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"Denial of pension is a continuing wrong. This Court cannot also be oblivious to the difficulties of a retired employee in approaching the Court, which could include financial constraints", the bench further held.
The Supreme Court on Monday held that the State is bound by the fundamental rights of its employees under Articles 14 to 16 of the Constitution of India.
Court further reiterated that arbitrariness by the State violates the right to equality under Articles 14 to 16 of the Constitution of India.
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari made these observations while granting relief to a retired employee who was aggrieved by the decision of the Rajasthan government to not count his tenure for a period of 10 years while counting the length of service for the purpose of calculating pension and other retiral benefits.
One OP Gupta was initially appointed as an Assistant Charge Man in the Rajasthan Agriculture Engineering Board, Department of Agriculture, Government of Rajasthan w.e.f. 13th January 1967. Later, Engineering Board merged with the Rajasthan State Agro Industry Corporation and his services were transferred on 8th July 1970, on the same pay scale. He worked with Rajasthan State Agro Industry Corporation continuously till 12th April 1977.
Pursuant to an advertisement issued by the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC), Gupta applied for the post of Assistant Director (Agro-Industries) and he was selected for the post of Assistant Director (Agro-Industries), Department of Industries, State of Rajasthan.
He then attained the age of superannuation and retired on 30th April 2003. While calculating his pension the period for which he worked for the Rajasthan Agriculture Engineering Board and the Rajasthan State Agro Industry Corporation was not considered.
A single judge bench and division bench of the Rajasthan High Court both held that service rendered by Gupta with the Rajasthan Agriculture Engineering Board and the Rajasthan State Agro Industry Corporation was liable to be counted while computing pension/other pensionary benefits.
This order came to be challenged before the Supreme Court in the instant SLP filed by Rajasthan.
The Supreme Court relied on Rule 25 of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1996 and held,
"There can be no doubt that resignation from service may entail forfeiture of past service. However, sub-rule (2) of Rule 25 of the Rules carves out an exception. The said sub-rule clarifies that a resignation with proper permission to take up another appointment, 7 whether temporary or permanent, under the Government shall not entail forfeiture of past service."
Noting that Gupta worked throughout his life with the State government, court said,
"The Respondent having retired after working for about 26 years, the Petitioner - State cannot raise the question of proof of prior permission before resignation, more so when the appointment had been made through the RPSC to a Government post. It is to be deemed that there has been disclosure of past service and the application has been made through proper channel by obtaining the requisite approvals."
Court further held that when financial rules framed by the government such as Pension Rules are capable of more interpretations than one, the courts should lean towards that interpretation that goes in favour of the employee.
Case Title: STATE OF RAJASTHAN & OTHERS vs. O.P. GUPTA
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