In a significant ruling, the Gauhati High Court has held that the right to receive post retirement benefits is sacrosanct and the same cannot be denied merely because of lack of funds.
The bench of Justice Sanjay Kumar Medhi has held,
"the plea of lack of funds though may be correct, the same is not legally tenable inasmuch as pension and other post retirement benefits are sacrosanct rights earned by an employee by working for a long tenure in a particular organization."
The court observed that in case an employer, in this case the State Housing Board, does not have sufficient funds, it may approach the State Government for the same.
"In case of lack of funds, the Housing Board has all the powers and means to approach the State Government to make available such amount of funds to meet the day-to-day functioning and to make payments to its retired employees and other entitlement of the employees," the order states.
The observation has been made in a writ petition filed by retired employees of the Assam State Housing Board, aggrieved by non-payment of post-retial benefits.
Standing Counsel S Bora, appearing on behalf of the Housing Board submitted that there was no mala fide intention on their part to deprive of the Petitioners from their post retirement benefits and it was only because lack of funds, that payment of such benefits had been stayed.
It was submitted that as and when the funds are available, all the pending dues of the retired employees of the Housing Board would be cleared.
Rejecting this argument, the bench emphasized that pension and other post retirement benefits are not bounty; rather, matters of right. It observed,
"After retirement, an employee suffers from immense hardships as the regular flow of income stops and only to lead a decent life, the post retirement benefit is granted to an employee. However, if such an employee is deprived of the post retirement benefits, that too, for a long period, it is only not the employee but the entire family would be put to face the grave hardships."
Accordingly, the court directed the Housing Board to make available the post retirement benefits of the Petitioners, within a period of 4 months. It is also made clear that in case of further delay, the amount in question would accrue interest at the rate of 6%.
Case Title: Nagen Chandra Das v. State of Assam & Ors. (and other connected petitions)
Case No.: WP(C) No. 3523/2019
Quorum: Justice Sanjay Kumar Medhi
Appearance: Advocate I Choudhury (for Petitioners); Standing Counsel S Bora (for Respondent)
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