Pension a fundamental right, cannot be deducted without authority of law: Bombay HC

    Pension constitutes a fundamental right and deprivation of even a part of it cannot be accepted, except in accordance with the authority of law, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

    The bench of justice Ravi Deshpande and justice NB Suryawanshi was hearing a petition filed by Naini Gopal, a Nagpur resident who retired as an assistant foreman from Ordnance Factory, Bhandara in October 1994. The petitioner complaining of action by the Centralised Pension Processing Centre of the State Bank of India in recovering an amount of Rs 369,035 from his pension by deducting it in monthly instalments of Rs 11,400.

    The High Court imposed a cost of Rs.50,000 on State Bank of India for deducting more than Rs.3 lakh from 85 year old pensioner Naini Gopal’s account after the bank concluded that an amount of Rs. 872 per month was erroneously paid in excess to the petitioner from October 2007 due to technical error in the system.

    The court rejected the argument after noticing that the bank failed to demonstrate the technical mistake. The judges held that there was no good reason to deduct the amount from the petitioner’s pension, after the Ordnance Factory pointed that there was no error in fixing the the 85 year old’s pension. The bench struck down the action of the bank observing that it cannot fix pension payable to retired employees.

    “Pension payable to employees upon superannuation is ‘property’ under Article 300-A of the Constitution of India and it constitutes a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The deprivation, even a part of this amount, cannot be accepted, except in accordance with and authority of law,” said the bench.

    The bench remarked,”bank is a trustee of its account holders like the petitioner, and has no authority in the eyes of law to dispute the amount of pension payable to an employee, other than those in its own employment”.

    “We, therefore, hold that the action of the bank to reduce the pension of the petitioner is unauthorised and illegal,” the bench said, and directed the bank to stop the recovery and credit the amount recovered so far to the pension account of the petitioner.