Supreme Court upholds notification amending employees pension scheme as ‘legal and valid’ 

November 04, 2022 09:12 pm | Updated 09:12 pm IST

Police officers in Karachi on November 4, 2022 detain a supporter of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf during a protest to condemn a shooting incident on their leader’s convoy.

Police officers in Karachi on November 4, 2022 detain a supporter of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf during a protest to condemn a shooting incident on their leader’s convoy. | Photo Credit: AP

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Employees’ Pension (Amendment) Scheme, 2014 as “legal and valid” while reading down certain provisions of the scheme concerning current members.

The judgment by a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit came in an appeal filed by the Employees Provident Fund Organisation challenging decisions of the Kerala, Rajasthan and Delhi High Courts quashing the 2014 amendments on “determination of pensionable salary” under the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS) of 1995.

The court held that the amendments to the pension scheme notified on August 22, 2014 would apply to the employees of “exempted establishments” in the list of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), which number over 1300 companies and entities, in the same manner as for the staff of regular establishments. The legal dispute primarily concerned the controversial amendments made to paragraph 11 of the EPS-1995.

Before the amendments were introduced, every employee, who became a member of the Employees Provident Fund Scheme of 1952 as on November 16, 1995, could avail the EPS. In the pre-amended version of EPS-1995, the maximum pensionable salary cap was ₹6,500. However, members whose salaries exceeded this cap could opt, along with their employers, to contribute up to 8.33% of their actual salaries.

The 2014 amendments to the EPS, which included changes in paragraph 11(3) and by inserting a new paragraph 11(4), had raised the cap from ₹6,500 to ₹15,000. Paragraph 11(4) said only employees, who were existing EPS members as on September 1, 2014, could continue to contribute to the pension fund in accordance with their actual salaries. They were given a window of six months to opt for the new pension regime.

Besides, 11(4) created an additional obligation for members whose salaries exceeded the ₹15,000 ceiling. They had to contribute at the rate of 1.16% of the salary.

Again, the pensionable salary was an average of 12 months’ pay before the date of the employee’s exit from the EPS. The amendments had extended the period of calculation of average pensionable salary from 12 months to 60 months. “We do not find any flaw in altering the basis for computation of pensionable salary,” the court held.

However, using its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the court removed the cut-off date of September 1, 2014. “Till recently, there was uncertainty about the amendment scheme which was quashed by the three High Courts. Thus, all employees who did not exercise the option (of joining the amended pension scheme) when they were entitled to do so, but could not do it due to the interpretation of the cut-off date should be given a further chance to exercise their option. Under these circumstances, the time to exercise the option shall stand extended by four months,” the court directed.

The court, in this regard, referred to the R.C. Gupta case, which had said that a “beneficial scheme” like EPS-1995 “ought not to be allowed to be defeated by reference to a cut-off date like September 1, 2014”.

But the judgment, authored by Justice Aniruddha Bose for the Bench, found the additional requirement on members to contribute 1.16% of their salary as ultra vires.

“The requirement of the members to contribute at the rate of 1.16% of the salary to the extent that such salary exceeds ₹15000 per month as an additional contribution made under the amendment scheme is held to be ultra vires to the provisions of the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952,” Justice Bose held.

The court however suspended the implementation of this part for six months. “We suspend the operation of this part of our order for six months. We do so to enable the authorities to make adjustments in the scheme so that the additional contribution can be generated from other legitimate sources within the scope of the Act, which could include enhancing the rate of contribution of the employers,” the judgment said.

It added that it did not want to speculate on how the authorities would find the money for the payment of the additional contribution and said it would be left to the legislature and the scheme framers to make the necessary amendments.

The court further held that employees who retired prior to September 1, 2014 without exercising any option would not be entitled to benefit of this judgment. Justice Bose further said that employees who had retired before September 1, 2014 upon exercising the pension scheme option under 11(3) of the 1995 scheme shall be covered by the provisions of paragraph 11(3) as it stood prior to the amendment of 2014.

Imran Khan says he was hit by four bullets 

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said he was hit by four bullets on his right leg during the assassination attempt a day earlier, when he was leading a political march in Punjab province.

Addressing the nation from the Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore, in his first address since the assassination attempt, Mr. Khan said that he was aware of the plot to kill him.

“I’ll come to the details of the attack later. I got to know the day before [the attack] that either in Wazirabad of Gujrat, they planned to kill me,” the 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party claimed.

“I was hit by 4 bullets,” Mr. Khan said.

Dr Faisal Sultan, who is treating the cricketer-turned-politician, said x-rays of Khan’s right leg showed that his tibia was damaged and in fact fractured.

“In this scan, the line you see on right leg is the main artery. The bullet fragments were very near it,” Dr. Sultan said.

Mr. Khan suffered a bullet injury on the right leg when a gun-wielding man fired a volley of bullets at him and others mounting on a container-mounted truck in the Wazirabad area of Punjab province, where he was leading a protest march against the Shehbaz Sharif government.

Meanwhile, a media report said police in Pakistan’s Punjab Province had arrested two more suspects in the case.

AAP announces former TV journalist Isudan Gadhvi as its Gujarat CM candidate 

Isudan Gadhvi, a TV journalist-turned-politician, has been declared as the chief ministerial face of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat ahead of the State Assembly polls.

He is the national joint general secretary of the AAP and its main campaigner in the State, crisscrossing the length and breadth of the state addressing public meetings, holding roadshows and rallies across the State.

Delhi CM and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal announced Gadhvi’s name in the crucial State elections where AAP has turned its focus and challenging the ruling BJP in its strongest bastion.

Gadhvi joined the AAP in 2021, taking a political plunge after quitting as editor of VTV, a local Gujarat news channel where his evening show Mahamanthan became a hugely popular news program in the State.

As air quality remains ‘severe’, primary schools to remain shut in Delhi from November 5 

As Delhi continued to reel under “severe” level of air pollution on Friday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that there will be no classes for students in primary section from Saturday.

“Primary schools will be closed from tomorrow in Delhi. We are thinking about implementing odd-even too. Outdoor activities of classes of fifth grade and above will be stopped,” Kejriwal said while addressing a joint press conference with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

Students leave a school after attending classes in New Delhi on November 4, 2022. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that primary schools will be closed from November 5, 2022 in view of the spike in pollution levels in the national capital.

Students leave a school after attending classes in New Delhi on November 4, 2022. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that primary schools will be closed from November 5, 2022 in view of the spike in pollution levels in the national capital. | Photo Credit: PTI

Reiterating that air pollution is not just Delhi’s issue, he said that it’s an issue of entire North India. “Many cities (in North India) have severe air pollution. AAP alone or Kejriwal or governments of Delhi and Punjab alone is not responsible for this. Central government has to take steps to reduce pollution in North India,” he said.

“There won’t be any solution by doing politics over it. We accept that stubble is burnt in Punjab. But farmers are not responsible for this. Farmers want solutions. We and our government is responsible for this,” he said.

He said that it has been six months since the AAP government has been formed in Punjab and termed it a “short time”.

“Many steps have been taken and I believe that by next year, the incidents of stubble burning will come down,” he said. Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann said, “farmers also do not want to burn stubble. We have to solve this issue together. We have taken a lot of efforts. Some were successful, some were not successful.”

Education Ministry forms panel to strengthen assessment, accreditation of higher educational institutions 

The Ministry of Education has set up a high-level panel to strengthen the assessment and accreditation of higher educational institutions, officials said on Friday.

The panel will be headed by Dr K Radhakrishnan, Chairperson, Board of Governors, IIT Kanpur. He is also the chairperson of the Standing Committee of IIT Council.

“The mandate of the committee includes strengthening the assessment and accreditation processes and preparing a road map for the National Accreditation Council envisioned in the National Education Policy, 2020. India has one of the largest and diverse education systems in the world,” a senior MoE official said.

“Accreditation plays a vital role in making quality assurance an integral part of the functioning of higher educational institutions. Accreditation assists the institutions to understand their strengths and weaknesses through an informed review process, thus facilitating identification of internal areas of planning and resource allocation by them,” the official said.

Other members of the committee include Mridul Hazarika, Vice-Chancellor, Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya, Assam; Bharat Bhasker, Professor, IIM, Lucknow and Joint Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education.

“Accreditation status of any higher educational institution serves as a source of reliable information for the students, employers and the society regarding the quality of education being offered in the institution,” the official said.

In Brief: 

The G7 wants Russia to prolong a deal allowing safe passage of grain shipments from Ukraine, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday at talks in Germany. “Everyone agreed on the need to extend the Black Sea grain initiative,” the official said. The G7’s top diplomats are in the western German city of Muenster for two days of talks, with the war in Ukraine at the top of the agenda. The club of nations is “appreciative of the UN’s efforts to convince Russia to extend” the grain deal, the official said. Grain shipments from Ukraine resumed on Thursday after Russia returned to a deal allowing their safe passage following international pressure.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.  

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