WP 5870-93 of 1981
Family Pension for widows of pensioners
In 1950, in order to assist the widows and minor children of the late government employees, a family pension scheme was concieved as a socio-economic measure. The scheme was liberalized from time to time. The Government servants that subscribed to the scheme had agreed to contribute an amount equal to two months’ emoluments or Rs. 5,000 whichever is less, out of the death-cum-retirement gratuity, during his lifetime. Those who did not accept this condition were denied the benefits of the scheme. In light of the liberalisation of 1964 (implemented from January 1, 1964), there were two parallel schemes in operation. A pre-liberalisation non-contributory scheme continued to be in force for those who retired prior to 1.1.1964 or those who did not contribute out of the death-cum-retirement gratuity, and a contributory scheme. Both these schemes are incorporated in Rule 54 and 55 respectively of the Civil Services Pension Rules 1972. Further in 1977, the contributory scheme ceased to exist from September 22, 1977, continuing the disability of those who were not a part of the contributory scheme.
Common Cause, in a letter to the Ministry of Finance, raised certain points which needed clarification in this regard: -
a) Whether the orders will apply to the widow/minor son/unmarried daughter as defined in the scheme,
b) Whether the scales of pension as prescribed w.e.f. 1.1.1973 will be made uniformly applicable to all the eligible persons in the scheme, and
c) Whether the benefits of the scheme will be made available to all pensioners irrespective of whether they had or had not contributed two months’ emoluments in terms of the original scheme.
The response to the clarifications were: -
a) Governments are prepared to grant to the dependents of the pensioners governed under pre- 1964 scheme the same benefits as admissible under current pension rules,
b) Governments are agreeable to apply the increased pension rates to all the eligible persons, including dependents, subject to certain conditions, and
c) Government have agreed to the grant of arrears of family pension w.e.f. 22.9.77.
Several petitions were filed by the widows. The Supreme Court observed that pension is the fulfilment of a constitutional promise in as much as it partakes the character of public assistance in cases of unemployment, old-age, disablement or similar other cases of undeserved want. It was pointed out by the top court that any attempt at denying it to widows and dependents of Government servants would be violative of Article 14 as the family pension scheme became non-contributory only after September 22, 1977. It was held that the clarifications were unambiguous and neither will the eligible persons be asked to contribute, nor can there be demands of refund of contribution. Accordingly, the petitions and appeals were disposed of.