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State of Odisha and Ors. Vs. Manju Naik - (Supreme Court) (04 Dec 2019)

Minimum service stipulated in Rules cannot be ignored while considering claim for invalid pension



Present appeal arises out of the judgment whereunder the High Court has dismissed the Appellants' challenge to the order of the Odisha Administrative Tribunal under which the authorities were directed to consider sanction of invalid pension in favour of late Sagar Naik (husband of the Respondent) and thereafter settle family pension in favour of the Applicant, under the provisions of the Orissa Civil Services (Pension) Rules - 1992 ("the Pension Rules").

The issue to be considered here is whether the minimum qualifying service prescribed under the Pension Rules can be ignored for the purpose of consideration of invalid pension under Rule 39 of the Pension Rules. As a corollary, whether the Tribunal or the High Court erred in directing invalid pension for a government employee who did not have the qualifying service, prescribed under the Pension Rules.

The Respondent's husband was retired on the ground of mental infirmity and hence, the service gratuity was paid and the widow had received the same, without any demur. She never raised any claim for invalid pension either at the time of retirement or even when she approached the Tribunal i.e. 14 years later in the year 2010. Nevertheless, the Tribunal went beyond the prayers in the Original Application (O.A.) and ordered for invalid pension for late Sagar Naik and then following his death, ordered for family pension for the widow.

An employee becomes entitled to pension by stint of his long service for the employer and, therefore, it should be seen as a reward for toiling hard and long for the employer. The Pension Rules provide for a qualifying service of 10 years for such entitlement. A particular provision of the statute should be construed with reference to other provisions of the same statute so as to construe the enactment as a whole. The provision of a Rule cannot be used to defeat another Rule unless it is impossible to effect reconciliation between them. Pension as already stated is earned by stint of continuity and longevity of service and minimum qualifying service should therefore be understood as the requirement for invalid pension as well.

The condition of qualifying service prescribed in the Pension Rules must be satisfied to become eligible for invalid pension and the arguments made to the contrary that invalid pension can be claimed under Rule 39 without satisfying the stipulated qualifying service mentioned in the same Rules, do not appeal to present Court. The Respondent's husband who had served for lesser years then the 10 years qualifying service, was found entitled by his employers to service gratuity only, because of his premature retirement on the ground of mental incapacitation. The dues toward service gratuity were paid accordingly. The Pension Rules definitely envisaged that there could be a situation where an employee may not be eligible for pension benefits for not satisfying the prescribed qualifying service of 10 years.

In a case like present one, the need for compassion and the compliance of the norms has to be balanced. The allowable gratuity benefits were granted on account of the Respondent's husband and after he died, the widow was appointed in a government job under the Rehabilitation Assistance Scheme. Thus, the needed means of sustenance was provided to the deceased's family.

The Respondent's husband had not served for ten years and was therefore, he disentitled for regular pension, he cannot also be held entitled to invalid pension. The different provisions of the Pension Rules cannot be read in isolation and must be construed harmoniously and the requirement of qualifying service cannot be said to be irrelevant for claiming different service benefits under the same Rules. Here, the employee did not satisfy the requirement of qualifying service and therefore the invalid pension could not have been ordered for him, under Rule 39 of the Pension Rules.

The Respondent never prayed for invalid pension for her husband in her O.A. and yet the Tribunal as well as the High Court granted her the unclaimed relief. Such additional munificence, in addition to the job provided to the first Respondent under the Rehabilitation Assistance Scheme for the sustenance of the deceased's family, was unwarranted and the impugned order cannot be sustained. The impugned orders of Tribunal and the High Court are set aside. Appeal allowed.


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