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SC declares period of service of work charged employees as “Qualifying service” for pension - The Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952

In a judgment which could give major relief to fourth class employees in government department rendering services as work charged or officiating or temporary, the Supreme Court has held that period of service as 'work charged' will also be counted as qualifying service for pensionary benefits. The appellants were employees in the service of Uttarakhand Governmnet. Rule 370 of Uttarakhand Civil Service Regulation provided that following services will not count for pension :-

1. Periods of temporary or officiating service in a non-pensionable establishment.
2. Periods of service in a work-charged establishment.
3. Periods of service in a post paid from contingencies.

A pari materia provision contained in Rule 3.17(ii) of the Punjab Civil Service Rules was struck down by a Full Bench of Punjab & Haryana High Court in Kesar Chand v. State of Punjab. With respect to pensionary benefits of work-charged employees under the service of Punjab Government, the Full Bench of High Court had held as follows:-

Once the services of a work-charged employee have beenregularised, there appears to be hardly any logic to deprive him of the pensionary benefits as are available to other public servants under Rule 3.17 of the Rules. Equal protection of laws must mean the protection of equal laws for all persons similarly situated. Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness because a provision which is arbitrary involves the negation equality. Even the temporary or officiating service under the State Government has to be reckoned for determining the qualifying service. It looks to be illogical that theperiod of service spent by an employee in a work-charged establishment before his regularisation has not been taken into consideration for determining his qualifying service. The classification which is sought to be made among Government servants who eligible for pension and those who started work charged employees and their services regularised subsequently, and the others is based on any intelligible criteria and, before, is not sustainable at law. After the services of a work-charged employee have n regularised, he is a public servant like other servant. To deprive him of the pension is not only unjust and inequitable is hit by the vice of arbitrariness. The said Full Bench decision of P&H High Court was approved bythe Supreme Court in Punjab State Electricity Board vs. Narata Singh(2010) 4 SCC 317. The Supreme Court approved the decision of P&H High Court and extended its application to the work-charged employees under the Punjab State Electricity Board. Following the judgment in Narata Singh the Supreme Court proceeded to declare that period of service as work-charged under Uttarakhand Government was also entitled to be reckoned asqualifying service for pension. It was observed as follows. The pari materia provisions of Rule 3.17(ii) of the Punjab Civil Service Rules having been interpreted and understood in the abovemanner by this Court in Narata Singh(supra) we do not find anyroom for taking any other view except to hold that the appellantsare entitled to reckon the period of work-charged services for purposes of computation of 'qualifying service' for grant of pension. This order could have wide impact, by benefiting thousands of fourth class employees who had rendered services on work-charged basis

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