KARNATAKA

High Court sets aside CAT order on pension

BANGALORE, OCT. 7. In a landmark judgment, the Karnataka High Court has observed that the President of India can pass final orders on forfeiture of pension and gratuity under the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, only after the conclusion of departmental or judicial proceedings.

A Division Bench comprising Justice S.R. Nayak and Justice Manjula Chellur made this observation after setting aside an order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) that had upheld the forfeiture of pension and gratuity to a Union Government employee.

Convicted

The petitioner, N.K. Suparna, was working as an accounts officer in Bangalore Telecom District and he retired on January 31, 2002.

In July 1993, Mr. Suparna was allegedly "trapped'' by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On December 31, 2001 he was sentenced by a CBI (special) court to three years' rigorous imprisonment.

He appealed against the sentence in the High Court. The appeal was pending.

Forfeiture of pension

After Suparna's conviction, the President of India on July 17, 2003 invoked powers under Rule 9 (1) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, saying that the petitioner had forfeited the pension and gratuity. The petitioner questioned this in the CAT, which, however, dismissed the petition. He appealed against the CAT order in the High Court.

The Bench observed that, "As the petitioner was aggrieved by the judgment and order of the CBI court, he had preferred an appeal. The pendency of this appeal was a judicial proceeding. It, therefore, needs to be noticed that the final orders envisaged under Rule 9 (1) of the Central Civil Service Rules is required to be passed by the President of India only after the conclusion of the departmental or judicial proceedings."

It said, "In this case, judicial proceedings had not concluded. Therefore, the impugned order passed by the President of India in purported exercise of power under the Rule should be condemned as one without authority of law in as much as the necessary condition to invoke that power did not exist as on the date of the impugned order nor did it exist as on today."

On whether the President of India was justified in allowing the forfeiture of the petitioner's gratuity, the Bench said, the petitioner was entitled to be paid in terms of Clause (C) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 69. However, it said the President of India should have awaited the result of the appeal pending before the court.

It said the President of India issued the order on the forfeiture of pension and gratuity without waiting for the finality of the proceedings. "The only thing he could have done under the circumstances was to have deferred the payment of gratuity."

`Not sustainable'

The Bench clarified that it could not sustain the CAT order. It allowed the writ petition and set aside the CAT order. It also set aside the July 17, 2003 order of the Ministry of Communications withholding the entire pension permanently and forfeiture of gratuity of the petitioner with immediate effect.

It directed that the provisional pension withheld so far by the department be paid to the petitioner forthwith.