Tuesday, September 08, 2015

M.Sreenivasa Murty

Hon’ble Supreme Court asserts in favour of LIC Pensioners.

It took exactly four months (7 May to 7 Sept) for LIC to pay the
price for its sheer intransigence towards the Apex Court’s directions.

In my view, more than the content of the latest Order in the IA filed on behalf of the Chandigarh Petitioners, the Hon'ble Supreme Court delivered a loud and clear message to the higher management of the Corporation, not to ‘play’ with the Judiciary. That it cannot shirk its responsibility under the protective advice/cover of its Legal Department or that of the Standing Counsel is obvious. 

Recalling the interim directions passed on 7 May 2015 and the context, it was an Order passed to make some payment in Six Weeks. There were a number of other provisos and complicated riders which are certainly vague. 

What did LIC do? When I met the MD in the presence of ED (Per) & ED (OS) on June 5, 2015, she categorically told me that they will of course go by the advice of the Sr. Counsel AND act after consulting the Department of Financial Services (MoF - Insurance Division). By the time Mr Sridharan called on the MD, the decision changed - DFS was not consulted. Perhaps the Sr. Counsel might have advised 'No need to consult anybody, do as we advise'.

On the six weeks’ time limit, Counsel would have said, 'don't worry' we will take care of it'. Otherwise, how else can one explain why LIC did not seek extension of time, did not even INITIATE any action within six weeks, let alone making payment? It means LIC doesn't care for SC Orders. Either due to its arrogance of power or over-reliance on the Counsel's advice or perhaps both. 

Continuing my consistent analysis of the 7 May Order, LIC should have approached the SC before summer vacation or the Vacation Court soon thereafter and should have sought extension of time beyond six weeks citing the sheer volume of the task. It would have certainly got additional time. But LIC either did not want to seek time or advised against it, most probably the latter. Of course LIC could not have got extension of time behind our back and once we are there to oppose the plea, we would have certainly raised the other issues like 20% of what, pay to whom etc., LIC could have still emerged unhurt but it acted mean, unbecoming of a Corporate giant, for fear of facing a clearer Order leading to have to cough up a few crore-rupees more.  LIC had the short-lived pleasure of doing what it wanted to, the way it wanted to. But it received a beating on 20 July in Chandigarh when its Application for withdrawal of 20% from the money deposited in the HC was dismissed on our objection. 

We had some chance of getting a favorable Order on 28 July at Chandigarh in the Contempt matter there. An Order that the Judgement included Up-gradation also, naturally subject to final decision by the SC. But it didn't happen because the Panchkula Unit of AIRIEF being its poor cousin, could not afford the services of a Sr Counsel.  I was lucky and my stature and arguments before the HC were just good enough to stop withdrawal of the amount and later to avert imminent dismissal of the contempt proceedings for which the Sr Counsel of LIC made valiant efforts. 

That the Chandigarh HC dismissed LIC's plea for withdrawal of 20% from the deposit made was a great opportunity and a legally valuable platform for us to knock at the doors of SC again to highlight the intransigence of LIC in not honouring the 7 May Order. We accordingly filed the IA. There was a three or four days of avoidable delay despite my best efforts. I was keen to have it posted for hearing by the SC BEFORE any payment is made either in Jaipur or in Delhi. I requested Mr Krishna Murari Lal Asthana if he would like to oppose the LIC's application for withdrawal. He declined and even welcomed LIC’s move stating that withdrawal has nothing to do with payment. 

Delhi payment became another story by itself. LIC's modus in prescribing the eligibility conditions to qualify for the 'two rupee payment' was the most outrageous move by LIC. It wanted a list of names which has no legal basis. That GNS embraced the offer with open arms is again our misfortune. Doesn't it all smack of a collusive cooperation? 

In this scary background with the solid support of the Panchkula Team, I persuaded Mr Savla to capitalize on the Chandigarh platform and think of an IA just to appraise SC on what is happening to LIC Pensioners. He is not the risk taking type like me. I asked him 'what is the worst risk scenario?' His answer was 'it may not be taken up till 23rd'. What more? 'Nothing more'. Will it be dismissed? Why should it be? 'unlikely'. Then go ahead, was my request. He paused, took a deep breath, reviewed the proposition internally within himself for a few minutes and said, Mr Murty, I see some possible benefit also. What is it? If it is adjourned to 23rd, we will not resist, but on 23rd or any subsequent date, if the Final Hearing gets stalled, our plea is already on board, we can press for it with advantage. There is no serious risk of it being dismissed at the threshold. I may claim, client-counsel gel is as important as strategy planning. I may even boast here that behind the possible thirty-second presentation of our case before Justice Dipak Misra yesterday there were several hours of preparation and virtual rehearsals.   

Our strategy worked and paid rich dividend. By HIS grace. In spite of the non-cooperation by GNS, through not being present and not supporting the IA and in spite of Mr Krishna Murari Lal Asthana's Advocate on Record, Mr RK Singh's opposition to consider the IA as stoutly as LIC. 
It was the justness of our cause that had won.

The real struggle is on. So we can’t sit idle and keep watching. We have work to do. That the Order of the Bench was uploaded on the SC official website the same day, is also a message and a Notice to LIC.

Sept 8, 2015