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5 years delay in retiral benefits | How 65-year-old forest guard must be making ends meet: CAT asks Govt

Seeks presence of 2 top forest officers in case of defiance
02:16 AM May 10, 2024 IST | D A RASHID
5 years delay in retiral benefits   how 65 year old forest guard must be making ends meet  cat asks govt
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Srinagar, May 9:  The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Srinagar Thursday directed J&K’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest as well as Conservator of Forests Srinagar Circle to remain present in person on May 28 if its order on release of pensionary benefits to an official who has retired five years ago is not implemented.

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“We are at pains that how this pensioner must be making his both ends meet in absence of provisional pension and other retiral benefits,” a bench comprising Judicial Member M S Latif and Administrative Member Prasant Kumar said while hearing a contempt plea by Zahoor Ahmad Ahangar, who has superannuated as Forest Guard five years ago and is yet to receive even his “provisional pension”.

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“The pensioner, herein, is a petty Forest Guard, who has given his life and blood to the service of the public,” the court observed.

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In response to the submission by the petitioner who was present in person that he has not received even a provisional pension for the past five years, the tribunal said: “The attitude of the respondents (Forest Authorities) is not only inhuman but is also violative of the human rights of the pensioner which are guaranteed to him, who by now is more than 65 years of age and senior citizen.”

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In its judgmental dated May 8, 2023, the tribunal had directed the Forest authorities concerned to calculate the pension and pensionary benefits of Ahangar after taking the date of superannuation as June 30, 2019, and issue proper PPO and release within three months the pension and pensionary benefits to him along with arrears.

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Ahangar approached the tribunal again with a contempt plea contending that the court’s judgment was not complied with by the authorities.

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“We would like to reiterate that denial or delay in the release of pension and pensionary benefits is not only arbitrary, and illegal but is also a sin, though not an offence and the sin committed by those who too have to reach the day of superannuation today or tomorrow,” the bench said. “Government servant in office always counts the day when he will superannuate from his active service only with a hope that he will get his retiral benefits and get his children married and live the rest of his life with dignity.”

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While the court observed that the concept of pension is only to provide succour to an employee who has dedicated his youth to the cause of the public, it said: “Pensioners are to be dealt with smile, compassion, extra care and polite behaviour.”

“We are conscious that justice delayed is justice denied particularly when the employee is denied his pensionary benefits for the past five years,” the court said and added that any departmental wrangle or delay should not have come in the way of compliance of its judgment in its letter and spirit. “Judicial orders are bound to be obeyed at all costs, however grave the effect may be.”

The court reiterated that the pension is not a bounty but is the right of every employee saying it has even assumed the status of a constitutional right in terms of Article 300(A) of the Constitution of India as the same is described as the property of an employee.

Referring to certain departmental communications, Deputy Advocate General Bikram Deep Singh representing the government submitted that the case of the petitioner was under active consideration.

Conservator of Forests, Srinagar Circle Pradeepchandra Wahule, who was present before the court also submitted that the case of the petitioner for release of pension and allied benefits is under active consideration.

However, Wahule submitted that he was not competent to pass the final order which according to him, falls under the domain of the Administrative Secretary of the Forest Department.

“We are afraid that in terms of the Business Rules, it is always the DDO or the Head of the Office who is competent to sanction pension and retiral benefits however, subject to certain norms,” the tribunal said.

“On asking about the compliance of the judgment, the Conservator of Forests appearing virtually has accepted to comply with the judgment within fifteen days positively,” the court said in its order.

The court has made it clear that in case the compliance of the judgment of the Court is not complied, it would be compelled to pass coercive orders as warranted under law.

The coercive orders, it said, will only be passed given the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.

“Before parting, we reiterate that in case, the judgment is not complied with …. in that eventuality, the Conservator of Forests, Srinagar Circle along with Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, J&K, Srinagar shall remain present before the Court on the next date of hearing,” the tribunal said and listed the matter for next hearing on May 28.

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