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Whether the employees of the appellant-Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation are eligible to claim pensionary benefits under the Pension Scheme in view of the non-compliance with the essential conditions stipulated in the Regulations which govern the said Pension Scheme?

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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5274 OF 2008
Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation
& others …. Appellants
Vs.
Madu Giri (Dead) through Lrs. & Anr. …. Respondents
AND
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 952 OF 2009
Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation
& Another …. Appellants
Vs.
Mohini Devi …. Respondent
J U D G M E N T
M.Y. EQBAL, J.:
1. The short question involved in these appeals is : Whether
the employees of the appellant-Rajasthan State Road Transport
Corporation are eligible to claim pensionary benefits under the
Pension Scheme in view of the non-compliance with the essential
conditions stipulated in the Regulations which govern the said
Pension Scheme?
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2. Admittedly, the concerned employees [Madugiri and
Yakub Khan, respondents (since deceased) in Civil Appeal No.5274
of 2008 and late Nathu Singh, respondent’s husband in Civil Appeal
No. 952 of 2009] of the appellant-Corporation retired from service
respectively on 31.1.1991, 31.1.1992 and 31.3.1992 and were paid
Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) including the share of employer’s
contribution. On 11.1.1993, the Rajasthan State Road Transport
Corporation Employees Pension Regulations, 1989 (in short “the
Regulations”) came into force. As per clause 3(1) of the said
Regulations, option was given to the existing employees as well as
those employees who retired before coming into force of these
Regulations but before acceptance of option and grant of benefit
condition was placed on the employees to refund the employer’s
share of CPF with interest. The above named employees exercised
their option in favour of the pension scheme under the Regulations,
but did not deposit the amount of employer’s share of CPF with
interest in lumpsum within the stipulated time.
3. Clause 3(1) of the said Regulations reads as under:
“`Option’ means a written consent of the existing regular
employees for pensionary and gratuity benefit along with
the adoption of the General Provident Fund Regulations,
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1989 or to continue as member of the existing CPF
scheme covered under the EPF Act, 1952 within a period
of 90 days from the date of publication of RSRTC Pension
Regulations. Any existing employee who does not
exercise the option within specified period of 90 days
shall be deemed to have exercised option in favour of the
Pension and CPF Regulations.
The option once exercised or deemed to have been
exercised shall be considered as final and no
representation in this respect shall be considered valid for
any revision. It will be for the personal responsibility of
the departmental officer to ensure that his option reaches
timely in the office of Dy. G.M. (P&F) RSRTC, Jaipur.
xxx xxx xxx
In case any employee or his nominee obtains the final
refund of CPF between 1st April 1989 and specified
period for exercising option, the employer’s share with
accrued interest time to time shall have to be deposited in
lump sum before granting the option for pension.”
4. As the amount of employer’s share of CPF with interest in
lumpsum was not deposited by the employees within the stipulated
time, their claim for grant of pensionary benefit was rejected by the
appellant-Corporation. The decision of the Corporation was
challenged in the High Court by filing writ petitions which were
disposed of with direction to the Corporation to accept the option
submitted by the employees with regard to grant of pension and to
allow the same to the employees by deducting the amount of excess
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provident fund with interest which is said to be granted earlier.
Aggrieved by the orders passed in writ petitions, the appellants herein
filed D.B. Civil Special Appeals (W) before the Division Bench of the
High Court which were dismissed by the orders impugned in these
appeals.
5. After hearing the learned counsel appearing for the
parties and perusing the Regulations, particularly Clause 3(1) as
quoted hereinabove, we are of the considered opinion that the view
taken by the learned Single Judge and also the Division Bench is not
in consonance with the conditions presecribed in the said
Regulations.
6. The learned Single Judge disposed of the writ petition
filed by Madugiri and Yakub Khan, with the following directions:
“Accordingly this petition for writ is disposed of with a
direction to the respondent Rajasthan State Road
Transport Corporation to accept the option submitted by
the petitioners with regard to grant of pension and then
the same be allowed to them by deducting the amount of
excess provident fund with interest which is said to be
granted earlier. The respondent Corporation shall
complete all formalities with regard to grant of pension
and deduction of excess provident fund amount said to be
paid to the petitioners within a period of four months from
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the date the petitioners submit a certified copy of this
order to the respondent No.3 along with a representation
for acceptance of pension in terms of this order.”
Similar directions were issued by the learned Single Judge in another
writ petition filed by Mohini Devi.
7. The Division Bench has considered the Regulations but
failed to notice that there is apparent error in the order passed by the
learned Single Judge. Indisputably, the concerned employees retired
from service in 1991 and 1992 and after retirement they were paid
CPF including the share of employer’s contribution. Hence, as per
Clause 3 of the Regulations, no right accrued to the
appellants/employees to claim pensionary benefits without first
depositing the amount and complying with the Regulations.
8. The matter was examined by this Court in Pepsu Road
Transport Corporation, Patiala vs. Mangal Singh and Others
(2011) 11 SCC 702 wherein it was held as under:
“51. The common thread which runs through all these
appeals canvassed before us is that the respondents
have failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the
Regulations, which govern the Pension Scheme. We
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have already considered the nature and effect of the
regulations, which are made under a statute. These
statutory regulations require to be interpreted in the same
manner which is adopted while interpreting any other
statutory provisions. The Corporation as well as the
respondents are obliged and bound to comply with its
mandatory conditions and requirements. Any action or
conduct deviating from these conditions shall render such
action illegal and invalid. Moreover, the respondents have
availed the retiral benefits arising out of CPF and gratuity
without any protest.
52. The respondents in all these appeals, before us,
have made a claim for pensionary benefits under the
Pension Scheme for the first time only after their
retirement with an unreasonable delay of more than 8
years. It is not in dispute, in some appeals, that the
respondents never opted for the Pension Scheme for their
alleged want of knowledge for non-service of individual
notices. In other appeals, although the respondents
applied for the option of the Pension Scheme but
indisputably never fulfilled the quintessential conditions
envisaged by the Regulations which are statutory in
nature.”
9. We are, therefore, of the opinion that, in the facts and
circumstances of the case and in view of the law laid down by this
Court in the judgment referred to hereinabove, impugned orders
passed by the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench of the
High Court cannot be sustained in law.
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10. For the reasons aforesaid, these appeals are allowed and
the impugned orders are set aside. However, there shall be no order
as to costs.
……………………………..J.
(P. Sathasivam)
……………………………..J.
(M.Y. Eqbal)
New Delhi,
April 26 , 2013.
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