Judge disagrees with stand taken by the Principal Accountant General’s office
Noon meal centre employees who got absorbed in regular service as school teachers, Rural Welfare Officers and Multi Purpose Health Workers at the fag end of their service period are entitled for consideration of 50 per cent of their earlier service period for calculating the minimum requirement of 10 years of service in a regular post to be eligible for monthly pension, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.
Allowing a batch of four writ petitions, Justice D. Hariparanthaman held that the Principal Accountant General's office was wrong in claiming that such a benefit could be given only to those who were absorbed in regular service before April 1, 2003, and not after that. The judge said that no such cut-off date could be imposed in case of noon meal workers as most of them had been absorbed in regular service only after April, 2003.
One of the petitioners before the court, P. Mary, had joined service as a Child Welfare Organiser (CWO) in a noon meal centre on July 1, 1982. She wrote a special written test conducted by the government and got appointed as a Tamil Pundit on March 1, 2007, in a Government Higher Secondary School at Kullapuram in Theni district and retired from service on March 31, 2009, on attaining the age of superannuation.
The other petitioner, A. Tamilarasi of Thanjavur district, also joined service as CWO in September 1982, got absorbed as B.T. Assistant (geography) in September, 2006, and retired from service in March, 2008. The third petitioner, M. Palanikani, had served in a similar post since 1981 until her appointment as Rural Welfare Officer at Thanthoni panchayat union office in Karur district in December, 1999. She retired in July, 2000.
The last petitioner, K. Robert Wilson, had served as a noon meal organiser at Panakudi Elementary School in the Melur taluk in Madurai district until September, 2006.
Thereafter, he was appointed as a B.T. Assistant (history) and joined duty in the Government Higher Secondary School at Kaverypuram in Salem district where he served until his retirement on April 30, 2009. None of the petitioners were granted pension.
The Principal Accountant General’s office had returned their pension proposal on the ground that a Government Order passed by the Finance (pension) Department on August 25, 2009, stated that 50 per cent of service rendered by employees in consolidated pay, honorarium or daily wages could be counted for the purpose of pension if the employees were absorbed prior to April 1, 2003, in regular service and not otherwise.
Disagreeing with such a contention, the judge said that another G.O. passed by the Social Welfare Department on January 6, 2010, granting a similar benefit to noon meal workers had not specified any cut-off date but for making a general mention about the 2009-G.O. in one of its paragraphs. If the argument of the Accountant General was accepted, then a majority of the former noon meal staff would not get pension at all.
The judge also pointed out that the AG’s office had written a letter to the social welfare department on November 16, 2011, seeking a clarification whether noon meal centre employees who were absorbed in regular service after April 1, 2003, were also eligible for the benefit under the 2010-G.O. But the same office rejected the pension proposals even before receiving a reply from the government.
“In my view, the 2010-G.O. is very clear and there is no ambiguity. There is no need to seek any clarification from the government,” Mr. Justice Hariparanthaman said and directed the AG to authorise the pension proposals by counting 50 per cent service rendered by the petitioners in non-pensionable post along with the regular service.