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IS PENSION TO POLITICIANS AND GOERNMENT SERVANTS DISCRIMINATORY ?

Welfare state is a political system that emerged during world war-ll. William Beveridge is considered the ‘father of welfare state’. According to Merriam Webster, welfare state is a social system, in which a government is responsible for the economic and social welfare for its citizens and has policies to provide free healthcare, money for people without jobs, etc.

A welfare state is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions of a good life. Social security, federally mandated unemployment insurance programmes, and welfare payments to people unable to work are all examples of the welfare state.
According to Article 13(2), “The state shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.”

Article 16(1) says, “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”

Directive Principles of State Policy given in part lV of the Constitution of India  have been regarded as soul of the Constitution as India is a welfare state. They provide for guidance to interpretation of fundamental rights of citizen as also statutory rights; Charu Khurana vs. Union of India, AIR 2015SC839.

Directive Principles of the State Policy lay down the fundamental principles for the governance of the country, and through these principles, the State is directed to secure that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub-serve the common good and that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment; K.T. Plantation Pvt. Ltd vs. State of Karnataka . AIR 2011 SC 3430: (2011) 9 SCC1.

According to Census 2011, less than 22% of Indians lived under the global poverty line. In 2011 Census, 72% of the population was classified as rural and 28% as urban. According to an estimate, about 5-10% of total India’s population will be in government service (state and central taken together).

According to the ILO’s World Employment Social Outlook Report, the unemployment rate in India has been in the 3.4% to 3.6% range over the UPA- government led 2009-2014 and the NDA-government led 2014-2019 periods.

The number of unemployed persons in India decreased to 44.85 Million in 2016, from 48.26 Million in 2014. Unemployed persons in India averaged 30.6 Million from 1971 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 48.20 Million in 2014 and a record low of 5.10 Million in 1971.

The government has been receiving a lot of criticism for high unemployment rates amid slowing economic growth. The National Statistical Office(NSO), a wing of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, in its quarterly bulletin of Periodic Labour Force Survey, ending December, 2018, and brought out in May, 2019, showed that urban employment rate dropped to the lowest level in four quarters at 9.3% during January-March, 2019. It stated that urban employment rate was 9.9% in April-June, 2018, 9.7% in July-September, 2018 and 9.9% in October-December, 2018.

According to Times of India report dated July 2, 2014, over 20% of young Indians in the 15-24 age group are jobless and seeking work, quoting the startling data released by Census 2011. In absolute terms, this army of unemployed youth is staggeringly huge-around 4.7 Crore of which 2.6 Crore were men and 2.1 Crore women.

According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy(CMIE) data, India’s unemployment rate remained high for the month of November, 2019, at 7.48% amid lowest labour participation rate of just 42.37%. The unemployment rate fell close to 1% in November to 7.48% from 8.45% in October, 2019.

It is a matter of concern that on one side, government has miserably failed to act as ‘welfare state’ for a large majority of citizens, by not providing employment opportunities to well-qualified young people; whereas, on the other hand, it has been acting as ‘welfare state’ for almost 10% of citizens, who are either government employees or politicians by giving them handsome pay packages and lifelong retirement benefits, not only to them but to their families after their death.

According to a government notification, the families of government employees dying after serving less than seven years will get enhanced pension with the Centre amending rules. Earlier, the government employee was required to have rendered at least seven years of service in case of death so that the family could get the enhanced family pension at 50% of the last pay drawn.
“Whereof a government servant  who died within 10 years before the 1st day of October, 2019, without completing, continuous service of seven years, his family shall be eligible for family pension at enhanced rates in accordance with sub-rule(3) with effect from the 1st day of October, 2019, subject to fulfilment of other conditions for grant of family pension,” said the Notification. President Ram Nath Kovind approved the amendment to the Central Civil Services(Pension) Rules, 1972.

When a government employee dies while in service, the members of his family are eligible to get the benefits of Encashment of leave, special provident fund-cum-gratuity, GPF balance, TA to go to native place, advance to meet funeral expenses, transport expenses to take the dead body of the official to the native place, lump sum payment under employees family security fund, relief under house building advance, educational allowance to children, compassionate ground appointments to dependents, DCR gratuity, family pension, dearness allowance, medical allowance, pongal gift.

  Professor of Law, Dr. Khan Noor Ephroz said, “The lawmakers have made a law for themselves for granting life-time pension to politicians in India who have served even a single tenure of five years which is a gross violation of Article 14 and is a drain on the public exchequer. Whereas, a government servant has to put a minimum period of 20 years in active service to be eligible for pension. In armed forces, one has to risk his life to protect the country by rendering 20 years of service to be eligible for pension which is 50% of their pay on retirement.”

Dr. Khan quoted a recent judgement of Supreme Court which said no pension to the government servant who resigns. On December 5, 2019, the court ruled that an employee becomes ineligible for pension under the Central Civil Services Pension Rules, when he resigns because he forfeits his past service. The apex court while deciding the case of Ghanshyam Chand Sharma, an employee of BSES Yamuna Power Limited, made a distinction between voluntary retirement and resignation which impacts pensionary benefits under Rules. An employee who has completed 20 years of service can voluntarily retire from service, which will enable him to avail pensionary benefits.

Giving his views, Advocate Jamal Usmani said, “Politicians hold their political position in airconditioned offices/legislative assemblies/Parliament  and are protected by the armed security provided round the clock at the cost of public funds, receive full pension on retirement till death, after serving just for one term of five years. And what service do they provide to people is well known; they exhibit the extreme cantankerous behaviour in the House, wasting the most precious time  of Parliament, at times without business.”

Giving his views learned advocate Naveen Kumar Jaggi and his team comprising Vikram Gupta and Riya Bhardwaj said, “Pension is a type of monetary security provided by the government to retired government servants and lawmakers with regard to their services rendered to the government. However, there are several discriminatory provisions in connection with the same.”

“According to Salary, Allowances and Pension Rules of Members of Parliament(MPs), every MP, sitting in Parliament even for a single day, would be eligible to receive a pension of Rs. 20,000/= per month. Further, if the MP serves for more than five years, then he is eligible for an increment of Rs. 1500/= for each additional year of service. Simultaneously, the family of a deceased MP is eligible to get 50% of the last drawn pension of the respective MP. While in respect of the Members of Legislative Assembly(MLAs), the pension for MLAs varies from one state to another. While, the provision regarding disbursement of 50% of the last drawn pension by the retired MLA(now deceased) remains the same.”

These pension schemes have put on intensive pressure on the taxpayers. This also pressurises an increase in taxation for the middle-class people whose hard-earned money is utilised to provide for a life of luxury to such people.”

Advocate Navin Kumar Jaggi further said, “Many rich businessmen, sport persons, film actors, get elected as MP/MLA through backdoor route. They hardly attend any parliamentary session  but avail all the benefits that their post offers. This pension amount comes from the money earned by hard work of middle class. Moreover, in respect of a government employee, if he dies, there is a scheme that the same work or some other work will be given to his adult family member on compassionate ground without assessing his suitability and capability for that job. It is a complete violation of equal rights of the citizens. In case the government is determined to give pension to retired government employees, it should be a time-bound for one or two years.

However, the phenomenon of granting life-long pension, family pension and pension to lawmakers is most sinister and disastrous policy, in a country which is behaving as ‘welfare state’ for 10% of its citizens and abrogating the rights of rest of the 90% people, who despite being qualified enough are jobless.”

An NGO ‘Lok Prahari’ had approached the Supreme Court claiming that pension and other perks being given to Members of Parliament even after demitting office were contrary to Article 14 of the Constitution. The petition had raised several questions including how the MPs could themselves determine their salaries and perks. It also said that Parliament had no power to provide for pensionary benefits to lawmakers without making any law.

However, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the apex court that the entitlement of former Members of Parliament(MPs) to get pension and other benefits was “justified” as their dignity has to be maintained even after they complete their tenure as parliamentarians.

Whereas, on April 16, 2018, Justice J. Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, dismissed the petition and ruled that it is not justifiable issue and matter in challenge, “Is in the orbit of the wisdom of Parliament in choosing/ changing the legislative policy”.

During the arguments, S.N. Shukla, general secretary of the petitioner NGO ‘Lok Prahari’ referred to a report  and claimed that 82% of the MPs were ‘crorepati’ and taxpayers cannot be burdened with paying pension to former MPs and their family members. To this, the bench said, “Let the taxpayers vote them out. Let them do it. We cannot stop them. You are making grand statements. Should we go into the data of how many bureaucrats are ‘crorepatis’? Should we go into it? It is not permissible for us to go into this kind of debate.”

Supreme Court is the last resort for redressing arbitrary and discriminatory actions of the executive and the legislature.

Whereas, in a situation where court declines to interfere and remove the arbitrariness, the only way is to compel the government to scrap the provisions of life-time pension to politicians to save the hard-earned money of tax payers. People elect their representatives with the view that they will make laws in public interest but in our country, our representatives make rules and laws for their own benefits by voting for themselves and at that time all parties get united. Such self-made rules and laws should have been declared as null and void by Supreme Court, which unfortunately was not done.

Noted advocate Yawar Qazalbash said, “Provision of pension has been given under the Central Pension Rules that a person is eligible to obtain pension only after putting in at least twenty years  in respective department. However, the government servants are legally entitled to receive their pensions on the basis of their rendered services, and their spouses could draw the same after their death in a welfare State. But, on the other hand, pensions to the politicians/law makers could not be justified. The elected politicians claim their eligibility on the ground that they had been in ‘social service’. There are a lot number of persons who remain in social service in each society but all of them could not get pensions, unless they are elected to some kind of Legislative Houses. Thus the claim makes it discretionary. Some PILs are pending disposal in this regard and we should wait the decision in this regard.”

The provisions of handsome amount of pension for a class-based citizens viz. government employees and lawmakers is undoubtedly discrimination among the citizens of India which is an unjustified drain on gullible taxpayers. The most critical and highly objectionable part is the ‘family pension’. A family member of a deceased government employee or lawmaker has no legal or ethical right or locus-standi to draw an amount from government coffers, for which he never contributed his service. As such, from the principle of reasonableness , he/she had never been the member of that service organisation from which he is deriving monetary benefits without contribution of work. It is an ‘unfair gain’ for the beneficiary and ‘unfair loss’ to taxpayers.

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