The Karnataka High Court recently ruled that pension is not a bounty, charity or a gratuitous payment but an indefeasible right of every employee.
Justice M Nagaprasanna opined that pension payable to its employees on superannuation is a property under Article 300-A as well as a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21 the Constitution. Therefore, deprivation of even a part of it, cannot be accepted.
The High Court made these observations while coming to the rescue of a retired employee of the State-owned Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL ), who was denied terminal benefits even after 21 years of retirement.
Thimmaiah’s two-decade-old legal fight began after he was terminated from service on May 24, 1999 for misconduct and theft, by KPTCL without holding any inquiry.
Thimmaiah submitted a representation in July 2017 to the company contending that he is already 77 years old and due to adverse health conditions, he is struggling to maintain his expenses. However, his representation was not considered and this prompted him to move the High Court again.
KPTCL sought to justify its action of non-payment of terminal benefits on the ground that the file concerning the petitioner is pending in the corporate office and it is on that account the terminal benefits are yet to be released as there are clarifications sought on whether or not they can write off the material that was lost due to the theft that had occurred in 1998.
The Bench took strong exception to the KPTCL's decision of delaying the payment of terminal benefits to the petitioner, saying that the complete payment of pension from the year 2016 could hardly be any justification for withholding the release of other terminal benefits all along.
Further, the court also observed that KPTCL is "State" under Article 12 of the Constitution and, therefore, the act of leaving one of its employees in the lurch does "not behoove its status of being a State".
"Therefore, it is imperative to issue a mandamus for release of all the terminal benefits that are accrued in favour of the petitioner along with interest and also mulct the KPTCL with exemplary costs for harassing and driving its employee to this Court time and again and now for release of terminal benefits," the court ruled.
Towards that end, the Bench directed KPTCL to pay 9 percent interest on the entire amount due to the 77-year-old petitioner since his retirement in 1999 along with ?50,000 as costs.