A.B. Colaco v. Coffee Board

Writ Petition No.39031 of 2003 (S-R)
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Petitioner had worked for the Coffee Board (the “Board”), a statutory body working under the administrative control of the Department of Commerce, for 24 years prior to his retirement. The pension benefits for retiring employees under the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rule (the “Rules”) were fixed by the Board.

The Central Government had effectuated a Central Government Health Scheme (the “Scheme”) for its Central Government employees. In areas where the Scheme was not available, Central Government employees were governed by the Rules for reimbursement of health expenses. While in-service, Board employees and Central Government employees enjoyed the same benefits. However, the Rules, which are applicable to retired Board employees, did not offer pension medical benefits and the respondents claimed that, because he was a former Board employee and not a Central Government employee, the petitioner was not covered by the Scheme.

Petitioner claimed that the respondents had a constitutional obligation to make the life of a retired Board employee meaningful, with dignity, by providing such employee with access to health facilities, as had been done for the Central Government employees. Petitioner further claimed that despite the similarities in so far as the in-service Board employees and Central Government employees are concerned, the Board employees were left in the lurch once retired and that such denial of medical benefits was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The Court held that restricting the Scheme to Central Government pensioners only and excluding autonomous bodies like the Board was arbitrary and illegal. It was clearly arbitrary to deny retired Board employees these benefits, considering that the Rules applicable to Central Government employees were uniformly applied to Board employees while in service. The petitioner was entitled to facilities on par with serving Board employees and with retired Central Government employees.

“6. On these rival contentions, the admission on the part of the respondents that the Scheme fixing payment of fixed medical allowance of Rs. 100/- per months which was made applicable by an Official Memorandum dated 19.12.1997 is meant for Central Government pensioners and family pensioners only, and does not cover autonomous bodies like the Board, is clearly arbitrary and illegal. Where for all purposes the Board employees are treated on par with the Central Government employees and the very Rules and Regulations applicable to the Central Government employees are uniformly applied to the employees of the Board while in service, the same being denied to the petitioner and other such employees on the footing that Annexures “A” and “G” ought to be interpreted in a manner as excluding the petitioner is clearly arbitrary. And, Note 2(iv) of Sub-Rule (2) of Rule 1 of the Central Service (Medical Attendance) Rules, 1944 is arbitrary and discriminatory and would certainly be unconstitutional and a blot on the statute book. The petitioner being a retired employee of the Board, is also entitled to avail of facilities on par with that of serving employees of the Board and on part with pensioners covered under the COS (Pension) Rules, 1982, namely, a retired Central Government employee.”

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