Friday, November 2, 2012

OA No 547 / 2009 on ????????-08- 2010



DATED THIS THE                 DAY OF AUGUST, 2010



N.K. Suparna,
Aged about 68 years,
S/o N. Krishna Iyengar,
Retd. Accounts Officer,
Bangalore Telecom District,
R/at No.89, Sathyanarayana Layout,
West of Chord Road, Basaveshwaranagar,
Bangalore – 560 079.                          ...                                 Applicant
(In person)


1. Union of India,
    Rep. By Secretary,
    Dept. of Telecommunications,
    Ministry of Communications & IT,
    No.20, Sanchar Bhavan, Ashoka Road,
    New Delhi – 110 001.

2. Chief General Manager,
    Karnataka Telecom Circle,
    No.1, Swamy Vivekananda Road,
    Ulsoor, Bangalore – 560 008.

3. Principal General Manager,
    Bangalore Telecom District,
    Rajbhavan Road,
    Bangalore – 560 001.                                  ...                                 Respondents

(By Advocates Shri Mathew Verghese for Shri S. Prakash Shetty,
Addl.Central Govt. Standing Counsel for R-1 and Shri Vishnu Bhat,
Standing Counsel for Respondent No.2 and 3)


Hon'ble Smt. Leena Mehendale, Member (A) :

            One measuring rod for a welfare society is – "Are our laws and rules, in spirit as
well as in letter, caring for the senior citizens?"  This case could be a pointer to that.
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2.         The case is filed under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985,  against the order dated 23.10.2009 (Annexure-a/1), passed by Respondent No.3,  BSNL rejecting the claim of the applicant for medical reimbursement for which he claims to be entitled to under the new scheme introduced by BSNL for the benefit of existing as well as retired employees.  The said scheme also has the merit of cutting down lot of paper work.

3.         The applicant, whose last designation in the service of BSNL was Accounts Officer, has retired in January, 2002.  With effect from 24th February, 2003, BSNL introduced a new scheme for medical reimbursement for BSNL employees as well as for retired employees.  Under the scheme, they were required to give a written option for the new scheme in lieu of CGHS facilities earlier available.  The applicant's claim is that the BSNL has not circulated the scheme widely and therefore, the retired employees who may have settled in different parts of the country and at remote places had no means to know about the it.  Moreover, on the day of retirement, he stood charged by the department with a criminal case because of which his Pension and other benefits were withheld, he was given provisional pension only, and even that had been withheld in August, 2003. Thus, his whole attention was focussed in representing in those cases till he was finally exonerated by the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka of all the charges.  Thereafter, he approached the office of Respondent No.2 requesting for his Pensionary and other benefits as a consequence to his being exonerated from the criminal case.  It was at that stage that he came to know of the circular whereupon he promptly gave his option for the benefits under the new scheme.  The concerned dealing officials made inquiry about his erstwhile CGHS card, he explained to them that he still retained his CGHS card taken during his service, but, had not made any new CGHS card after retirement.  He claims that
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it is a well known rule that the post-retirement new CGHS card as well as CGHS benefits can be obtained only after surrendering the old card issued during the service period.  Since, he had not made the new card, BSNL officials who showed him an additional letter dated 29.8.2003,asked him to surrender his old pre-retirement CGHS card.  He acted upon this advice and in pursuance to the letter dated 29.8.2003, surrendered his service CGHS card to the office of Respondent No.2.

4.         Now, coming to the claim of the applicant, he requested for the benefits under the new scheme with effect from the date of coming into force of the scheme as this was the benefit received by all others.  However, as he was under the criminal charge on that date and all his pensionary benefits had been withdrawn, and those benefits were restored only during January, 2009, the BSNL authorities have thought it fit to allow him the benefit of the new scheme only from 11.2.2009 (Annexure-A/4) which is the date of surrendering card and not from the date of introduction of the scheme.  The reason given in the order dated 23.10.2009 was that the BSNLMRS allowance was payable only from the date of surrender of the CGHS card as per letter No.WLF/12-32/2003, dated 29-8-2003, issued by the Circle office, else, it would lead to double benefit.

5.         We have heard at length the applicant, who appeared in person and also Shri Mathew Verghese, on behalf of Shri S. Prakash Shetty, Addl. Central Govt. Standing Counsel for Respondent No.1 and Shri Vishnu Bhat, Standing Counsel for Respondents No.2 and 3.
6.         The applicant has stated the following main grounds in support of his case.
            (i)         When he retired in January, 2002, he was under the criminal charge and the department had sanctioned only provisional pension to him.  Since then, he
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has been attending the Courts and focussing attention on thecase, which was far more crucial to him.  In July 2003, even the provisional pension was permanently withheld.  Only after dismissal of the criminal case against him in January, 2009, the applicant was paid all the Pension arrears and other benefits with retrospective effect as per the order of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka and hence, the medical allowance as payable under the new scheme must also be paid as arrears of pensionary and other consequential benefits.
            (ii)        The applicant was a victim of circumstances and the Hon'ble High Court has acquitted him from all the charge and department has been directed to pay all the benefits.  The applicant is punished again by respondents by not sanctioning M.R.A. from retrospective date which is illegal, unlawful and against the acquittal judgment of Hon'ble High Court.
            (iii)       Since, the original scheme does not talk of surrendering the CGHS card, the fact that his CGHS card was surrendered only on 11.2.2009 should have been ignored by the respondents.  Even a casual look at the card can itself reveal that it being a service card, the applicant could not have claimed any medical benefits from the CGHS against that card after his retirement. 
            (iv)       As for not submitting the option earlier, he has two arguments.
(a)        Firstly, the scheme was not widely circulated and hence was not noticed by him who had settled away from his head quarters during service. 
(b)        Further, he was denied the pensionary benefits. during that period and obviously, he put all his attention to the criminal case.  Hence, he must not be deprived of the medical
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7.         The learned counsel for the respondents has referred to the letter issued by CGMT, Karnataka Circle, dated 29.08.2003 under which the BSNLMRS scheme has been made effective from the date of surrender of the CGHS card by the employees.  His second argument is that the benefits under the scheme cannot be considered as the benefits consequential to the pensionary benefits and therefore, the High Court order allowing him the Pension and otehr benefits pertains only to his Pension and Gratuity, but does not extend to the medical allowances or similar such benefits.

8.         We find that there is a lot of substance in the claim made by the applicant.  It is quite natural that during the period 2003 to January, 2009, he had to focus his attention to the crimal charges against him which threatened the pension and other benefits of his service.  Although, the departmental reply given to him on 23.10.2009 at Annexure-A/1 mentions that wide publicity was given in March every year in respect of the BSNLMRS benefits, the respondents have not produced any evidence and have not explained to us the manner by which such a wide publicity was given.  Affixing any scheme details merely on the Notice Board of the Head quarters may be a good and adequate method for the serving employees, but, definitely not for the retired employees.  Further, all the replies given to the applicant do not make any reference to delay in exercising option but only makes a reference to the date of surrender of his pre-retirement CGHS card.  Against such surrender of CGHS card, a small yearly medical allowance is to be paid to each employee without production of any bills and that is the medicl benefit which the applicant is claiming. These replies also fail to carefully observe and appreciate that his service CGHS card must have stopped giving him any benefit from the CGHS institutions after his
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retirement.  The whole effort of BSNL circular appears to be to ensure that an employee or a retired employee who becomes entitled to payment of medical allowance without producing any medical bills under the new scheme, should not draw two benefits simultaneously, viz., the benefits under the BSNLMRS as well as those under the CGHS.  This principle has to be appreciated in its spirit as well as in its letter.  Since the CGHS card surrendered by the applicant was not his post retirement card, but was the card made for him during his service period, it is obvious that he could not have claimed any benefit from the CGHS during the period 2003 to 2009.  This is the core reason of our conclusion, not to mention that the respondents have not produced any documents to enlighten us as to how those claims were decided where option was exercised and benefit was taken after 24.2.2003 (date of scheme) but before 29.8.2003 (date of the letter).

9.         We do not agree with claim of the department that such a medical benefit scheme does not form part of the consequential benefits which becomes due to the applicant after his exoneration from the criminal charge and restoration of retirement benefits. 

10.       It is therefore, ordered that the respondents will calculate the medical benefits due to the applicant from the date of the new scheme till 11.2.2009 and pay the same to the applicant within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

11.       Accordingly, the OA is allowed with no order as to costs.

                        (LEENA MEHENDALE)                              (N.D. RAGHAVAN)
                                    MEMBER (A)                                    VICE CHAIRMAN


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