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Govt Servants Entitled to Pension Only if Duties and Pay Regulated by Govt : Orissa HC

Govt Servants Entitled to Pension Only if Duties and Pay Regulated by Govt : Orissa HC

In a recent ruling, the Orissa High Court, led by Chief Justice Mr. Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Judge Mr. M.S. Raman, clarified that government servants are only eligible for pension if their appointment, duties, and pay are officially regulated by the government or its directives.

This decision came during the adjudication of an Appeal in the case of State of Odisha & Ors vs. Banamali Samal & Ors.

The respondents in this case were directly appointed employees of the Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) and Micro Projects, falling under the jurisdiction of the ST & SC Development Department of the Government of Odisha. A communication issued by the department on May 24, 2017, declared that appointments to the Micro Projects did not confer state government employee status upon the appointees, thereby denying them pensionary benefits. Dissatisfied with this communication, the respondents contested it before the Orissa Administrative Tribunal (OAT).

However, due to the abolition of the OAT, the case was transferred to the Orissa High Court. Here, a single judge bench ruled in favor of the respondents' writ petition on October 20, 2022, instructing the state government to grant pensionary benefits to the respondents. In response, the State of Odisha (Appellant) filed an appeal challenging the aforementioned orders issued by the learned single judge.

The appellant argued that the respondents, being employees of the ITDAs or Micro Project agencies registered under the Societies Registration Act, cannot be classified as government servants under the Odisha Civil Services (Pension) Rules, (OCS) 1992. Furthermore, it was asserted that the communication dated May 24, 2017, did not include any provision indicating the granting of pensionary benefits to directly appointed staff of the ITDAs and Micro Projects.

On the contrary, the respondents argued, that the communication dated May 24, 2017, clearly indicated a decision to approve pensionary benefits for directly appointed retired staff. They asserted that they were appointed under the ITDA or Micro Project Agencies through a proper process, and their appointment letters were issued by the District Collector in his capacity as the ex officio Chairman of such agencies. Additionally, they contended that despite being societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, the Micro Projects are under the direct control of the District Collector and the State Government department.

The court noted that the respondents were appointed by the district collector, who served as the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Micro Projects, and highlighted that the government lacked control over the appointment or dismissal of the respondents. In support of this stance, the court referenced the precedent set in the case of Satrucharla Chandrasekhar Raju v. Vyricherla Pradeep Kumar Dev and another. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the appellant, a teacher in ITDA, did not hold a government office as he was appointed by the project officer, who possessed the authority to appoint or dismiss teachers. Despite the government's control over the appointing authority, it lacked direct control over the teachers due to the ITDA's status as a registered Society with its own governing constitution.

In reference to the Odisha Civil Services (Pension) Rules, the court noted that eligibility for pension requires a government servant's appointment, duties, and pay to be regulated either directly by the government or under government directives. The court determined that the respondents could not be classified as government employees entitled to pension benefits. Additionally, the court observed that the communication dated May 24, 2017, did not include any decision by the state government to extend pensionary benefits to directly appointed staff of ITDAs and Micro Projects. Disagreeing with the perspective adopted by the learned single judge in the order dated October 20, 2022, the court consequently overturned it.

Based on the aforementioned observations, the appeal was granted, and as a result, the writ petition was dismissed.

Case No. : W.A. No. 1179 of 2023

Case Name: State of Odisha & Ors vs Banamali Samal & Ors

Counsel for Appellants : Mr. M.K. Khuntia (Additional Government Advocate)

Counsel for Respondents : Mr. Shashi Bhusan Jena (Advocate)

 

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