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Smt. Susheela Rai v. Regional Manager Alld. Bank Regional Officer & Others - WRIT - A No. 33910 of 2000  RD-AH 6653 (11 April 2007)
Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 33910 of 2000
Smt. Shusheela Rai
Regional Manager, Allahabad Bank, Regional Office, Mohaddipur, Gorakhpur & others
Hon'ble Vineet Saran, J
The husband of the petitioner, late Ram Nawal Rai, joined the service of the respondent-Allahabad Bank in the year 1962. He died in harness on 26.1.1994. On 29.9.1995, which was after the death of Ram Nawal Rai, the respondent-Bank had come out with a scheme known as Allahabad Bank (Employees') Pension Regulations, 1995. These Regulations came into force on 29.9.1995. Besides other things, the said scheme provided for grant of family pension. One of the condition therein was that only such employees would be entitled to the benefit of the Regulations who had been in service of the Bank on or before 1.1.1986. The last date of opting for such scheme was 120 days from the Regulations of 1995 coming into force (i.e. upto 29.1.1996). The petitioner, as widow of the employee, applied under the said Regulations on 16.6.1998 for grant of family pension. Since the respondent-Bank refused to grant the benefit of the Regulations of 1995 to the petitioner on the ground that her application was not filed within the stipulated period of 120 days from the announcement of the scheme, this writ petition has been filed with the prayer for a direction in the nature of mandamus commanding the respondent-Bank to pay family pension to the petitioner, alongwith interest at the rate of 18% per annum.
I have heard Sri Indra Raj Singh, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner as well as Sri Himanshu Tewari, learned counsel appearing for the respondent-Bank. Pleadings have been exchanged and with consent of the learned counsel for the parties, this writ petition is being disposed of at this stage.
The respondent-Bank does not dispute that the petitioner would have been entitled to the benefit of grant of family pension under the scheme (Regulations of 1995) if her application had been filed within the stipulated period of 120 days with effect from 29.9.1995 but since her application was filed only on 16.6.1998, the stand of the respondent-Bank is that she would thus not be entitled to such benefit. In support of his submission Sri Tewari has relied on a decision of the Apex Court in the case of Jai Singh B. Chauhan Vs. Punjab National Bank 2005 AIR SCW 3664.
On the other hand, Sri Indra Raj Singh, learned counsel for the petitioner has submitted that the petitioner is the widow of a deceased employee and since earlier she had no knowledge of the pension scheme, she could not apply within the stipulated time. Reliance has also been placed on the circular issued by the Bank on 16.11.1995 (Annexure-1 to the writ petition) wherein it has been provided that the concerned Branch Manager of the Bank would be obliged to send a copy of the Regulations of 1995 to each retired employee or family members of the deceased employee, at their last known permanent address. In reply, it has been submitted by Sri Tewari that wide publicity of the Regulations had been given by the Indian Banks' Association as well as the respondent-Bank, and that the Indian Banks' Association had also issued a letter dated 21.11.1995 to the effect that press notifications with regard to the scheme had been released by the Association in English and vernacular language Newspapers, hence there was no need for the bank to separately notify the scheme. As such, it has been submitted by Sri Tewari that as the letter of the Indian Banks' Association was issued on 21.11.1995, which was subsequent to the circular of the respondent-Bank dated 16.11.1995 (providing for individual intimation to the retired employees or family members of the deceased employees), the letter was not required to be complied with.
In paragraph 13 of the writ petition, it has been categorically stated that at no point of time had the permanent address of the petitioner ever changed and that the Bank authorities had never intimated the petitioner, or any other family member of the petitioner of the Regulations of 1995 or the pension scheme of the respondent-Bank, and thus, in such circumstances, the petitioner had been deprived of the benefit of opting for family pension within the time prescribed. Such averments have not been denied in the counter affidavit, except for taking recourse to the issuance of the letter dated 21.11.1995 by the Indian Banks' Association. In support of his case that denial of grant of family pension was unjustified merely because of the petitioner filing the application with some delay, learned counsel for the petitioner has relied on the decision of the Apex Court rendered in the case of S.K. Mastan Bee Vs. General Manager, South Central Railway (2003) 1 UPLBEC 247.
Having heard learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of the record and considering the facts and circumstances of this case, in my view, the petitioner would be entitled to the grant of family pension under the Regulations of 1995 on the basis of her application filed on 16.6.1998. The submission of Sri Tewari that individual intimation was not required to be given, would not be acceptable. There was no direction by the Indian Banks' Association vide its letter dated 21.11.1995 for not intimating the individual retired employees or family members of the deceased employees. In the said letter, it had only been stated that the individual Banks need not notify the same through press. As such the Bank was obliged to carry out the requirement of intimation by the Bank in terms of the circular dated 16.11.1995.
In the case of Jai Singh B. Chauhan (supra), the Supreme Court was dealing with the case of a serving employee who did not opt for the pension scheme within the stipulated period of 120 days and had thereafter made representation only on 4.5.1998 with a request to be covered under the pension scheme and that too not on the requisite form. When the same was rejected by the Bank, the employee filed a writ petition, which was dismissed and ultimately the Apex Court also dismissed the claim of the employee on the ground that the publication of the scheme in the official gazette would be construed as sufficient notice to the employee of the Bank. The case of a serving employee opting for pension scheme in the year 1998, when the scheme had been issued in 1995 which provided for giving of option within 120 days, would be distinct from that of a widow of a deceased employee. The circular dated 16.11.1995, as had been issued by the respondent-Bank, was neither placed before the Apex Court nor was it applicable, as the claimant there was a serving employee. By the circular dated 16.11.1995, the Bank itself required the issuance of notice to each retired employee or family members of the deceased employee, which was admittedly not sent to the petitioner in this particular case. Such requirement must have been found necessary by the respondent-Bank as a retired employee or family members of the deceased employees could not be having information of the scheme promulgated by the Bank. On the contrary, as publicity of the scheme was given in the bank offices, there was no such requirement of individual intimation to the serving employees, as they would have, in any case, come to know of the scheme of the bank in the normal course. In such view of the matter, the ratio of the decision in Jai Singh B. Chauhan's case would not be applicable to the facts of the present case.
In the case of S.K. Mastan Bee (supra), the Apex Court was dealing with the case of grant of family pension to the widow of a retired employee. In the said case also, the claim of the widow was rejected by the employer on the ground of delay. In such facts, the Apex Court directed payment of the entire arrears of pension within three months and allowed the writ petition with costs of Rs. 10,000/-. While allowing the writ petition, the Apex Court made the following observations:-
"6. We notice that the appellant's husband was working as a Gangman who died while in service. It is on record that the appellant is an illiterate who at that time did not know of her legal right and had no access to any information as to her right to family pension and to enforce her such right. On the death of the husband of the appellant, it was obligatory for her husband's employee, viz., railways, in this case to have computed the family pension payable to the appellant and offered the same to her without her having to make a claim or without driving her to a litigation. The very denial of her right to family pension as held by the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench is an erroneous decision on the part of the railways and in fact amounting to a violation of the guarantee assured to the appellant under Article 21 of the Constitution. The factum of the appellant's lack of resource to approach by the legal forum timely is not disputed by the railways. Question then arises on facts and circumstances of this case, the Appellate Bench was justified in restricting the past arrears of pension to a period much subsequent to the death of appellant's husband on which date she had legally become entitled to the grant of pension? In this case as noticed by us herein above, the learned Single Judge had rejected the contention of delay put forth by the railways and taking note of the appellant's right to pension and the denial of the same by the railways illegally considered it appropriate to grant the pension with retrospective effect from the date on which it became due to her. The Division Bench also while agreeing with the learned Single Judge observed that the delay in approaching the railways by the appellant for the grant of family pension was not fatal inspite of the same it restricted the payment of family pension from a date on which the appellant issued a local notice to the railways i.e. on 1.4.1992. We think on the facts of this case inasmuch as it was an obligation of the railways to have computed the family pension and offered the same to the widow of its employee as soon as it became due to her and also in view of the fact her husband was only a Gangman in the railways who might not have left behind sufficient resources for the appellant to agitate her rights and also in view of the fact that the appellant is an illiterate. The learned Single Judge, in our opinion, was justified in granting the relief to the appellant from the date from which it became due to her, that is the date of the death of her husband. Consequently, we are of the considered opinion that the Division Bench fell in error in restricting that period to a date subsequent to 1.4.1992." (emphasis supplied)
In the present case also, the entitlement of the petitioner for grant of family pension is not denied by the respondent-Bank. The sole reason for refusing such benefit to the petitioner is because of delay on behalf of the petitioner in making such application opting for the pension scheme. This Court is of the clear view that in terms of their own circular dated 16.11.1995, it was obligatory on the part of the respondent-Bank to inform the retired employees or family members of the deceased employees, of the pension scheme at their last known permanent address. In the absence of the respondent-Bank having fulfilled such obligation, in my view, the respondent-Bank cannot refuse to grant the benefit of the pension scheme to the petitioner merely on the ground of delay. In equity as well as under law, the petitioner would be entitled to the benefit of the family pension scheme under the Regulations of 1995.
For the foregoing reasons, this writ petition is allowed and it is directed that the respondents shall give the petitioner the benefit of the family pension under the Allahabad Bank (Employees') Pension Regulations, 1995 on the basis of the application filed by the petitioner on 16.6.1998. The arrears of pension shall be computed by the respondent-Bank within three months from the date of filing of a certified copy of this order before the respondent no. 1, the Regional Manager, Allahabad Bank, Regional Office, Mohaddipur, Gorakhpur and the entire arrears shall be paid to the petitioner within one month thereafter. The petitioner shall also be entitled to payment of future family pension regularly month by month. In case of default in making the payments within the aforesaid time schedule, the petitioner would be entitled to 9% interest from the date she is found entitled to such payment, till actual payment. It is made clear that if the payment is made within the stipulated time, the respondent-Bank shall not be liable to pay any interest.
No order as to costs.
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