Punjab and Haryana High Court upholds retired employees' right to dignity; rejects financial crisis as ground for delayed pensionary benefits : The Tribune India

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Punjab and Haryana High Court upholds retired employees' right to dignity; rejects financial crisis as ground for delayed pensionary benefits

Assertion came in case where retired employee’s plea for grant of interest following delayed release of pensionary benefits was opposed by the counsel for State and other respondents

Punjab and Haryana High Court upholds retired employees' right to dignity; rejects financial crisis as ground for delayed pensionary benefits

Photo for representational purpose only. File



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, February 26

In a significant judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that the ability of a retired employee to maintain dignity and quality of life is intricately linked to timely disbursal of retirement benefits.

Justice Namit Kumar of the high court also made it clear that the failure of the authorities concerned to release the same in a timely manner would not only impede the financial security of the retired employees, but also infringe upon their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution on right to life and personal liberty.

Justice Kumar also ruled that State or its instrumentalities could not decline or withhold the release of pensionary benefits to a retired employee on the ground of financial instability or crisis. The assertion came in a case where a retired employee’s plea for grant of interest following delayed release of pensionary benefits was opposed by the counsel for the State and other respondents.

Among other things, the counsel argued that Tapa municipal council was already “under financial crisis”. As such, the grant of interest would put additional burden upon the council. Therefore, the petitioner’s claim for the grant of interest might be declined.

Justice Kumar asserted: “Retired employees have to support their life on the retirement benefits only. A retired employee can only lead a dignified life as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, in case he/she is allowed the retirement benefits in time. In the absence of the release of the retirement benefits, no retired employee will be able to lead a dignified life, which will be contrary to Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.

Justice Kumar also observed it was clear that there was no impediment in the release of pensionary benefits to the petitioner. Proceedings were not pending against the petitioner, entitling the respondents to withhold her pensionary benefits. The only reason advanced by the counsel for the respondents against releasing the pensionary benefits to the petitioner was the council’s financial instability.

Justice Kumar added a Division Bench of the high court had already considered the issue before ruling that retirement benefits could not be declined or withheld on account of financial difficulty as the 'State is a welfare State' and the retired employees had no other source of income to lead a dignified life.

Once financial instability was held to be no ground for withholding pensionary benefits, it could not be projected to justify inaction on the municipal council’s part for not releasing the pensionary benefits to the retired employees, Justice Kumar ruled.

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