Setting a perfect example of humane approach Hon’ble High Court comprising of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Prasanna Varale have granted a relief to widow pensioner Smt Seema Baban Pande and directed the State Bank of India to immediately start her family pension without any deductions, which was arbitrarily seized by the Bank.
It is the case of the petitioner widow that she received family pension of approximately Rs.20,000/ from State Bank of India for the services rendered by her husband who died in an accident after serving for 32 years in Indian Airforce. But the Bank has suddenly and abruptly decided to reduce the pension to Rs.8171/ and started arbitrarily recovering Rs.4000/ from the said amount from August 2012 on account of alleged excess payment of Rs.5,09,886/ in last 5 ½ Years. The petitioner received the shock of her life when she was informed that in addition to the recovery of excess payment of pension the Bank has also seized and attached “Fix Deposit” of lifetime savings of Rs.6,00,000/ which was jointly owned by her son. To add to the pain and agony the Bank even stopped giving a meager pension of Rs.4171/ from January 2013 and the petitioner widow was forced to live her life penny less without her fault.
The petitioner approached the Hon’ble High Court and pleaded that the State Bank has displayed the arbitrary functioning and without there being an enquiry, notice, hearing and order the action of recovery has been started. It was necessary to ascertain whether there was any excess pension paid to her. As per section 11 of Pensions Act 1871, pension cannot be attached even by courts. As per Rule 9 of CCS Pension Rules 1972 only The President of India has powers to withhold the pension. As per Rule 61 of CCS Pension Rules “Pension Calculation Sheet” is required to be given to the pensioner. Furthermore there is a prescribed procedure stipulated by way of Pension Payment Instructions issued by Defence Ministry and recovery of excess amount if any can be made only by the orders of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions). Hence petitioner pleaded that State Bank of India has violated all these rules. Principles of Natural Justice were also violated. It is also a settled position that pension if paid in excess to the pensioner without his misrepresentation or fraud then it cannot be recovered.
The Hon’ble High Court held that it is necessary to ascertain “whether the petitioner has been paid in excess or not” and it is necessary to grant the hearing before denying the benefit of Fix Deposit and Pension, hence directed the State Bank of India to grant personal hearing before making any decision on recovery. The Hon’ble High Court has partially allowed the petition and also directed the Bank to release the pension of the petitioner without any deductions after getting “Life Certificate” in prescribed form.
Adv. Tushar Mandlekar argued for the pensioner. Adv. Anikumar held brief for the State Bank of India. Adv. S. K. Mishra held the brief for The Principal Controller of Defence Accounts, Allahabad.