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Is the issue of Pension to Bank Resignees nearing a solution ?


Kalyanam Rajagopal

"YES", seems to be the reply, if it is 2nd option of pension in terms of Joint Note/Settlement dated 27/04/2010 to those resigned during the period 29-09- 1995 to 26-04-2010 . Though so far nothing in "concrete terms" to that effect has come out from horse's mouth (IBA), the steps initiated by IBA suggest that they are moving in that direction.

Subsequent to the dismissal of SLP by Supreme Court on 6/12/2013 in Vijaya Bank vs. C. Narasimhapappa and others, it was hoped that those resigned with qualifying service during the period 29-09-95 to 27-04-2010, would be extended 2nd option pension in all Public Sector Banks on par with Voluntary Retirees under OSR 19(1) as per IBA circular dated 09/11/2012. Citing that the law was kept open in the matter, the benefit of the judgement was restricted to the writ petitioners only. It must be noted that in the case of voluntary retirees under OSR 19(1)also, law was kept open by Apex Court . But the benefit of the judgement was given to all similarly placed in the first option as well as in the 2nd option.

On 30/8/2012 in WP No.7245/2011 Karanakta High Court delivered a clear cut judgement on the following:

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  1. Whether the dismissal of Civil Appeal Nos.1364, 1365, 1366, 1367, 1368, 1369, 1371/2008 disentitle the appellants therein from invoking the second option under joint note dated 27.4.2010?
  2. Whether the Officer is tendering his resignation even after having rendered qualifying service becomes ineligible to exercise his option under the joint note?
  3. Whether the voluntary retirement under Clause 19 of O.S.R. is covered under the terms of the joint note?
  4. Whether Exit Option Scheme is outside the scope of joint note?
The Hon'ble Court in a detailed reasoning judgement opined that

"what is required is not the nature of retirement, but what is required is minimum qualifying service and the fulfillment of all other conditions and not the manner in which his service came to an end, if such cessasion was not punitive, but voluntary or under any scheme formulated by the Banks. If the resignation was not punitive and was voluntary and such employee had to his credit minimum qualifying service, such employee if complies with the other conditions, he cannot be denied of the pensionary benefit.

45. The Apex Court in a judgment reported in Lt.Col.P.S.Bhargava (supra), has observed that: "an Officer has to his credit the minimum period of qualifying service, he earns a right to get pension and as the Regulations stand that right to get pension can be taken away only if an order is passed under Regulations 3 or 16."

46. Thus, looking from any angle, if the resignation is not the term, which bars the officers of the Banks from opting the Pension Scheme, there is no reason to restrict the meaning of the word "retirement", retirement means cessation from bank's service either on attaining the age of superannuation or by voluntary retirement, what is to be seen is, the purpose for which and for whose benefit, the Scheme is introduced, the Scheme itself postulates that the employees, who were in service prior to 29.9.1995 continued or retired as on the date of the joint note.

47. Hence, I hold that the officers, who have resigned after having rendered qualifying service and who fulfill other conditions for opting the pension under the joint note, are entitled for pension. Point No.3:

48. As regard to third point, it was argued at length interalia contending that, the retirement under Clause 28 and 29 of the Pension Regulations, is different from special retirement under Clause-19 of the O.S.R. However, it was not disputed by the learned Counsels for the respondents - Banks that, the petitioners have rendered minimum qualifying service in the Bank and they could have applied for voluntary retirement under Clause 29 of the Pension Regulations 1995. It is also not the case of the respondents that, the pension scheme is only applicable to the employees, who had retired on attaining the age of superannuation. But it is admitted that the pension scheme is applicable to the employees, who have taken voluntary retirement under Clause 29 of the Pension Regulations of 1995.

49. It is also not the case of the respondents that, the resignation or special retirement or retirement under Exit Option, were by way of punitive measure.

50. It is also pertinent to note that, most of the Bank employees did not opt for pension at the first instance out of fear of forfeiture on the ground of their alleged involvement in strike against the Banks. It is in these circumstances, some of the employees, instead of opting for pension opted for different mode of retirement. As otherwise they would have also exercised their option for pension at the first instance itself."

During the period 2012-2015, Public sector Banks have implemented the said Judgement in toto except as applicable to "Resignees". In the case of resignees, Syndicate Bank and Corporation Bank filed Writ Appeals No.8049/2012 and another and those cases are pending disposal even after 40 months. The Writ Petitioners seem to be clueless in the absence of any organizational support. During 2014 and 2015 in two more cases(Bank/LIC) Sashi kala vs. Central Bank of India and Asger Ameen vs. LIC of India , the Apex Court decided in favour of extending pension to resignees with qualifying service viewing such voluntary exits as voluntary retirement within the meaning of voluntary retirement under pension regulations 1995.

On 30/09/2015 in HC Arora vs. Punjab National Bank, the Chandigarh High Court Division Bench allowed the CWP 2131/1996 answering the question " whether an employee can be deprived of his pensionary benefits only because while leaving his job prematurely he used the term "Resignation" instead of "Voluntary Retirement". This is in consonance with the ratio decided in the above mentioned Supreme Court cases. The Writ Petitioner herein was a pre 29-09-1995 Resignee. P.N.B. filed SLP No,32688/2015 against the judgement and the Writ Petitioner was issued Notice. This case is listed before Justice J.Chalameswar and Abhay Manohar sapre . It is likely to come for hearing on 14/04/2016.

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On 09/10/2015 in Punjab National Bank vs. Virnder Singh Siwach in LPA 735/2012 the Division Bench of the same Chandigarh High Court dismissed the Appeal and held that the ratio decided in M.R.Prabhakara vs. Canara Bank cannot be extended to the facts of the present case. The Honourable court distinguished the facts and law with the observation that in M.R.Prabhakar the applicants resigned during the period 24.7.1986 to 3.6.1993 i.e. prior to the Pension settlement dated 29/10/1993, when there was no provision for voluntary retirement and the only provision was resignation and in the instant case when the writ petitioner submitted his application there existed Pension Regulations 1995, under which there is a provision for voluntary retirement on completion of qualifying service with 3 months notice. Further the court relied on the judgement of Karnataka High court discussed above. Punjab National Bank did not appeal the case before Supreme Court, instead paid pension to the writ petitioner in terms joint note dated 27/04/2010 during February/March 2016.

On the same date i.e. 09/10/2015 , the Andhra Pradesh High Court allowed a Review Petition filed by Andhra Bank in four Writ Appeals. Relying on the ration decided in MR Prabhakar vs. Canara Bank, the Honble court reviewed its own Judgement , resulting in denial of pension to the pre-1995 resignees. The poor ex-employees filed SLP No.5716-19, which is tagged to SLP No.24108/2012. Now these cases have been referred to a larger bench because one of the cosignatories of the Judgement of MR Prabhakaar could not go against his own judgement and referred the CA 14739/2015 arising out SLP 24108/2012 to a larger bench . This is a case of LIC Resignee where the Rajasthan High court allowed pension. In the CA 14739/2015 dated 26/11/2015, the Honourable justice observed that the 1995 regulations can be given restrictive retrospective effect only on two counts. Voluntary retirement provision can be extended only w.e.f, 01.11.1993 and pensionary benefits can be extended to those retired on superannuation between 01.01.1986 and prior to 01.11.1993. The Honble. Justice observed that the court cannot interpret it to extend the benefit of voluntary retirement prior to 01.11.1993, when there was no provision of voluntary retirement in Service Rules at the relevant period, unless the 1995 regulations expressly provide for it. As per this judgement, it can be surmised that post 29-09-1995 resignees with qualifying service can be treated to have voluntarily retired.

The author of the article has received authentic news that Indian Banks Association has called for the information from Banks on the no. of resignees (with 20 years plus) and compulsory retirees, who were denied pension option in terms of Settlement/ Joint Note dated 27/04/2010. If the issue is not for considering 2nd option of pension to resignees and compulsory retirees, there is no need for collecting data at this juncture.

Let us distinguish the fact that PNB has paid pension in the case of a resignee after 29/09/1995, but appealed in the case of a resignee prior to 29/09/1995. I cannot think of PNB allowing pension without green signal from IBA nor can I imagine PNB appealing without an advice from IBA. From the foregoing, it can be logically inferred that IBA has taken a firm decision to continue to litigate in the case of resignees prior to 29/09/1995. But in the case resignees after 29/09/1995, IBA seems to have softened its attitude and seen the reason in the light of Court Judgements and to extend pension option in terms of joint note dated 27/04/2010 .

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