Read Order: Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, June 20, 2022: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently held that the charge-sheet issued against the petitioner by the respondent-department, after a delay of about two and a half years of his retirement, on account of allegations of embezzlement of wheat could not have been made a ground for withholding the pensionary benefits of the petitioner by the respondents. 

The Bench of Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi came to the above-mentioned conclusion while placing reliance on High Court’s earlier decision wherein it was held that an employee who has not been released the pensionary benefits within a period of two months from superannuation, in case there is no impediment, becomes entitled for the grant of interest for the delay in releasing of the pensionary benefits. 

The Court was approached by the petitioner with a prayer seeking quashing of a charge-sheet filed against him, but since the same was dropped by the respondents, the Court was addressed by the petitioner on the limited prayer for the grant of interest on the delayed release of pensionary benefits to him by the respondents.

Essentially, the facts are such that the  petitioner retired from the services of the respondent-Department on October 31, 2012, but his pensionary benefits were not released in his favour without any valid justification.

After such retirement, a charge-sheet was issued against the petitioner by the respondent- Department in March 2017, which was made a ground to justify the action of withholding of the pensionary benefits of. Later, the pensionary benefits were released to the petitioner starting from the year 2015 till 2021. 

Thus, in light of the above, the Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the act of withholding of the pension benefits in favour of the petitioner was not justified; against the settled position of law and hence the petitioner was entitled for the grant of interest on the said delayed release of pensionary benefits to him by the respondents.

On the other hand, the State Counsel argued that the petitioner was charge-sheeted on account of the allegations of embezzlement of wheat, due to which fact, the pensionary benefits of the petitioner were withheld by the respondents. The Counsel added that it was within the jurisdiction of the respondents, hence the claim of the petitioner for the grant of interest on the said delayed release of pensionary benefits to him should be declined.

After hearing the parties, the Court noted that in 2012, the petitioner took retirement and during that time no charge-sheet was pending against him. Furthermore, the Bench observed that the service of the petitioner was extended for two year, during which period also, there were no proceedings pending against him, so as to give jurisdiction to the respondents to withhold his pensionary benefits.

Thus, while observing that the said charge-sheet was issued against the petitioner almost after two and a half years from the date of his retirement, Justice ___ held that the charge-sheet could not have been made a ground for withholding the pensionary benefits of the petitioner by the respondents keeping in view the settled principle of law laid down by the Full Bench of the High Court in “A.S. Randhawa Vs. State of Punjab and others”, 1997(3) SCT 468, according to which, an employee who has not been released the pensionary benefits within a period of two months from superannuation, in case there is no impediment, becomes entitled for the grant of interest for the delay in releasing of the pensionary benefits. 

Similarly, in the present case present case, it was noted that the relevant date to ascertain whether there was any impediment in releasing the pensionary benefits of the petitioner or not was October 2014, on which date concededly, there were no proceedings pending against the petitioner, so as to give jurisdiction to the respondents to withhold his pensionary benefits.

Even otherwise, since the charge-sheet was already dropped by the respondents, even on the said ground, the Court held that the pensionary benefits of the petitioner could not have been withheld by the respondents.

Against this backdrop, the Court allowed the prayer of the petitioner while holding that as the said pensionary benefits of the petitioner were released to him by the respondents after an inordinate delay attributable upon the respondents only, hence the petitioner has made out a case for the grant of interest on the said delayed release of pensionary benefits to him by the respondents.

Keeping in view the above, the present petition was allowed and the petitioner was held entitled for the grant of interest on the delayed release of pensionary benefits to him by the respondents at the rate of 6% per annum from the date the said amount became due till the date of actual payment of the same to the petitioner.

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