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Thursday, October 15, 2015

इस्तीफा देने के बाद भी नहीं रोक सकते पेंशन

     
                                                         
                                                                      REPORTABLE
                                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                                   CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                                                  CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10251 OF 2014

                                                 ASGER IBRAHIM AMIN                                .. APPELLANT
                                                                                 VERSUS

                                LIFE INSURANCE CORPORATION OF INDIA          .. RESPONDENT
                                                         J U D G M E N T
VIKRAMAJIT SEN, J.

1           The question  which  falls  for  consideration  is  whether  the
Appellant is entitled to claim pension even though he resigned from  service
of his own volition and, if so, whether his claim on this count  had  become
barred by limitation or laches.

2     The Appellant joined the services of  the  Respondent  Corporation  on
30.6.1967  on  the  post  of  Assistant  Administrative  Officer  (Chartered
Accountant) at the age of twenty seven.   He  worked  for  23  years  and  7
months in the Corporation before tendering  his  resignation  on  28.1.1991,
owing to “family circumstances and indifferent health”,   presumably  having
crossed fifty years in age.  The request of the Appellant for waiver of  the
stipulated three months notice was favourably considered by the  Corporation
vide letter dated 28.2.1991, and the Appellant was allowed  to  resign  from
the post of Deputy General Manager (Accounts), which he was holding at  that
time.  We shall again presume that the reasons that he had ascribed for  his
retirement, viz. family problems  and  failing  health,  were  found  to  be
legitimate by the Respondent, otherwise the waiver ought not  to  have  been
given.   Thereafter, the Central Government in exercise of  power  conferred
under Section 48 of the Life Insurance Corporation Act,  1956  had  notified
the  LIC  of  India  (Staff)  Regulations,  1960  and  thereafter  the  Life
Insurance Corporation of India (Employees) Pension Rules, 1995  (hereinafter
referred to as “Pension Rules”) which, though notified  on  28.6.1995,  were
given retrospective effect from 1.11.1993.       The Pension Rules  provide,
inter alia, that resignation from service would lead to  forfeiture  of  the
benefits of the entire service including eligibility for pension.

3     On 8.8.1995, that is post the promulgation by the  Respondent  of  the
Pension Rules, the Appellant enquired from the  Respondent  whether  he  was
entitled to pension under the Pension Rules, which has  been  understood  by
the Respondent as a representation for pension; the Respondent replied  that
the request of the Appellant cannot be acceded to. The  Appellant  took  the
matter no further but has averred that in 2000, prompted by news in a  Daily
and Judgments of a High Court and a Tribunal, he  requested  the  Respondent
to reconsider his case for pension.   This request has remained  unanswered.
It was in 2011 that he sent a legal notice to the Respondent,  in  response
to which the Respondent reiterated its  stand  that  the  Appellant,  having
resigned from service, was not eligible to claim pension under  the  Pension
Rules. Eventually, the  Appellant  filed  a  Special  Civil  Application  on
29.3.2012 before the High Court, which was dismissed  by  the  Single  Judge
vide  Judgment  dated  5.10.2012.    The  LPA  of  the  Appellant  also  got
dismissed on the grounds of the delay of almost 14 years, as also on  merits
vide Judgment dated 1.3.2013, against which  the  Appellant  has  approached
this Court.

4       As regards the issue of delay in matters  pertaining  to  claims  of
pension, it has already been opined by this  Court  in  Union  of  India  v.
Tarsem Singh, (2008) 8 SCC 648 that in cases  of  continuing  or  successive
wrongs, delay and laches or limitation will not thwart the claim so long  as
the claim, if allowed, does  not  have  any  adverse  repercussions  on  the
settled third-party rights. This Court held:

7. To summarise, normally, a belated service related claim will be  rejected
on the ground of delay and laches (where remedy is sought by filing  a  writ
petition) or limitation (where remedy is sought by  an  application  to  the
Administrative Tribunal). One of the exceptions to the said  rule  is  cases
relating to a continuing wrong. Where a service related claim is based on  a
continuing wrong, relief can be granted even if there is  a  long  delay  in
seeking remedy, with reference to the date on  which  the  continuing  wrong
commenced, if such continuing wrong creates a continuing source  of  injury.
But there is an exception to the exception. If the grievance is  in  respect
of any order  or  administrative  decision  which  related  to  or  affected
several others also, and if the reopening of  the  issue  would  affect  the
settled rights of third parties, then the claim  will  not  be  entertained.
For example, if the issue  relates  to  payment  or  refixation  of  pay  or
pension, relief may be granted in spite of delay as it does not  affect  the
rights of third parties. But  if  the  claim  involved  issues  relating  to
seniority or promotion, etc.,  affecting  others,  delay  would  render  the
claim stale and doctrine of laches/limitation will be  applied.  Insofar  as
the consequential relief of  recovery  of  arrears  for  a  past  period  is
concerned, the  principles  relating  to  recurring/successive  wrongs  will
apply. As a consequence, the High Courts  will  restrict  the  consequential
relief relating to arrears normally to a period of three years prior to  the
date of filing of the writ petition.

                                                          (emphasis is ours)

We respectfully concur with these  observations  which  if  extrapolated  or
applied to the factual matrix of the present case would have the  effect  of
restricting the claim for pension,  if  otherwise  sustainable  in  law,  to
three years previous to when it  was  raised  in  a  judicial  forum.   Such
claims recur month  to  month  and  would  not  stand  extinguished  on  the
application of the laws of prescription, merely  because  the  legal  remedy
pertaining to the time barred part of it has become unavailable.    This  is
too  well  entrenched  in   our   jurisprudence,   foreclosing   any   fresh
consideration.

5       The second issue which confronts us is whether  the  termination  of
service of the Appellant remains unalterably in the nature  of  resignation,
with  the  consequence   of   disentitling   him   from   availing   of   or
migrating/mutating the pension scheme or whether it instead be viewed  as  a
voluntary retirement or whether it requires to be regarded so  in  order  to
bestow this benefit on the Appellant; who had ‘resigned’ after reaching  the
age of fifty and after serving the LIC for over twenty  three  years.    The
Appellant resigned from service under Regulation 18 of LIC of India  (Staff)
Regulations, 1960, which along with the other  provisions  of  relevance  is
reproduced for facility of reference -

                                                                         SECTION 3 –

TERMINATION

Determination of Service:

18. (1) An employee, other than an employee  on  probation  or  an  employee
appointed on a temporary basis, shall not leave or discontinue  his  service
in the Corporation without first giving notice in writing to  the  competent
authority of his intention to leave or discontinue the service.  The  period
of notice required shall be-

(a) three months in the case of an employee belonging to Class I;

(b) one month in the case of other employees.

Provided that such notice may be waived in part or in full by the  competent
authority at its discretion. In  case  of  breach  by  an  employee  of  the
provisions of the sub-regulation, he shall be liable to pay the  Corporation
as compensation a sum equal to his salary for the period of notice  required
of him, which sum may be deducted from any moneys due to him.

Superannuation and Retirement:

19(1)  xx

    (2) An employee belonging to Class  I  or  Class  II  appointed  to  the
service of the Corporation on or after 1st September,1956, shall  retire  on
completion of 60 years of age, but the competent authority may, if it is  of
the opinion that it is in the interest of the Corporation to do  so,  direct
such employee to retire on completion of 50 years of  age  or  at  any  time
thereafter on giving him three months’ notice or salary in lieu thereof.
The following Regulations, on which learned Senior Counsel for the  LIC  has
placed reliance, came to be introduced  on  16.2.1996,  that  is  after  the
Appellant had ‘resigned’ from service.  We have called for and perused  this
Notification, and as we expected,  these  provisions  apply  retrospectively
with effect from 1.11.1993.  These Regulations ordain, inter alia,  that  an
employee may be permitted to retire (a) on completion of the age of  55  and
(b) after completing 25 years in service.  In other words,  the  Corporation
has the power to compulsory retire an employee who has attained the  age  of
50 years if in its  opinion  such  decision  is  in  the  interests  of  the
Corporation; and the employee may seek permission to retire upon  completion
of 55 years of age and after rendering  25  years  of  service.   This  very
position finds reiteration in  Rule  31  of  the  Pension  Rules  under  the
epithet  ‘voluntary  retirement’,  which  pandect  appears  to   have   been
available from the inception i.e. 1.11.1993.

(2A)  (a)  Notwithstanding what is stated in sub-rules (1)  and  (2)  above,
an employee may be permitted to retire at any time on completion of the  age
55 after giving three months notice in writing to the appointing  authority
of his intention to retire.

(b) (i) Notwithstanding the provisions of Clause (a), an  employee  governed
by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (Employees)  Pension  Rules  1995
may be permitted to retire at any time after he has completed  twenty  years
of qualifying service, by giving notice of not  less  than  ninety  days  in
writing to the appointing authority.

Provided that this sub-clause shall not apply  to  an  employee  who  is  on
deputation unless after  having  been  transferred  or  having  returned  to
India, he has resumed charge on the post in  India  and  has  served  for  a
period of not less than one year.

      Provided further that this sub-clause shall not apply to  an  employee
who seeks retirement from service  for  being  absorbed  permanently  in  an
autonomous body or a public sector undertaking to which he is on  deputation
at the time of seeking voluntary retirement.

(ii) The notice of  voluntary  retirement  given  under  sub-clause  (i)  of
clause (b) shall require acceptance by the appointing authority.

       Provided that where the  appointing  authority  does  not  refuse  to
grant the  permission  for  retirement  before  the  expiry  of  the  period
specified in the said notice, the retirement  shall  become  effective  from
the date of expiry of the said period.”

6     As we have already recounted, the Appellant received a waiver  of  the
requirement  of  giving  three  months  prior  notice  of  his  resolve   to
“discontinue his service in the Corporation”, bestowing  legitimacy  to  the
reasons that compelled him to do so.  It also brings to the  fore  that  the
1960 Staff  Regulations did not provide for voluntary retirement or  VRS  as
has become commonplace today.   This Court  has  clarified  and  highlighted
that ‘resignation’ and ‘retirement’ have  disparate  connotations;  that  an
employee can ‘resign’ at any time but, in  contradistinction,  can  ‘retire’
only on completion of the prescribed period of  qualifying  service  and  in
consonance with extant Rules and Regulations.

7     We shall now consider the Pension Rules of 1995.    Rule 3 of  Chapter
II thereof, provides that the Rules are  applicable  to  employees  (1)  who
were in the service of the Corporation on or after 1.1.1986 and had  retired
before 1.11. 1993   i.e.  the  notified  date,  or  (2)  who  retired  after
1.11.1993; or (3)who were in  the  service  before  the  notified  date  and
continued to be in service on or after the notified date; or  (4)  who  were
in the service on or after 1.1.1986 but had retired on  or  after  1.11.1993
and before the notified date.  What is discernible from these dates is  that
the Pension Rules of 1995 have included two classes  of  beneficiaries  into
one homogenous class, to wit, the  employees  who  had  retired  before  the
notified date and those who were to retire after the notified date.  In  our
opinion, the advantage of these beneficent Rules should be extended even  to
the Appellant who was similarly placed as the retirees mentioned in  Rule  3
but for the fact that he had ‘resigned’  rather  than  retired.     The  two
provisions  caught  in  the  crossfire  are   Rule   2(s),   which   defines
“retirement” and Rule 23, which deals with the “forfeiture of service”:
2(s) “retirement” means,- (i) retirement in accordance with  the  provisions
contained in sub-regulation (1) or sub-regulation (2) or sub-regulation  (3)
of regulation  19  of  the  Life  Insurance  Corporation  of  India  (Staff)
Regulations, 1960 and rule 14 of the Life  Insurance  Corporation  of  India
Class III and Class IV  Employees  (Revision  of  Terms  and  Conditions  of
Service) Rules, 1985 made under the Act;

(ii) voluntary retirement in accordance with  the  provisions  contained  in
rule 31 of these rules.            (emphasis added)

23.  Forfeiture  of  service  -  Resignation  or  dismissal  or  removal  or
termination or compulsory retirement of an employee from the service of  the
Corporation  shall  entail  forfeiture  of  his  entire  past  service   and
consequently shall not qualify for pensionary benefits.

Voluntary retirement, noted in the sub-Rule (ii)  of  Rule  2(s),  has  been
defined in Rule 31, and it reads as follows:

31. Pension on voluntary retirement - (1) At any time after an employee  has
completed twenty years of qualifying service he may,  by  giving  notice  of
not less than ninety days, in writing, to the appointing  authority,  retire
from service:

Provided that this sub-rule shall  not  apply  to  an  employee  who  is  on
deputation unless after having been transferred or having returned to  India
he has resumed charge of the post in India and has served for  a  period  of
not less than one year:

Provided further that this sub-rule shall  not  apply  to  an  employee  who
seeks  retirement  from  service  for  being  absorbed  permanently  in   an
autonomous body or a public sector undertaking to which he is on  deputation
at the time of seeking voluntary retirement.

(2) The notice of  voluntary  retirement  given  under  sub-rule  (1)  shall
require acceptance by the appointing authority:

Provided that where the appointing authority does not refuse  to  grant  the
permission for retirement before the expiry of the period specified  in  the
said notice, the retirement shall become effective from the date  of  expiry
of the said period.

(3) (a) An employee referred to in  sub-rule  (1)  may  make  a  request  in
writing  to  the  appointing  authority  to  accept  notice   of   voluntary
retirement of less than ninety days giving reasons therefor;

(b) on receipt of a request under clause(a), the appointing  authority  may,
subject to the provisions of sub-rule (2), consider  such  request  for  the
curtailment of the period of notice of ninety days on merits and  if  it  is
satisfied that the curtailment of the period of notice will  not  cause  any
administrative  inconvenience,  the  appointing  authority  may  relax   the
requirement of notice of ninety days on  the  condition  that  the  employee
shall not apply for commutation of a part of his pension before  the  expiry
of the notice of ninety days.

(4) An employee, who has elected to retire under this  rule  and  has  given
necessary notice to that  effect  to  the  appointing  authority,  shall  be
precluded from withdrawing his notice except with the specific  approval  of
such authority:

Provided that the request for such  withdrawal  shall  be  made  before  the
intended date of his retirement.

(5) The qualifying service of an employee retiring  voluntarily  under  this
rule shall be increased by a period not exceeding  five  years,  subject  to
the condition that the total qualifying service rendered  by  such  employee
shall not in any case exceed thirty-three years and it  does  not  take  him
beyond the date of retirement.

(6) The pension of an employee retiring under this rule shall  be  based  on
the average emoluments as defined under clause(d) of rule 2 of  these  rules
and the increase, not exceeding five years in his qualifying service,  shall
not entitle him  to  any  notional  fixation  of  pay  for  the  purpose  of
calculating his pension.

It seems obvious to us that the Appellant’s case does not  fall  within  the
postulation of Rule 23 as the last four categories or  genres  or  types  of
cessation of services are in character punitive;  and  the  first  envisages
those resignations where the right to pension has not been  earned  by  that
time or where it is without the permission of the Corporation.

8        The  Respondent  Corporation  has  vehemently   argued   that   the
termination of services is under Regulation 18 (supra) of  the  LIC  (Staff)
Regulations, 1960  and  is  not  covered  by  the  Pension  Rules  of  1995.
Respondent Corporation has controverted the plea of the  Appellant  that  at
the relevant date and time, viz. 28.1.1991 there was no alternative for  him
except to tender his resignation,  pointing  out  that  he  could  not  have
sought voluntary  retirement  under  Regulation  19(2A)  of   LIC  of  India
(Staff) Regulations, 1960.    If that be so, the Respondent  being  a  model
employer could and should have extended the advantage of  these  Regulations
to the Appellant thereby safeguarding his  pension  entitlement.    However,
we find no substance in the argument  of  the  Respondent  since  Regulation
19(2A) was, in fact, notified in the Gazette of India on 16.2.1996, that  is
after the pension scheme came into existence  with  effect  from  1.11.1993.
  Otherwise there would have been no conceivable reason  for  the  Appellant
not to have taken advantage of this provision  which  would  have  protected
his pensionary rights.

9     We also record that  the  provisions  covered  by  the  definition  of
“retirement”, which do not entail forfeiture of service, are  sub-regulation
(1), sub-regulation (2), and sub-regulation (3)  of  Regulation  19  of  the
Life Insurance Corporation of India (Staff) Regulations, 1960  and  Rule  14
of the Life Insurance Corporation of India Class III and Class IV  Employees
(Revision of Terms and Conditions of Service) Rules,  1985.  None  of  these
provisions provides for voluntary retirement like Rule  31  of  the  Pension
Rules  nor  does  the  definition  of  “retirement”  make  any  mention   of
aforementioned Regulation 19(2A).

10       The facts of the case disclose that the Appellant  has  worked  for
over twenty years and had tendered his resignation in  accordance  with  the
provision of Regulation 18  of  LIC  of  India  (Staff)  Regulations,  1960,
which, as is apparent from its reading, does  not  dissimulate  between  the
termination of service by way of resignation on the one hand  and  voluntary
retirement  on   the   other,   or   distinguish   one   from   the   other.
Significantly, there was  no  provision  for  voluntary  retirement  at  the
relevant time, and it was for this reason that the  Pension  Rules  of  1995
specifically provided for it under Rule 31. In this backdrop  of  facts,  we
need not dwell much on the issue because the case of Sheelkumar Jain v.  New
India Assurance Co. Ltd., (2011) 12 SCC 197 is on all fours of this case.

11    In Sheelkumar,  the  Appellant  resigned  from  the  services  of  the
Respondent Company after serving  for  over  20  years  on  16.12.1991.  His
resignation was offered and granted under  Clause  5  of  General  Insurance
(Termination, Superannuation and  Retirement  of  Officers  and  Development
Staff) Scheme, 1976. Thereafter, the Central Government  formulated  General
Insurance (Employees') Pension Scheme, 1995 with retrospective  effect  from
1.11.1993. Sheelkumar applied for  pension  under  this  Scheme,  which  was
declined  on  the  ground  that  resignation  from  service   would   entail
forfeiture of service under Clause 22 of the General Insurance  (Employees')
Pension Scheme, 1995. The Appellant moved the  High  Court  challenging  the
rejection of his claim. His writ petition as well as  the  writ  appeal  was
dismissed by the High Court.   The Appellant then moved this Court,  whereby
we noted that Clause 5 of the Scheme of 1976  did  not  mention  resignation
nor was the Appellant made aware of the distinction between resignation  and
voluntary retirement; that this distinction was a  product  of  the  General
Insurance (Employees’) Pension Scheme of 1995.   This Court observed:

20. Sub-para (1) of Para 5 does not state that the  termination  of  service
pursuant to the notice given by an officer or a person  of  the  Development
Staff to leave or discontinue his service amounts to “resignation” nor  does
it state that such termination of service of an officer or a person  of  the
Development Staff on his serving notice in writing to leave  or  discontinue
in service amounts to “voluntary retirement”. Sub-para (1) of  Para  5  does
not  also  make  a  distinction   between   “resignation”   and   “voluntary
retirement” and it only provides that an employee  who  wants  to  leave  or
discontinue his service has to  serve  a  notice  of  three  months  to  the
appointing authority.

21. We also notice that sub-para (1) of Para 5 does  not  require  that  the
appointing authority must accept the request of an officer or  a  person  of
the Development Staff to leave or discontinue his service but in  the  facts
of the present case, the request of the appellant to relieve  him  from  his
service after three months’ notice was accepted by the  competent  authority
and such acceptance was conveyed by  the  letter  dated  28-10-1991  of  the
Assistant Administrative Officer, Indore.

23. The 1995 Pension Scheme was framed and notified only  in  1995  and  yet
the 1995 Pension Scheme was made applicable also to employees who  had  left
the services of Respondent 1 Company before 1995. Paras 22  and  30  of  the
1995 Pension Scheme quoted above were not in existence  when  the  appellant
submitted his letter dated 16-9-1991 to the General Manager of Respondent  1
Company. Hence, when the appellant served his letter dated 16-9-1991 to  the
General Manager of  Respondent  1  Company,  he  had  no  knowledge  of  the
difference between “resignation” under Para 22  and  “voluntary  retirement”
under Para 30 of the 1995 Pension Scheme. Similarly,  Respondent  1  Company
employer had no  knowledge  of  the  difference  between  “resignation”  and
“voluntary retirement” under Paras 22 and 30 of  the  1995  Pension  Scheme,
respectively.

24. Both the appellant and Respondent 1 have acted in  accordance  with  the
provisions of sub-para (1) of Para 5 of the  1976  Scheme  at  the  time  of
termination of service of the appellant in the year  1991.  It  is  in  this
background that we have now to decide whether the termination of service  of
the appellant under sub-para (1) of Para 5 of the  1976  Scheme  amounts  to
resignation in terms of Para 22 of the 1995 Pension  Scheme  or  amounts  to
voluntary retirement in terms of Para 30 of the 1995 Pension Scheme.

25. Para 22 of the 1995 Pension Scheme states that  the  resignation  of  an
employee from the service of the  corporation  or  a  company  shall  entail
forfeiture of his entire past service and consequently he shall not  qualify
for pensionary benefits, but does not define the term  “resignation”.  Under
sub-para (1) of Para 30 of the 1995 Pension Scheme,  an  employee,  who  has
completed 20 years of qualifying service, may by giving notice of  not  less
than 90 days in writing to the appointing authority retire from service  and
under sub-para (2) of Para 30 of the 1995  Pension  Scheme,  the  notice  of
voluntary retirement shall require acceptance by the  appointing  authority.
Since  “voluntary  retirement”  unlike   “resignation”   does   not   entail
forfeiture of past services and instead qualifies for pension,  an  employee
to whom Para 30 of the 1995 Pension Scheme applies cannot be  said  to  have
“resigned” from service.

26. In the facts of the  present  case,  we  find  that  the  appellant  had
completed 20 years of qualifying service and had given notice  of  not  less
than 90 days in writing to the appointing  authority  of  his  intention  to
leave the service and the appointing authority had accepted  notice  of  the
appellant and relieved him from service. Hence, Para 30 of the 1995  Pension
Scheme applied to the appellant even though in his  letter  dated  16-9-1991
to the General Manager  of  Respondent  1  Company  he  had  used  the  word
“resign”.

12       What is unmistakably evident in  the  case  at  hand  is  that  the
Appellant had worked continuously for over  20  years,  that  he  sought  to
discontinue his services and requested waiver  of  three  months  notice  in
writing,  and  that  the  said  notice  was  accepted  by   the   Respondent
Corporation and  the  Appellant  was  thereby  allowed  to  discontinue  his
services. If one would examine Rule 31 of the Pension Rules juxtaposed  with
the aforementioned facts, it would at once be  obvious and perceptible  that
the essential components of that Rule stand substantially fulfilled  in  the
present case.   In Sheelkumar, this Court was alive to the factum that  each
case calls for scrutiny on its own merits, but  that  such  scrutiny  should
not be detached from the purpose and objective  of  the  concerned  statute.
It thus observed:

30. The aforesaid authorities  would  show  that  the  court  will  have  to
construe the statutory provisions in each  case  to  find  out  whether  the
termination  of  service  of  an  employee  was  a  termination  by  way  of
resignation or a termination  by  way  of  voluntary  retirement  and  while
construing the statutory provisions, the court will have  to  keep  in  mind
the purposes of the statutory provisions.

31. The general purpose of the 1995 Pension Scheme, read as a whole,  is  to
grant pensionary benefits to employees, who  had  rendered  service  in  the
insurance companies and had retired after putting in the qualifying  service
in the insurance companies. Paras 22 and  30  of  the  1995  Pension  Scheme
cannot be so construed so as to deprive  of  an  employee  of  an  insurance
company, such as the appellant, who had put in the  qualifying  service  for
pension and who had voluntarily given up his service after serving 90  days’
notice in accordance with sub-para (1) of Para 5  of  the  1976  Scheme  and
after his notice was accepted by the appointing authority.

13        The Appellant ought not to be deprived of pension benefits  merely
because he styled his termination of services as  “resignation”  or  because
there was no provision to retire voluntarily at that time.  The  commendable
objective of the Pension Rule is to extend benefits to a class of people  to
tide over the crisis and vicissitudes of old age,  and  if  there  are  some
inconsistencies between the statutory provisions and  the  avowed  objective
of the statute so as to discriminate between the  beneficiaries  within  the
class, the end of justice obligates us to palliate the  differences  between
the two and reconcile them as far as possible.  We would be failing  in  our
duty, if we go by the letter and not by the laudatory  spirit  of  statutory
provisions and the fundamental rights guaranteed under  Article  14  of  the
Constitution of India.

14      Reserve Bank of India v. Cecil Dennis  Solomon,  (2004)  9  SCC  461
relied upon by  the  Respondent,  although  distinguishable  on  facts,  has
ventured to distinguish “voluntary retirement”  from  “resignation”  in  the
following terms:

10. In service jurisprudence, the expressions  “superannuation”,  “voluntary
retirement”, “compulsory  retirement”  and  “resignation”  convey  different
connotations. Voluntary retirement and resignation  involve  voluntary  acts
on the part of the employee to leave service. Though both involve  voluntary
acts, they operate differently. One of the basic  distinctions  is  that  in
case of resignation it can be tendered at any  time,  but  in  the  case  of
voluntary retirement, it can only be sought for after  rendering  prescribed
period of qualifying service. Other fundamental distinction is that in  case
of the former, normally retiral benefits are  denied  but  in  case  of  the
latter, the same is not denied. In case of the former, permission or  notice
is not mandated, while in case of the latter,  permission  of  the  employer
concerned is a  requisite  condition.  Though  resignation  is  a  bilateral
concept, and becomes effective on acceptance  by  the  competent  authority,
yet the  general  rule  can  be  displaced  by  express  provisions  to  the
contrary. In Punjab National Bank v. P.K. Mittal (1989 Supp (2) SCC 175)  on
interpretation of Regulation 20(2) of the Punjab National Bank  Regulations,
it was held that resignation would automatically take effect from  the  date
specified in the notice as there was no  provision  for  any  acceptance  or
rejection of the resignation by the employer. In Union  of  India  v.  Gopal
Chandra Misra ((1978) 2 SCC 301) it was held in the case of a judge  of  the
High Court having regard to Article 217 of the Constitution that  he  has  a
unilateral right or privilege to  resign  his  office  and  his  resignation
becomes effective from the date which he, of his own volition, chooses.  But
where there is a  provision  empowering  the  employer  not  to  accept  the
resignation,  on  certain  circumstances  e.g.  pendency   of   disciplinary
proceedings, the employer can exercise the power.

                                                          (emphasis is ours)

The legal position deducible from the above observations  further  amplifies
that  the  so-called  resignation  tendered  by  the  Appellant  was   after
satisfactorily serving the period  of  20  years  ordinarily  qualifying  or
enabling voluntary retirement.  Furthermore, while there was  no  compulsion
to do so, a waiver of the three months notice  period  was  granted  by  the
Respondent Corporation.   The State being a model employer  should  construe
the provisions of a  beneficial  legislation  in  a  way  that  extends  the
benefit to its employees, instead of curtailing it.

15       The cases of Shyam Babu Verma v. Union of India, (1994) 2 SCC  521;
State of M.P. v. Yogendra Shrivastava, (2010) 12 SCC 538; M.R. Prabhakar  v.
Canara Bank, (2012) 9 SCC 671; National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Kirpal  Singh,
(2014) 5 SCC 189; UCO Bank v. Sanwar Mal, (2004) 4 SCC 412  relied  upon  by
the parties are distinguishable on facts from the present case.

16    We thus hold that the termination of services  of  the  Appellant,  in
essence, was voluntary retirement  within  the  ambit  of  Rule  31  of  the
Pension Rules of 1995.  The Appellant is entitled for pension,  provided  he
fulfils  the  condition  of  refunding  of  the   entire   amount   of   the
Corporation’s  contribution  to  the  Provident  Fund  along  with  interest
accrued thereon as provided in the Pension Rules of  1995.  Considering  the
huge delay, not explained by proper reasons, on part  of  the  Appellant  in
approaching the Court, we limit the benefits of arrears of  pension  payable
to the Appellant to three years preceding the date  of  the  petition  filed
before the High Court. These arrears  of  pension  should  be  paid  to  the
Appellant in one instalment within four weeks from the  date  of  refund  of
the entire amount payable by the Appellant  in  accordance  of  the  Pension
Rules of 1995.  In the alternative, the Appellant may opt to get the  amount
of refund adjusted against the arrears of pension.   In the latter case,  if
the amount of arrear is more than the amount of refund  required,  then  the
remaining amount shall be paid within  two  weeks  from  the  date  of  such
request made by the Appellant.  However, if the amount of  arrears  is  less
than the amount of refund required, then the pension  shall  be  payable  on
monthly basis after the date on which  the  amount  of  refund  is  entirely
adjusted.

17    The impugned Judgments of the High Court are set aside and the  Appeal
stands allowed in the terms  above.    However,  parties  shall  bear  their
respective costs.

J VIKRAMAJIT SEN
J ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE

New Delhi,
October 12, 2015.

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