service. Thus, the key word is retir .....

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is working in the bank on or after 01.11.1993 and has completed 10 years of pensionable service, shall be entitled for pension provided he has attained the age of 58 years. The third part of the rule stipulates that all employees who are in service of the bank or after 22.05.1998 and have put in 10 years of pensionable service, to be eligible for pension provided they have attained the age of 60 years i.e. age of superannuation. As the facts would demonstrate, in the instant case, the employees/ .....

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nt respondents. Clause 22(i)(c) deals with entitlement of pension by an employee if he has completed 20 years of pensionable service irrespective of age, if he seeks retirement at his own request in writing. It is the stand of the Bank that Rule 22(i)(c) was added on 20.09.1986 for the specific purpose of granting pension to those who have voluntary retired. As is evident from the factual score under the SBI VRS, the employees were required to submit written applications seeking voluntary retire .....

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omenclature other than a clarificatory circular, despite treated as such. It is graphically clear from the same that an employee who has completed 20 years of pensionable service would be entitled to pension, even if they seek voluntary retirement under SBI VRS. It was open to the employees to withdraw their applications under SBI VRS by 15.2.2001. The respondent-employees, as is manifest, chose not to withdraw. In these circumstances, the question arises whether any part of Rule 22 would apply .....

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es were very well aware about the amended Rule. There can be no scintilla of doubt that the Rule existed as on 31.1.2001. If an employee wanted to withdraw, he could have withdrawn prior to 15.2.2001 but as is the admitted position, none of the employees withdrew. There is no cavil over the fact that the employees had accepted all the benefits of the VRS. The crux of the matter is whether the respondents can get the benefit, despite the amendment brought to the Rules. 30. In Arikaavula Sanyasi R .....

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005) 12 SCC 508 it has been held that rule of promissory estoppel cannot be availed to permit or condone a breach of law. It cannot be invoked to compel the Government to do an act prohibited by law, for such a direction would be against the statute. To arrive at the said conclusion, the two-Judge Bench placed reliance on TISCO Ltd. V. State of Jharkhand (2005) 4 SCC 272, Hira Tikkoo V. Union Territory, Chandigarh (2004) 6 SCC 765 and Savitaben Somabai Bhatiya V. State of Gujarat (2005) 3 SCC 63 .....

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d that he has attained the age of 50 years or if he is in service of the Bank on or after 01.11.1993, after having completed 10 years pensionable service provided that he has attained the age of 58 years. After the amendment that was incorporated on 9.3.2001, the Rule reads as under: After having completed 20 years pensionable service provided that he has attained the age of 50 years or if he is in service of the Bank on or after 01.11.1993, after having completed 10 years pensionable service pr .....

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er amendment on 09.03.2001, by which another clause has been added, that is, third part of clause (a), would not affect the claim of the employees for pension as he is entitled to pension in the second part of Rule 22(i) (a). Here, as I find, the High Court has opined as the respondent was in service of Bank on 1.11.1993 and had completed 10 years of pensionable service and attained the age of 58 years, he would be entitled to pension. There is no doubt that the Government of India, on 22.5.98, .....

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e attained the age of 60 years. As has been stated earlier, the respondents had not retired on attaining the age of superannuation but sought voluntary retirement under the SBI VRS. The Bank has placed reliance on the clarificatory circular issued by the Deputy Managing Director on 10/15.1.2001, which lays a postulate that employees who have not completed 20 years of pensionable service are not eligible for pension. 34. In this context, reference may be made to a decision in Bank of Baroda & .....

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ing pension which was opposed by the Bank in terms of Regulations 14, 28 and 29 of the Pension Regulations 1995. Eventually, the matter travelled to the Tribunal, who, by its award, allowed the respondent s claim and directed the Bank to pay to the respondent pension according to the Pension Regulations. Against the award passed by the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, the Bank preferred a writ petition before the High Court but the said challenge did not meet with any success. This Court referred t .....

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to enable employees who had completed 10 years of service to also become eligible to apply for premature retirement under the Pension Regulations, 1995. 28. However, we are inclined to agree with Ms. Bhati that Regulation 29 does not contemplate voluntary retirement under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme and applies only to such employees who themselves wish to retire dehors any scheme of voluntary retirement, after having completed 15 years of qualifying service for the said purpose. There is a .....

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or pension under the said Regulations, in two different situations. While Regulation 14 provides that in order to be eligible for pension an employee would have to render a minimum of 10 years service, Regulation 29 is applicable to the employees choosing to retire from service prematurely, and in their case the period of qualifying service would be 15 years . After so stating, the Court further opined thus: 31. The facts of the present case, however, do not attract the provisions of Regulation .....

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oyee would be eligible for premature pension. The two provisions are for two different purposes and for two different situations. However, Regulation 28 of the Pension Regulations, 1995, after amendment made provision for situations similar to the one in the instant case. 32. In the absence of any particular provision for payment of pension to those who opted for BOBEVRS, 2001 other than Regulation 11(ii) of the Scheme, we are once again left to fall back on the Pension Regulations, 1995, and th .....

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33. We are, therefore, of the view that not having completed the required length of qualifying service as provided under Regulation 28 of the 1995 Regulations, the respondent was not eligible for pension under the Pension Regulations, 1995 of the appellant Bank. Being of this view, the Court allowed the appeal preferred by the Bank. 35. In Bank of India and Another V. K. Mohandas and Others (2009) 5 SCC 313, the Court referred to Regulation 28 of the Employees Pension Regulations 1995, which ha .....

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are naturally susceptible. (North Eastern Railway Co. v. Lord Hastings (1900) AC 260) 32. The fundamental position is that it is the banks who were responsible for formulation of the terms in the contractual Scheme that the optees of voluntary retirement under that Scheme will be eligible to pension under the Pension Regulations, 1995, and, therefore, they bear the risk of lack of clarity, if any. It is a well-known principle of construction of a contract that if the terms applied by one party .....

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Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, Banking Division to the Personnel Advisor, Indian Banks Association and came to hold as follows: 39. Two things immediately become noticeable from the said communication. One is that as per Regulation 29 of the Pension Regulations, 1995, an employee can take voluntary retirement after 20 years of qualifying service and become eligible for pension. The other thing is that the Scheme provides that the employees with 15 years of service or 40 ye .....

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ded to bring an amendment in the Regulations so that the employees having not completed 20 years service do not lose the benefit of pension. The amendment in Regulation 28, as is reflected from the afore referred communication, was intended to cover the employees who had rendered 15 years service but not completed 20 years service. It was not intended to cover the optees who had already completed 20 years service as the provisions contained in Regulation 29 met that contingency. 42 xxx xxx xxx 4 .....

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0 years get excluded from the weightage of five years which has been given to the optees who have completed 20 years of service or more, it is no discrimination. Such provision can neither be said to be arbitrary nor can be held to be violative of any constitutional or statutory provisions. The weightage of five years under Regulation 29(5) is applicable to the optees having service of 20 years or more. There is, thus, basis for additional benefit. Merely because the employees who have completed .....

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nd 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 the 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) whereunder voluntary retirement under Regulation 29 is considered to be retirement. Regulati .....

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er benefits inter alia pension under the Pension Regulations. The only provision in the Pension Regulations at the relevant time during the operation of VRS 2000 concerning voluntary retirement was Regulation 29 and sub-regulation (5) thereof provides for weightage of addition of five years to qualifying service for pension to those optees who had completed 20 years service. It, therefore, cannot be accepted that VRS 2000 did not envisage grant of pension benefits under Regulation 29(5) of the P .....

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getting special benefits in the form of ex gratia and in addition thereto, inter alia, pension under the Pension Regulations which also provided for weightage of five years of qualifying service for the purposes of pension to the employees who had completed 20 years service . 37. In the said case, the decision rendered in Bank of Baroda (supra) was distinguished by stating thus: 63. The decision of this Court in Bank of Baroda is, thus, clearly distinguishable as the employee therein had not com .....

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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. The contrary views expressed by some of the High Courts do not lay down the correct legal position. 38. Recently, in State Bank of Patiala V. Pritam Singh Bedi & Others 2014 (8) SCALE 397 , the Court was dealing with the State of Bank of Patiala Voluntary Retirement Scheme, 2000, introduced by a circular dated 2 .....

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and 2(y) defined retirement . Regulation 2(y) (b) referred to voluntary retirement in accordance with provisions contained in Regulation 29 of the Regulations. Reference was also made to Regulation 14 that defined qualifying service which stipulates that employee who has rendered a minimum of ten years in the bank from the date of his retirement or on the date on which he is deemed to have retired shall qualify for pension. Reference was also made to Regulation 18 which prescribes how the broke .....

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nts in all the appeals have completed much more than 19 years 6 months of service in the Bank. For example, Respondent No. 1-Prakash Chand in C.A. No. 173 of 2010 had joined the Bank on 4th May, 1981 and relieved on 31st March, 2001. Thus, he had completed 19 years, 10 months and 28 days of qualifying service on the date of relieving from service. 24. Regulation 18 of the Pension Regulations, 1995 provides that if broken period is more than six months, it shall be treated as one year. Therefore, .....

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ompleted 20 years of service. As per the decision of this Court in Bank of India, the Respondents-writ Petitioners having completed 20 years of service are entitled to the benefit of Regulation 29. 39. Keeping in view the aforesaid pronouncements, I shall advert to the Regulations and the Scheme in question. From the aforesaid two decisions, it is graphically clear that the Court has read into the scheme, Regulations governing the pension. In the case at hand, as I find, the Regulation 22(i)(a) .....

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e (a). I have already dealt with clause (b). Mr. Rohtagi has heavily relied on Clause 22(i)(c). It really requires close scrutiny. It stipulates that a member shall be entitled to pension on completion of 20 years of pensionable service irrespective of the age he has attained if the retirement is at his own request in writing. Thus, there is a distinction between a normal retirement and a voluntary retirement. A voluntary retirement stands in a distinction to retirement and also retirement which .....

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o have overall reduction in the existing strength of the employees and to increase productivity and profitability. Clause 3 of the Scheme provides eligibility criterion. It reads as follows: The Scheme will be open to all permanent employees of the Bank except those specifically mentioned as ineligible , who have put in 15 years of service or have completed 40 years of age as on 31st December 2000. Age will be reckoned on the basis of the date of birth as entered in the service record. Clause 4 .....

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meaning of several clauses; formulation of the contractual scheme where reference has been made to Pension Regulations 1995 of the Banks which were in appeal before this Court and the special salient features of the scheme which stipulated that an employee whose application for voluntary retirement is accepted and relieved from the Bank shall be eligible for contributory provident fund or own contribution of provident fund and pension in terms of the employees Pension Regulations 1995, in case .....

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sion shall also be granted to an employee who opts to retire before attaining the age of superannuation but after having served for a minimum period of 13 years in terms of any scheme that may be framed for the purpose by the Bank s Board with the concurrence of the Government. The Court took note of the fact that the benefits provided under Regulation 29 were not found to be attractive by the employees and, therefore, the necessity arose for floating a special scheme i.e. VRS-2000. The grievanc .....

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ears and it does not take him beyond the date of superannuation . 41. One of the contentions canvassed by the Bank was that the Regulation 29 does not cover the persons retired under VRS-2000 which is dehors the statutory scheme for voluntary retirement. The counter submission on behalf of the employees was that by making provisions in the scheme that the optees would be eligible for the benefits in addition to the ex-gratia amount, inter alia, pension as per the Pension Regulations, 1995, the e .....

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f service without coming into conflict with any provision of the scheme; the notice period of three months in Regulation 29(3) can be waived at the discretion of the banks. The Court posed the questions as follows: The principal question that falls for our determination is: whether the employees (having completed 20 years of service) of these banks (Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, Union Bank of India and United Bank of India) who had opted for voluntary retirement unde .....

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ue to exist. 43. I have already referred to Clause 6 of the Scheme, which deals with other benefits . Sub-clause (3) of Clause 6 stipulates that an employee would be entitled to get pension in terms of the State Bank of India Employees Pension Fund Rules on the relevant date. The High Courts have placed reliance on the second part of Rule 22(i)(a). Similar contention has been advanced before us. Per contra, Mr. Rohtagi would submit that it is Rule 22(i)(c) which would be applicable. I find force .....

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lly provided that pensionary benefits should be available to a person seeking voluntary retirement if he has put in 20 years of service. Same is the provision here, that is, 20 years of service irrespective of the age. As some doubts had arose, a clarificatory circular was issued on 10.1.2001. Relevant part has already been reproduced earlier. It has been clearly clarified that as per existing Rules, employees who have not completed 20 years of Pensionable Service are not eligible for pension. T .....

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e examined the issue and have advised that the scheme is purely voluntary. The role of the employee is active. It is his conscious decision and there will be no reason for his withdrawal of application at a later date. However, there could be few, yet genuine cases where the employees would like to withdraw the application submitted under the scheme for various reasons. It has, therefore, been decided that the employee who has submitted an application for retirement under SBIVRS may be permitted .....

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effect from the competent authority. 44. Both the circulars were almost simultaneous and both were within the knowledge of the employees and if an employee desired to withdraw, he could have done so as time was there till 15.2.2001. None of the respondents chose to withdraw. 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 .....

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carefully, it will go a long way to show that a voluntary retirement and retirement are distinguishable, if the Rule/Regulations/Scheme distinguishes. In the case at hand, it is clear as day that the Rule carves out two categories of retirement, one, normal retirement on superannuation and second, retirement on request i.e. voluntary retirement, ordinarily called the golden handshake and, therefore, the scheme was floated. In the instant case, as I perceive, the Scheme which is more beneficial .....

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