Published on: 21 September 2023 at 16:53 IST
The Supreme Court of India has issued a ruling that has far-reaching implications for central government employees who decide to resign from their current government positions in order to take up another government job without obtaining the necessary permission. The ruling states that such actions will lead to the forfeiture of both past service benefits and pension entitlements.
This legal pronouncement came about in the case of a security officer who had previously been employed by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and subsequently resigned from that position in 1998 to accept a position at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It is noteworthy that the Central Civil Service Pension Rules of 1972 (CCPS Rules) are applicable to government servants appointed prior to 2003.
In its decision, the Supreme Court cited a prior case, Union of India v. Braj Nandan Singh (2005), where it was established that Rule 26 of the CCS Pension Rules explicitly specifies that resigning from one government service to take up another government post without obtaining the necessary permission will result in the forfeiture of service benefits.
The Court further emphasized that the security officer in question had indeed sought permission to apply for the HAL position, but this request had been denied. Despite this denial, the officer proceeded to participate in the selection process and assume the new role without the required permission. As per Rule 26 of the CCPS Rules, such actions clearly disqualify him from receiving any pension benefits.
The Court stated, “In this case, although the respondent did seek permission from his employer to apply for the opening in HAL, such permission was not forthcoming. In the meantime, the respondent applied directly, appeared in the selection process availing leave despite denial of permission, and then took up the new assignment. The circumstances here would show that the present case is squarely covered by sub-rule (2) of Rule 26 of CCS Pension Rules.”
Consequently, the Supreme Court expressed its disagreement with the High Court’s decision to grant relief to the security officer, asserting that the applicable statutory provisions did not support an interpretation that would benefit an individual who applies directly for another government job without obtaining proper authorization.
The bench, comprised of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Pankaj Mithal, was hearing an appeal against a division bench of the High Court that had ruled in favor of the security officer, arguing that his resignation should not lead to the forfeiture of past service benefits.
This legal matter revolves around the security officer’s claim for pension benefits stemming from his previous employment with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), from which he resigned in 1998 to join Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In 1999, the appellants (his former employer) observed that the security officer had not followed the proper channels or obtained permission when applying for employment at HAL. Instead, he had directly applied to HAL in his private capacity. Consequently, in accordance with the CCPS Rules, he was deemed ineligible for monthly pension, retirement benefits, and service gratuity relating to his CISF service.
The security officer subsequently approached the High Court, which granted him pension benefits for the period from 1985 to 1998, noting that he had indeed submitted an application to the CISF seeking permission to apply for the HAL position. However, there was a delay on the part of the CISF in processing this application. The matter eventually reached the Division Bench, which held that the security officer had applied directly to HAL for the security officer role, believing that permission would be granted. Importantly, the security officer had not concealed his intention to seek another job with HAL as a security officer.
Dissatisfied with this decision, the appellants escalated the matter to the Supreme Court.
Advocate K. Parmeshwar, representing the appellants, argued that the security officer, being a member of a security organization, should not have applied for another job without obtaining permission from the competent authority. He contended that the No Objection Certificate (NOC) had been denied to the officer and further claimed that the officer had failed to inform his employer of his intention to attend an interview at HAL. Therefore, Rule 26 of the CCPS Rules, 1972 should be applied, resulting in the security officer’s disqualification from receiving any pension.
In contrast, Advocate Girish Ananthamurthy, representing the security officer, asserted that the officer had indeed applied to his Commandant for permission to apply for the HAL Security Officer position. He argued that the security officer had kept his employer informed throughout the application process and had also sought permission to participate in the interview.
The Court carefully examined the relevant statutory rule, Rule 26, which states, “A resignation shall not entail forfeiture of past service if it has been submitted to take up, with proper permission, another appointment, whether temporary or permanent, under the Government where service qualifies.”
The Court referred to a previous precedent, Union of India v. H. R. Vijaya Kumar (2011), where in a similar case, the High Court’s judgment in favor of the security officer was set aside, and the Division Bench was instructed to reevaluate the matter in accordance with the law.
In its final judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed that the High Court had failed to consider the implications of sub-Rule (2) of Rule 26 of the CCS Pension Rules. When the relevant rules were taken into account, the only reasonable conclusion was that the security officer was not entitled to relief. Consequently, the appeal was allowed, upholding the forfeiture of past service benefits and pension entitlements for the security officer.