Read Order: Gurmit Singh v. State of Punjab and Others
New Delhi, April 4, 2021: Unlike the legal position prevalent before the year 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a person employed in government service can take voluntary retirement after serving in the concerned government department for 15 years.
The Bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur held that after the issuance of a notification by the Government in September of 2014 lowering the age of voluntary retirement to 15 years, the provisions of Rule 3 of the Punjab Civil Services (Premature Retirement Rules) 1975 stood amended.
“Therefore, a bare reading of the rule would show that an employee who has completed fifteen years of qualifying service, he may, by giving notice of not less than three months in writing to the appropriate authority, retire from service,” asserted the bench.
The Court was dealing with two petitions having the same issues, the facts of one of which were such that the petitioner was appointed as a constable in 2000, and in 2015 owing to his domestic circumstances, he applied for taking voluntary retirement. He served a notice period of three months, however, his request for processing his application expeditiously was not accepted as the question of whether voluntary retirement could be sought after 15 years of service arose.
Ultimately, the petitioner’s request for premature retirement was accepted with effect from April 20, 2016, and General Provident Fund was ordered to be released to the tune of ₹ 3,86,169/-. However, the office of the Accountant General informed that they are unable to process the pension case of the petitioner because the minimum qualification service for voluntary retirement is 20 years of service, whereas the petitioner served for 15 years 4 months and 8 days.
Aggrieved against the rejection of his request for voluntary retirement, the petitioner approached the High Court.
The case advanced by the petitioners’ counsel was that the Government notification (dated September 05, 2014) lowering the age of voluntary retirement to 15 years wasnot taken into account at the time when the petitioners’ request for voluntary retirement was considered.
Per Contra, the Counsel for the respondent-State argued that there was no infirmity with the orders passed.
After considering rival submissions, the Court opined outrightly that the Second Respondent while deciding the issue of the petitioner, failed to take into account the fact that Rule 3 of the Punjab Civil Services (Premature Retirement Rules) 1975 stood amended as of September 5, 2014 (when the aforesaid notification was issued).
Rule 3 deals with Premature retirement, whereas sub-rule (3) (a) deals with voluntary retirement. After 2014, this rule was amended and in Sub-rule (3) at Clause (a) the word ‘Twenty Five years’ was substituted to “fifteen years or twenty years or twenty five years or thirty years or thirty five years, as the case may be”.
Therefore, from a bare reading of the rule, the Court opined that an employee who completed fifteen years of qualifying service, may, by giving notice of not less than three months in writing to the appropriate authority, retire from service.
The Court also noted that the third respondent also recommended the acceptance of the voluntary retirement request of the petitioner based on the amended rules, which recommendation ought to have been accepted.
Also, in the second petition an additional plea to the effect that if the department concerned fails to respond/refuses to grant permission to retire within three months, the retirement becomes effective from the date of expiry of the three month notice period, was made.
Finding merit in this argument, the Court opined that there would be deemed acceptance by the authorities concerned (of the request for taking voluntary retirement) in case there is no refusal to accept the letter of voluntary resignation.
Consequently, it was held that the petitioners would be deemed to have retired voluntarily from three months of their date of notice and would be entitled to their pension, gratuity, leave encashment and all other retrial benefits in a time-bound manner, along with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum. The Court also directed the release of the payments within the aforesaid period, failing which the Court held that interest would be @ 12% per annum.
Thus, these writ petitions were allowed and the impugned orders were set aside.