LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has observed that pension is like salary and is no longer an ex-gratia payment, but is a right acquired after pensioner putting in satisfactory service for the prescribed minimum period.

“Pension, like salary, is a regular source of livelihood, and thus, is protected by the right to life enshrined in and guaranteed by Article 9 of the Constitution,” Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi maintains in a ruling passed on a petition of an engineer who has been denied the release of his pensionary benefits since retirement in 2019.

The judge observes that the right to pension has been conferred by law and cannot be arbitrarily abridged or reduced or refused except to the extent and in the manner provided in the rules and it becomes a property of the retiring employee as a matter of right upon the termination of his service.

Maqsood Aslam, the petitioner, was appointed Assistant Engineer (Civil) by the order of the vice chancellor of the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore but was posted at Taxila campus. His services were regularised on April 30, 1983.

Judge orders UET to clear dues of a retired engineer

The petitioner continuously served at the Taxila campus till his deputation to the irrigation department. Later, the UET-Lahore issued an NOC to him for permanent absorption in the irrigation department which was rejected and an order of repatriation was issued in 1997 by the irrigation department.

The petitioner filed a petition and operation of repatriation was suspended, however, the petition was finally dismissed in 2006 and an appeal in this regard was also dismissed in 2010.

The petitioner served the irrigation department till Dec 13, 2018 on deputation for a total period of about 20 years, however, was not absorbed as his repatriation order was passed. He attained the age of superannuation on Sept 30, 2019, however, his retirement notification and consequent pensionary benefits have not been released.

A legal advisor to the UET-Lahore opposed the petition, saying the petitioner’s ad-hoc appointment was with the Taxila campus and his services were also regularised over there and after promulgation of the University of Engineering and Technology Taxila Act, 1994. He also said the UET-Lahore had already issued an NOC for petitioner’s absorption in the irrigation department, so, he had no lien with the university.

However, senior lawyer Hafiz Tariq Nasim, appointed as amicus curiae for the assistance of court, supported the contentions of the petitioner.

Justice Sethi observes a civil servant/deputationist, who has never been absorbed permanently in the borrowing department, would continue to be on deputation and his lien could not be terminated in his parent department. Even his lien cannot be terminated with his consent, unless he has been confirmed against some other permanent post.

The judge regrets that it is a sorry state of affairs that the petitioner has been going from pillar to post to get his pensionary benefits for such a long period since 2019. He says this speaks volumes for the so-called all-round performance of the authorities at the helm of affairs despite the fact that the question of payment of pensionary benefits is purely a matter pertaining to fundamental rights.

The judge rules that pension is a measure of socioeconomic justice which inherits economic security in the fall of life.

The judge maintains that a person who enters the government/public service has also something to look forward to after his/her retirement viz. his retirement benefits, the grant of pension being the most valuable of such benefits.

The judge allows the petition directing the UET-Lahore to proceed in the matter regarding issuance of retirement notification and award of pensionary benefits to the petitioner as well as outstanding salaries, if any, strictly in accordance with law.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2022

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