Friday, November 16, 2012

Forcefully retired while on leave, cancer patient granted pension

Dear colleagues,

We have seen in the past that several persons with disabilities have been removed from service by forcing them voluntary retirement on acquiring disabilities in contravention to Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities Act.

The instant case is of an employee with State Bank of India (Chennai Circle) who was a cancer patient and was forcefully "voluntary retired" while she was on leave undergoing treatment for cancer some 12 year back. The irony is that she continued to fight till 2005 when her gratuity and PF were settled after prolonged representations. However, she was denied her pension and she had to approach the court.

Now after several years of protracted legal battle, the Madras High court has allowed her appeal granting her the pension. Though this is not directly related to a person with disability, however is a good case law in cases where employers take unilateral actions removing employees from service without even informing them. Here is the report.


For cancer patient, a protracted battle for pension is finally won;  Court says voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner.

A cancer patient who was ‘voluntarily’ retired by a nationalised bank has won a legal battle for pension with the Madras High Court declaring she is entitled to the benefit.

A Division Bench comprising Justices C. Nagappan and M. Sathyanarayanan granted a declaration on an appeal by Premila Kiruba Augustus. She had joined State Bank of India as a clerk-cum-typist at the Bangalore Main Branch and on her request was transferred to Chennai Circle in January 1981. She was posted as an electronic machine operator from May 1990. When she was on leave for personal reasons, the bank ‘voluntarily retired’ her from service on March 31, 1999. She challenged the order by raising an industrial dispute and after it failed, asked for a reference before the Labour Ministry. This was declined on grounds of a delay. She then made several requests for her pension to be settled. She had completed 25 years of pensionable service. Her gratuity and provident fund were settled in 2005. However, her request for pension was not considered.

Hence, she filed a writ petition. She was not guilty of delay because the bank failed to respond to her representations, it said. She could not pursue her pension claim as her husband underwent a bypass surgery and her father, who was living with her, also underwent a hip replacement surgery and later died. She was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. She sought to declare the bank’s action in not sanctioning pension after retiring her, illegal.

The bank contended that the petitioner had voluntarily abandoned her service. Therefore, in terms of a bipartite settlement, she was voluntarily retired from service. Since, she did not make a request seeking voluntary retirement, she could not claim pension.

In June last year, a single Judge disposed of the writ petition with a direction to settle the pensionary benefits. The settlement was to be made depending upon the outcome of another case before the Supreme Court. This case arose out of a Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling that the settlement in question had undergone a change. Mrs. Augustus and the bank preferred appeals against the single Judge’s order.

The petitioner’s counsel, S. Vaidyanathan, said the case pending before the Supreme Court had nothing to do with the facts of the present case. Since the bank itself had voluntarily retired the petitioner from service, it amounted to deemed voluntary retirement. As a corollary, the petitioner was entitled to pension as she had put in the required number of years of pensionable service.

Writing the common judgment for the Bench, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan said considering the facts and circumstances and the Supreme Court’s decision in Syndicate Bank vs Satya Srinath, which was applicable to the present case, it was of the view that voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner. The bank’s contention that she had voluntarily abandoned the service could not be sustained.

There was no necessity to await the Supreme Court’s judgment. The Bench allowed her appeal and dismissed the bank’s appeal.

Woman had completed 25 years of bank service;  She had then been ‘voluntarily’ retired;  Court says voluntary retirement had been forced on the petitioner.

Source: The Hindu

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