GOVERNMENT OF INDIA Vs. SITAKANT S. DUBHASHI
LAWS(SC)-2020-2-30
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on February 11,2020

GOVERNMENT OF INDIA Appellant
VERSUS
Sitakant S. Dubhashi Respondents


Referred Judgements :-

MUKUND LAL BHANDARI VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]



Cited Judgements :-

UNION OF INDIA VS. A. ALAGAM PERUMAL KONE [LAWS(SC)-2021-2-59] [REFERRED TO]


JUDGEMENT

ASHOK BHUSHAN,J. - (1.)This appeal has been filed against judgment of High Court of Bombay at Goa at Panaji dated 20.03.2017 allowing the writ petition filed by respondent No.1. The writ petition was filed by respondent No.1 challenging the notification dated 17.02.2003 issued by Government of India as well as orders dated 16.11.2009 and 13.11.2014 issued by the Government of India rejecting the claim of respondent No.1 for pension under Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980.
(2.)Brief facts of this case for deciding this appeal are: -
2.1. The Government of India has introduced Freedom Fighters Pension Scheme, 1972. With certain modifications, the scheme was renamed as Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 (hereinafter referred to as "SSSP Scheme, 1980"). For grant of pension under the SSSP Scheme, 1980, there were eligibility conditions. The freedom fighters having suffered minimum imprisonment of six months were eligible for benefit of the Scheme. The Government of India decided to extend the SSSP Scheme to the participants of Goa Liberation Movement who fulfilled the eligibility conditions under SSSP Scheme. The respondent had made an application to the Government of India for grant of SSSP Scheme on 19.03.1982. The respondent No.1 was informed by the Government of India in the year 1985 that his case having not recommended by the State he is not entitled for SSS Pension. The Government of India received representation from various quarters for grant of pension to all the participants of Goa Liberation Movement particularly to those who participated in the second phase of the movement (1954-55). The Government of India decided to grant freedom fighter pension to participants of Goa liberation Movement Phase-II (1954-55) under SSSP Scheme, 1980 by Government Order dated 17.02.2003.

2.2. After liberation of Goa in 1961, the State of Goa has initially framed Goa, Daman and Diu freedom fighters welfare Rules, 1973. In supersession of 1973 Rules, the State framed the Goa freedom fighter's welfare rules, 1988. Freedom fighters were defined in Rule 2.

2.3. The respondent had made an application for State pension by application dated 28.07.2001. On the application of the respondent, the Government of Goa asked for reports from Inspector General of Police which was submitted by Deputy Inspector General of Police dated 09.05.2002 opining that name of the respondent No.1 is not figuring in the freedom fighters register. The application of respondent No.1 was considered by the Government and the application of respondent No.1 for grant of State Pension was rejected on 18.12.2002.

2.4 The respondent No.1 made an application dated 15.04.2003 for grant of pension under the SSSP Scheme, 1980 for Freedom Fighters of Goa Liberation Movement Phase­ II (1954-55). The State of Goa wrote a letter dated 13.02.2004 to the respondent No.1 that copy of Samman Pension order cannot be issued to him since his case has not been approved so far. The respondent No.1 was, however, informed that his application for State pension will be placed before the Committee for further action. The Committee constituted by State of Goa to consider the cases for grant of State pension considered the case of respondent No.1 and by proceeding dated 23.07.2004 opined to reject the claim.

2.5. In pursuance of announcement of State of Goa for re-opening of Freedom Fighters Scheme in 2003, the claim of large number of persons were entrusted to a Committee constituted under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary. After several deliberations ultimately a list of 22 persons was approved on 26.12.2007 for State pension in which respondent No.1 was also included. On 26.12.2007, the name of respondent No.1 was approved for grant of State Pension and consequently, a pension payment order was issued on 11.03.2008 to respondent No.1 for grant of State Pension w.e.f. 01.12.2007. After receipt of State Pension, the respondent No.1 sent a representation dated 06.08.2009 to the Government of India for grant of SSS Pension from the Government of India. The Government of India vide letter dated 16.11.2009 communicated respondent No.1 that case of respondent No.1 has been examined and it is found that respondent No.1 has been granted State Pension in 2008 only, hence, he was ineligible for grant of SSS Pension under the relaxed criteria for Goa Liberation Movement Phase-II. The respondent No.1 was communicated that participants who were in receipt of State Pension by 01.08.2002 are only eligible. On a further representation by respondent No.1, again a similar communication was sent by the Government of India to respondent No.1 dated 13.11.2014.

2.6. The respondent No.1 filed a writ petition No.229 of 2016 in the High Court of Bombay, Goa at Panaji, praying for following relief:

"A. Declaration that the decision of Government of India dated 4/2/03 and the notification dated 17/2/03 to the extent it restricts the entitlement of pension to freedom fighter participants of Goa Liberation Movement Phase II who were in receipt of pension as on 1/08/2002 is arbitrary null and void being violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India and for a declaration that freedom fighters recognized by the Government of Goa and in receipt of State Government pension notwithstanding the date being later than 1/08/02 are entitled to pension.

B. Writ of mandamus, writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondent to consider the application of petitioner for grant of pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Sanman Pension Scheme 1980 Goa Liberation Movement Phase-II (1954-55).

C. For writ of certiorari, a writ in the nature of certiorari or any other writ direction and other quashing and setting aside Communication dated 16/11/09 and 13/11/2014 passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs."

2.7. The appellant could not file any reply to the writ petition nor case of the respondent No.1 was specifically denied. The High Court after hearing the parties allowed the writ petition and directed the appellant to grant the pension under SSSP Scheme to the respondent No.1 w.e.f. 11.03.2008. The Government of India aggrieved by the said judgment has come up with this appeal. A Counter affidavit has been filed by respondent No.1 as well as respondent No.2, the State of Goa. The Government of India has filed an additional affidavit dated 02.12.2019. A rejoinder affidavit has also been filed by the appellant.

(3.)We have heard Shri Vikramjit Banerjee, ASG for appellant, Mrs. Mugdha Pande has been heard for respondent No.1 and Shri Pratap Venugopal has appeared for State of Goa.
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