The Supreme Court in a significant judgement on 05.11.2020 stated that a retired employee who is receiving pension cannot be asked to go to another court to file a case when he has a cause of action at the place where he resides.
The judgement was pronounced in a civil appeal filed to challenge a Patna High Court judgement dated 08.02.2013.
The case related to the pension entitlement of one B N Mishra, who was an employee of the Coal India Limited till 2005. After drawing pension for nearly 8 years, Coal India Ltd stopped his pension in 2013 stating that he had not opted for the Family Coal Mines Pension Scheme of 1998. He was also asked to refund an amount to the tune of Rs 8,00,000/ (Rupees Eight Lakh Only/) which was drawn by him.
Challenging the stoppage of pension and the demand for refund, B N Mishra approached the Patna High Court in 2014. The High Court dismissed the writ petition on the ground of lack of territorial jurisdiction. The HC referred to the fact that he had earlier filed a writ petition in the Patna High Court in 2006 seeking refund of an amount of Rs.1,33,559/ in his pension account. That writ petition was dismissed citing lack of territorial jurisdiction.
He then approached the High Court of Jharkhand, within whose jurisdiction his pension authority was situated. Pointing out this aspect, the High Court dismissed the writ petition filed in 2014 observing that he had submitted himself to the jurisdiction of Jharkhand High Court.
During the pendency of the proceedings, B N Mishra died and his wife, Shanti Mishra was substituted as the petitioner.
Disagreeing with the view taken by the High Court, the Supreme Court in the present matter noted that the pensioner was residing at Darbhanga, Bihar, after his retirement and received pension there for over eight years. The SC further noted that as per Article 226(2) of the Constitution, if a part of the cause of action arises at a place, writ petition can be maintained there.
The respondent raised an argument of forum non conveniens by saying that the previous writ petition filed by him in the Jharkhand High Court was still pending. “For a retired employee convenience is to prosecute his case at the place where he belonged to and was getting pension”, Justice Ashok Bhushan observed in this regard.
The Apex Court thus allowed the appeal and revived the writ petition before the High Court.
Also, taking note of the fact that the petitioner before the Supreme Court, was the widow of the original petitioner who is now without the support of family pension, the top court ordered the grant of provisional pension to her, which will be subject to final decision in the writ petition.