New Delhi, July 13 The Supreme Court on Saturday struck down a Manipur government memorandum that classified pensioners into two classes based on their year of retirement and granted more benefits to those who retired after 1996.
A bench of Justices M.R.Shah and A.S.Bopanna restored a single-judge bench order of the Manipur High Court that held that all pensioners, irrespective of their date of retirement, shall be entitled to revision in pension at par with those pensioners who retired post 1996. The court also directed that the arrears be paid to the pensioners within three months.
Keeping in mind the increase in cost of living, the Manipur government had in 1999 increased the quantum of pension as well as the pay of state employees. On April 21, 1999, it issued a memorandum in this regard.
The All Manipur Pensioners Association challenged the memorandum contending that all pensioners who retired on or after January 1, 1996, and those who retired before January 1, 1996, formed only one class and therefore the classification between them for the purpose of granting revised pension benefits was arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Hearing the All Manipur Pensioners Association''s plea, the bench observed that "all the pensioners belong to one class" and added: "Increase in the cost of living would affect all the pensioners irrespective of whether they have retired pre 1996 or post 1996."
"The state cannot arbitrarily pick and choose from amongst similarly situated persons a cut-off date for extension of benefits, especially pensionary benefits. There has to be a classification founded on some rational principle when similarly situated class is differentiated for grant of any benefit," the court said in its order.
Observing that Article 14 of the Constitution of India assured equality before law, the court pointed out that classification of pensioners had no reasonable nexus to the objective sought to be achieved while revising the pension. "It is unreasonable, discriminatory and arbitrary," the bench said.
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