Rashid Paul

Give all pensionary benefits to SFC employees: HC directs Govt

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Srinagar July 31: The High Court has directed the government to give all the pensionary benefits to J&K State Forest Corporation (SFC) employees as is being provided to staffers of other public sector enterprises and departments in the state.

Justice M. K. Hanjura disposed off the writ petitions by the SFC employees Association seeking post retirement benefits including pension on the pattern of the employees of Forest Department and J&K Industries Employees.

He directed the respondents to “give all the benefits as have been sought for by the petitioners in the writ petitions on hand on the same analogy as has been/will be adopted by the respondent State in earlier such petitions”.

Let such consideration be accorded and the benefits be given to the petitioners at an earliest preferably within eight weeks from the date certified copy of this order is served upon respondents, Justice Hanjura directed.

Petitioners complained that they were being denied the pensionary benefits “whereas concomitantly the other wings of the Forest Department receive such benefits”.

The respondent state is under obligation to give the same and similar treatment to the present petitioners that has been and/or will be vouchsafed by the respondent State in favor of the writ petitioners of J&K Industries Employees Association in 2002.

The SFC petitioners claimed that they have strong footing to claim pensionary benefits, being employees of a statutory body governed by Rules but have been kept in lurch for undisclosed reasons.

The employees of other departments and undertakings facing similar issue had approached the High Court with writ where the case ultimately went to the Supreme Court. However, the case was later withdrawn with a plea that grievances would be projected by the State before High Court in a review petition.

The High Court in its review directed post retirement benefits to the petitioner employees.

The petitioner employees of the SFC further maintained that even in other departments and corporations, where the rules did not govern the pension related issues, the general rules of the pension of the State government have been made applicable and the benefits been granted to such employees.

They referred to the position of the employees of the Jammu Development Authority, Srinagar Development Authority, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology, SKICC and others being given the pensionary benefits.

The rules of these corporations/organisations do not provide for the such benefits, said the petition.

Singling out of the petitioners the benefit of pension, according to the petitioners, tantamounts to discrimination of their rights, they pleaded.

The petitioners also made reference of employees of projects created in the Forest Department, like those of the IWDP, Pollution Control Board and Social Forestry Project aided by the World Bank.

Even the autonomous bodies under the Forest Department, like, the SFRI and PCB, receive the pensionary benefits, they said.

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