Odisha High Court’s Decision on Government Servants Pension Eligibility

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In a recent decision, a division bench of the Orissa High Court, consisting of Chief Justice Mr. Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Judge Mr. M.S. Raman, ruled that the service of a government servant does not qualify for pension unless the individual is appointed and their duties and pay are regulated by the government or under government orders.

The case involved the State of Odisha and others as appellants, and Banamali Samal and others as respondents. The respondents were directly appointed employees of the Integrated Tribal Development Agencies (ITDAs) and Micro Projects, which fall under the ST & SC Development Department of the Government of Odisha. The department issued a communication on May 24, 2017, stating that appointments to the Micro Projects did not confer the status of state government employees and therefore, the appointees were not entitled to pensionary benefits.

The respondents challenged this communication before the Orissa Administrative Tribunal (OAT), but the case was transferred to the Orissa High Court after the abolition of the OAT. A single judge bench of the High Court allowed the writ petition of the respondents and directed the state government to extend pensionary benefits to them. The State of Odisha (appellant) filed an appeal against this decision.

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The appellant argued that the respondents were employees of the ITDAs or Micro Project agencies registered under the Societies Registration Act, and therefore, they could not be considered government servants for the application of the Odisha Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1992 (OCS Rules). It was further submitted that the communication letter dated May 24, 2017, did not contain any decision to grant pensionary benefits to directly appointed staff of the ITDAs and Micro Projects.

On the other hand, the respondents contended that the communication dated May 24, 2017, clearly indicated a decision to sanction pensionary benefits to the directly appointed retired staff. They argued that they were appointed under the ITDA or Micro Project Agencies following due process, and their appointment letters were issued by the District Collector, who acted as the ex officio Chairman of such agencies. They also claimed that although the Micro Projects are registered societies, they are under the direct control of the District Collector and the state government’s department.

The court observed that the respondents were appointed by the District Collector, who acted as the ex officio Chairman of the Micro Projects, and the government did not have control over their appointment or removal. The court referred to a previous Supreme Court case, Satrucharla Chandrasekhar Raju v. Vyricherla Pradeep Kumar Dev and another, where it was held that an individual appointed by the project officer of an ITDA did not hold an office of profit under the government. The court noted that although the government had control over the appointing authority, it did not have direct control over the teachers as the ITDA, being a registered society, had its own constitution.

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Based on the Odisha Civil Services (Pension) Rules, the court concluded that the respondents could not be considered government employees eligible for pension. The court also found that the letter dated May 24, 2017, did not contain any decision by the state government to extend pensionary benefits to the directly appointed staff of ITDAs and Micro Projects. Therefore, the court disagreed with the view taken by the single judge bench and set aside the order directing the state government to provide pensionary benefits to the respondents.

In summary, the Orissa High Court held that the service of a government servant does not qualify for pension unless the individual is appointed and their duties and pay are regulated by the government or under government orders. The court ruled that the respondents, who were directly appointed employees of the ITDAs and Micro Projects, could not be considered government servants for the purpose of pension eligibility.

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