The government certainly has an obligation to provide dignified retirement life to those who have devoted a large part of their lives to work. To deny it is cruelty. The question lingering in the minds of lakhs of pensioners whenever the Supreme Court hears the EPF related petitions is how long they will have to wait for the deserved justice.
It is comforting that the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit said on 12 july that it will clarify on Friday which bench will consider the case that the PF pension should be paid in proportion to the higher salary. However, it must be remembered that the wait is getting longer in the case where a three-member bench was said to be constituted in August 2021. A case is not disposed of merely by the formation of a bench. In a case with many parties, the hearing may also be prolonged. Therefore, there is a need for clarity on how long it will take to resolve the case.
Although it was thought that the hearing would start yesterday after a long break, Justice Ravindra Bhatt expressing his willingness to withdraw from the three-member bench came as a new crisis. Yesterday, Justice Lalit sought time to communicate with Chief Justice N.V. Ramana about deciding the bench instead. It is clear from Justice Lalit’s words that the court is convinced that the judgment in the case should not be delayed. That may be the reason why he mentioned that if the petition is heard by a new bench, the time will again be extended. It can be expected that the Chief Justice will keep this in mind while deciding on the bench to hear the petition.
EPFO’s appeal against Kerala High Court verdict granting pension in proportion to salary was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The EPFO and the Labour Ministry sought a review of the verdict. The number of petitions in the Supreme Court also indicates the seriousness of the matter. The government is of the view that without a decision on the petitions, it will not consider giving PF pension in proportion to the higher salary. EPFO points out the financial cost of paying higher pensions.
Complaints were raised from the beginning that the EPF authorities were trying to deny the benefits of the pension scheme brought for the welfare of workers and employees. A decision on the urgent demand to increase the minimum pension from Rs.1000 is getting prolonged indefinitely. If the authorities think that pensioners can live on a thousand rupees pension, then it must be understood that they have not realised the reality. Many people still do not get even this amount in full. The decision to reduce the EPF interest rate to 8.1% for the last financial year came when the authorities continued to take a negative stand on the issue of minimum pension and proportional pension. This is the lowest rate in four and a half decades.
How many senior citizens are denied the eligible pension by going on indefinitely prolonging the case!!! Doesn’t this prolonged case highlight the central government’s irresponsibility and anti-labour attitude? How long can the government, which does not realise that pension is not a gift but a right, turn its back on time? For the same reason, the pensioners expect an approach and intervention from the court that overcomes the anti-employee stance of prolonging the case.