The Bombay high court has ruled that the pension is a fundamental right. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court ruled that the pension constitutes a fundamental right and deprivation of even a part of it cannot be accepted.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Naini Gopal, a Nagpur resident who retired as an assistant foreman from Ordnance Factory, Bhandara in October 1994. The petitioner was complaining against the deduction of Rs 369,035 in monthly instalments of Rs 11,400/- from his pension
The bank responded to the petition stating that an amount of Rs 782 was mistakenly being paid in excess to the 85-year-old since October 2007, due to a technical error. SBI maintained that it was because the petitioner’s pension was fixed, treating him as personnel below officer rank, instead of a civil pensioner, and claimed that the Reserve Bank of India had authorised it to recover the excess pension paid mistakenly.
The bench rejected the argument as the bank failed to demonstrate the technical mistake. It held that there was no good reason to deduct the amount from the petitioner’s pension after the Ordnance Factory pointed out that there was no error in fixing the 85-year old’s pension. It directed the bank to stop the recovery and credit the amount recovered so far to the pension account of the petitioner.
“Pension payable to employees upon superannuation is ‘property’ under Article 300-A of the Constitution of India and it constitutes a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The deprivation, even a part of this amount, cannot be accepted, except in accordance with and authority of law,” said the bench.
The court also Rs 50,000 on the bank as the cost and directed that the amount to be deposited in the petitioner’s pension account in eight days, failing which the bank will have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000 for every day of delay.
The bench ruled that bank is a trustee of its account holders like the petitioner, and has no authority in the eyes of law to dispute the amount of pension payable to an employee, other than those in its own employment.
The court also considered the petitioner's age of 85 and his huge liability of looking after his 45-year-old specially-abled daughter, who also requires costly medical treatment. “Instead of showing sensitivity to the problems of senior citizens, the bank has shown arrogance, and the petitioner was driven from pillar to post to know the reason for deduction of the amount from the pension payable to him,” said the court.