Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 26
The High Court has rapped the Union of India for violating rules and well-settled propositions of law in a case concerning the release of retirement benefits to a “hapless and helpless widow of a deceased government employee”.
The Bench of Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma made it clear that the payment of retirement benefits was not an act of charity or bounty doled out by the government. It was an indefeasible right of a government employee earned in recognition of past service.
The admonition came on a petition filed by the Union of India for quashing order dated September 5, 2019, passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). The Bench was told that respondent-Richa Dewan’s late husband Arun Dewan was posted as the Additional Commissioner of Income Tax in Indore, where he was murdered in June 2012.
She was aggrieved by the action of the authorities, whereby her request for release of arrears of pay and allowances, death-cum-retirement gratuity on her husband’s retirement and other retirement dues were not acceded to by the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Indore.
After she moved the tribunal, the authorities paid a certain amount and the only issue remaining for adjudication by the tribunal was the award of interest from the date the amount became due.
The tribunal held that she was entitled to interest at the rate applicable to the general provident fund from the date the amount became due till the actual payment. The counsel for the Union of India submitted that they had released the amount themselves during the pendency of the application. As such, interest was not liable to be paid.
The Bench said: “Admittedly, the retirement benefits became due after the death of the husband of the widow-respondent in 2012, whereas the same was released to the widow-respondent in 2018 and that too, after filing of the original application before the tribunal.”