Mar 11, 2022

Pension rights: Security for your old age

In recent judgements, the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court have discussed pension rights, and the importance of protecting senior citizens and retired employees.

Pension rights under our Constitution

In its judgement, the Bombay High Court said that the pension payable to retired employees is a ‘property’ under Article 300A of our Constitution. Every person has a constitutional right to property, and Article 300A says that a person should not be deprived of his property. Your property can only be interfered with if there is a law or legal authority that allows someone to deprive you of your property.

Article 21 of our Constitution gives every person the fundamental right to life, which includes the right to livelihood. In Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation, the Supreme Court discussed the right to livelihood as a fundamental right, and said that depriving a person of his livelihood would make it impossible for the person to live his life.  The Bombay High Court stated that pension is a fundamental right to livelihood under Article 21.

Further, Article 41 of our Constitution puts a responsibility upon the government to make arrangements for public assistance in case of old age, sickness, disablement etc. Article 46 requires the government to take special care in promoting the economic interests of weaker sections of people. Thus, the High Court said that according to our Constitution, the government has a duty to implement suitable laws to protect the life and property of senior citizens, and to treat them with respect and dignity.

Pension as a social welfare measure

In another judgement, the Supreme Court stated that pension is a social welfare measure and a post-retirement privilege to maintain the dignity of the employee. It is an assistance for the post-retirement period, and not just some reward that is paid by a person as per his will or desire.

The Court said that pension laws must be given a broad interpretation keeping in mind that pension is a social welfare measure. While deciding a legal issue related to pension, the basis for granting the pension must be kept in mind. The basic reason for granting pension is to allow a retired employee to live with dignity in his old age. The Court held that a pensionary benefit should not be unreasonably denied to an employee, especially if pension is being denied based on technical reasons.

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