SANTOSH CHANDRA CHAUDHURI Vs. STATE OF TRIPURA
HIGH COURT TRIPURA
Santosh Chandra Chaudhuri
STATE OF TRIPURA
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Akil Kureshi,J. -
(1.) All these petitioners are existing employees of Tripura Rehabilitation Plantation Corporation Limited (hereinafter to be referred to as TRPC Ltd.). Their grievance is that the employer at one stage framed a pension scheme for all existing employees but subsequently withdrew the same and in the meantime, a handful of employees who had retired in the interregnum, got the benefit of the pension scheme.
(2.) The facts on record would suggest that a Board of Directors of the Corporation had in its 117th meeting which was held on 15.09.2015 considered agenda item No.5 pertaining to approval for introduction of a Group Pension Scheme under Life Insurance Corporation of India Limited for the retirement benefits of the regular employees of TRPC Ltd. The agenda and the subsequent resolution would show that a scheme was framed by the corporation for which funds would be parked by the corporation with the LIC and from such funds the LIC would pay pension to a retiring employee @ 50% of the last basic drawn. In fact, the corporation also entered into an agreement with LIC for creation of such a pension scheme. Perusal of this agreement would show that entire contribution towards the pension to be paid to the retiring employees would come from the coffers of TRPC Ltd. Consequently, a notification dated 19.09.2015 was issued which envisaged payment of pension to a retired employee at prescribed rates. The corporation had deposited a sum of Rs.5,00,00,000/- as a initial sum to operationalize the scheme.
(3.) All these steps were taken by the corporation without the approval of the Government. The corporation, therefore, approached the State Government for ex post facto clearance to the said pension scheme in which it was pointed out that the Board in its meeting dated 15.09.2015 had decided to frame a pension scheme. This would raise a requirement of Rs.16.36 crores for covering existing 170 employees of the corporation out of which Rs.11.17 crores was already deposited by the corporation with the LIC from its own resources. The corporation would need further funds from the Government for the said purpose. The Government conveyed to the corporation in no uncertain terms in a communication dated 26.09.2018 that the proposal of the corporation cannot be accepted. The Government would not fund the pension scheme of the corporation. The corporation has to take its own decision how to manage its finances looking into the workforce, profitability etc. It was reiterated that the Finance Department shall not provide any financial assistance to the TRPC Ltd. for implementation of the said pension scheme particularly if it is in violation of the rules of financial discipline. The Government thereupon left the corporation to decide the future course of action. The corporation thereupon resolved to discontinue the scheme and revert back to the original regime of gratuity and contributory provident fund scheme. It has also come on record that subsequently the Government allowed the TRPC Ltd. to implement the revised pay structure of its employees on the condition that the corporation enforces austerity measures and the funds parked with the LIC in various schemes is brought back to the corporation. Consequently, the corporation while implementing the revision in pay structure for its employees, also discontinued the pension scheme permanently and reclaimed the remaining funds from the LIC. Learned counsel for the corporation clarified that during the time when these issues were going on, 7 employees had retired from the corporation and who had for some time also received pensionary benefits as per the scheme of the corporation, however, upon discontinuation of the said scheme and withdrawal of the funds of the corporation from the LIC even these employees no longer received pension.;
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