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There has been an unwelcome fresh polarization among our Pensioners following the 7 May interim directions. Many of the pre-Aug 97 retirees are (mis)led to believe that the post-Aug 97 retirees (who are interested in pension up-gradation) are against DR neutralization as a priority for the worst affected senior pensioners. In the process, different sections have been asking for IR according to their own priority and LIC took full advantage and played havoc with the Pensioners’ interests as a whole. Today’s status as I see it, is that some who got ‘some’ money are unhappy that they did not get the correct sum or because they don’t know how they got what they got, others who also ought to have got something, but got nothing are more unhappy and the rest of the Pensioners as a whole, are so thoroughly disillusioned that their time is running out and that they are being badly let down by all the parties from all directions.
I state at the cost of repetition, that I tried hard (and failed) to draw support from Jaipur & Delhi petitioner-leaders, to utilize SC’s 7 May & 7 Sept interim directions to compel LIC to pay 20% correctly as per the Judgements, to ALL Pensioners. I realized that it was a lone battle and that I should reconcile to the harsh reality and NOT expect any support from the other players for whatever reasons, fair or foul. It was a beneficial lesson to me that I should be prepared for identical experience when it comes to the final hearing also on 18 Nov and thereafter.
At the cost of repetition, I wish to state for due appreciation by all, that the Supreme Court of India, under its appellate jurisdiction, entertains an appeal against an Order/Judgement of any High Court, only where a substantive point of law is involved that needs to be adjudicated, one way or another. This is the fundamental principle under which, arguments before the Apex Court take place in an Appeal. All our Counsel are fully aware of it and all the pensioners, especially the ‘more informed’ among them, should not lose sight of the same.
In the above context, the several spirited pleas (being orchestrated more vehemently lately) by different sections of our pensioners, for this small package or that larger benefit, (reflecting the demand for ‘DR neutralization only’ by some and for the full-scale pension up-gradation with each pay revision, by many) ARE in reality just irrelevant for the hearing before the Supreme Court, if people are ‘tolerant’ enough to allow me to explain.
I hasten to repeat that all our loud pleas for any ‘quantified relief’ per se, are not before the Court, while we argue to oppose the Appeals. The fact of the matter is that any relief or any benefit shall only FLOW from the decision on the ‘principle of law’ which is under the lens. The benefits flow as a consequence of the binding DECISION interpreting the law but not in any other manner. It does not however mean that during the arguments, there will be no reference at all to any other aspects relevant to the issue under discussion, but the decision of the Court does not depend on those references, however true and convincing they may be. Here I suspect that I might be rather abstract in the exposition I am attempting. Let me give a simple illustration to make myself clear. Just by way of an example, if an Executive Director who retired twenty years ago is drawing a pension of say Rs 20,000/- pm, compared to another ED who retired last year and who gets over Rs 60,000/- pm, or the former ED’s PA (when in service) who retired recently is paid a higher pension than his onetime boss - those are undisputed facts based on figures but they are by no means good enough for the Bench to decide in favour of the poorer ED. The question before the Bench is ‘why is it so and is the Rule (the equivalent of Law) that decides such a dispensation, valid or not valid? If held as valid, we lose and if held invalid, the Court would also pass Order for relief as it deems necessary, to render justice. The Apex Court’s powers for the purpose, are indeed unfettered. ’s powers for the purpose, are indeed unfettered.
Continuing the discussion, our (undue) emphasis on the Board Resolution (to claim to receive under the Resolution, anything as a matter of legal right, including or excluding 11.25% weightage that would mean up-gradation under 1997 wage revision), is NOT by itself a sound argument nor is it safe to do so. One may cite it Ad nauseam in the arguments but that alone would not help in the pension up-gradation being ordered by the Court. It may only help appreciate that LIC on its own had attempted to ‘do something’ in 2001 and so it cannot simply renege from it later. It is too well known to warrant fresh elaboration that LIC is not disowning the existence of the Resolution (in fact it cannot) but its main plea is that it cannot on its own, implement the Resolution without the due process, viz., Government’s approval, amending the (statutory) Pension Rules, Notification in the Official Gazette etc., Looking at the Resolution from another angle, does it not also say ‘subject to Government approval’? Is it open to us to ask for implementation of the Resolution by recognizing/welcoming one part of it and not allow the ‘author’ of the Resolution to stick to the other part?
Here it is too well known that Rajasthan HC told LIC to ‘do yourself what you have proposed’ and we are giving you the authority and the mandate to do so’.
Theoretically, LIC could have given effect to what it proposed in the Resolution (of course as per its own interpretation) under the comfort given to it by the Rajasthan HC. But it did not, for whatever reasons, and apparently because LIC thinks Government’s approval process is inescapable. Here comes exactly the principle of law that needs to be interpreted by the Apex Court, once and for all.
What is going to be the stand of others and what is my problem with it?
Let me start with the Delhi Petitioners. Mr Sridharan’s language is the same as that of LIC. He would have got from a ‘willing LIC’ what all he would be content with, long ago, but for the Jaipur litigation ‘nuisance’. Now at least, (thanks to the scandal of IR payment methodology perfected by LIC) he has not much to fight for. Some money came to some of his members and some more would come to them, when it does. That even those who got some are not fully happy, (let alone many others who got nothing and are more unhappy) does not make him unhappy. In this true scenario, why should I be unhappy? As Mr M V Venugopalan suggested, one should ignore GNS and his role, because he is a ‘non-state actor’. At this stage I may make it public, that during the last three/four weeks, I had bent backwards and approached Mr GNS (directly through e-mail first and later through respected common friends) to take legitimate advantage of the fact of how LIC ditched even him after 7 Sept and approach the Court through an IA and see that at least his own chosen members are benefitted. It would have been a cakewalk for him, had he agreed to my request, vehemently canvassed by his trusted friends. Of course, I had my enlightened self-interest in the move I proposed – viz., LIC was in no position to defend its crazy (non) compliance of the interim directions and would have been in the dock. That might not have been to the liking of GNS and might have been the exact reason why he did not pay heed to my request. I took my chance on the ‘nothing to lose’ principle. I have no regrets in retrospect. Come 18 November, GNS will be a true non-state actor. He only needs to watch while others fight for something, and only wait to receive what LIC is always willing to dole out in his case.
The real drama in our cases is inseparable from the Jaipur Actors. These Petitioners insist that the Rajasthan HC’s interpretation, directions and the Order should be upheld ‘as they are’. No meddling with it.
(to be continued)