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Union of India & Ors Vs. Braj Nandan Singh [2005] Insc 572 (19 October 2005)

Arijit Pasayat & Dr. Ar. Lakshmanan Arijit Pasasyat, J.

Challenge in this appeal is to the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of the Patna High Court holding that respondent is entitled to pension under the Central Civil Services Pension Rules (in short the 'Rules'). The view expressed by the Central Administrative Tribunal about the respondent's entitlement to suspension was upheld.

The undisputed factual background is as follows:- The respondent was serving as a temporary Sorter on being appointed by the Superintendent, Railway Mail Service, 'U' Division, Muzaffarpur w.e.f. 14.10.1959. He was posted in the office of SRO Sonepur. He tendered his resignation on 16.5.1977 to contest election to Bihar Legislative Assembly.

The resignation was accepted by letter dated 17.5.1977. Long after the resignation was accepted i.e. nearly after about two decades, the respondent filed a representation before the Chief Post Master General, Bihar Circle, Patna for grant of pension. The same was rejected on the ground that since the respondent had resigned, by operation of Rule 26(1) of the Rules his past service stood forfeited and, therefore, he was not entitled to any pension. The decision was communicated by the Assistant Director, Bihar Circle, Patna.

An application under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 was filed before the Patna Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (in short the 'Tribunal').

The Tribunal by its order dated 14.3.2001 held that the forfeiture of past service was not sustainable in law. It was held that by operation of Rule 26 the benefit available to a retired government servant cannot be denied on the purported ground of forfeiture of past service. It was noticed that though the original application was filed after about 21 years from the date of acceptance of resignation same cannot be a ground to deny the benefits. The appellants filed a writ petition before the Patna High Court questioning correctness of Tribunal's decision. The High Court by its order dated 17.4.2003 held that to receive retirement benefits is a right of service which is inherent, and Rules should not be torn out of context to deny post retirement benefits.

In support of the appeal learned counsel for the appellants submitted that Rule 26(1) in clear terms postulates about forfeiture of past service in case of resignation. Once the past service is forfeited the qualifying period for receiving pension does not exist.

Therefore, the Tribunal and the High Court were not justified in their views.

In response, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the entitlement of pension flows from the Rules. There are specific provisions under which pensionary benefits can be denied. Rule 26 cannot be pressed into service to deny the benefits. He submitted that Rule 26(2) provides an escape route to the forfeiture of past service.

Merely because after acceptance of resignation the employee did not take up another appointment under Government that would not take away the right to receive pension flowing from the Rules.

In order to appreciate rival submissions Rule 26 which is the pivotal provision needs to be quoted. The same reads as under:

"26. Forfeiture of service on resignation (1) Resignation from a service or post, unless it is allowed to be withdrawn in the public interest by the Appointing Authority, entails forfeiture of past service.

(2) 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." Rule 26 as the heading itself shows relates to forfeiture of service on resignation. In clear terms it provides that resignation from a service or a post, unless it is allowed to be withdrawn in the public interest by the Appointing Authority, entails forfeiture of past service.

The language is couched in mandatory terms. However, sub- rule (2) is in the nature of an exception. It provides that 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. Admittedly this is not the case in the present appeal. Rule 5 on which great emphasis was laid down by the learned counsel for the respondent deals with regulation of claims to pension or family pension. Qualifying service is dealt with in Chapter III. The conditions subject to which service qualifies are provided in Rule 14. Chapter V deals with classes of pensions and conditions governing their grant. The effect of Rule 26 sub-rules (1) and (2) cannot be lost sight of while deciding the question of entitlement of pension. The High Court was not justified in its conclusion that the rule was being torn out of context. After the past service is forfeited the same has to be excluded from the period of qualifying service. The language of Rule 26 sub-rules (1) and (2) is very clear and unambiguous. It is trite law that all the provisions of a statute have to be read together and no particular provision should be treated as superfluous.

That being the position after the acceptance of resignation, in terms of Rule 26 sub-rule (1) the past service stands forfeited. That being so, it has to be held that for the purpose of deciding question of entitlement to pension the respondent did not have the qualifying period of service.

There is no substance in the plea of the leaned counsel for the respondent that Rule 26 sub-rules (1) and (2) has limited operation and does not wipe out entitlement to pension as quantified in Rule 49. Said Rule deals with amount of pension and not with entitlement.

It is well settled principle in law that the Court cannot read anything into a statutory provision which is plain and unambiguous. A statute is an edict of the Legislature. The language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of legislative intent.

Words and phrases are symbols that stimulate mental references to referents. The object of interpreting a statute is to ascertain the intention of the Legislature enacting it. (See Institute of Chartered Accountants of India v. M/s Price Waterhouse and Anr. (AIR 1998 SC 74)) The intention of the Legislature is primarily to be gathered from the language used, which means that attention should be paid to what has been said as also to what has not been said. As a consequence, a construction which requires for its support, addition or substitution of words or which results in rejection of words as meaningless has to be avoided. As observed in Crawford v. Spooner (1846 (6) Moore PC 1), Courts, cannot aid the Legislatures' defective phrasing of an Act, we cannot add or mend, and by construction make up deficiencies which are left there. (See The State of Gujarat and Ors. v. Dilipbhai Nathjibhai Patel and Anr. (JT 1998 (2) SC 253)). It is contrary to all rules of construction to read words into an Act unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. (See Stock v. Frank Jones (Tiptan) Ltd. (1978 1 All ER 948 (HL). Rules of interpretation do not permit Courts to do so, unless the provision as it stands is meaningless or of doubtful meaning. Courts are not entitled to read words into an Act of Parliament unless clear reason for it is to be found within the four corners of the Act itself. (Per Lord Loreburn L.C. in Vickers Sons and Maxim Ltd. v. Evans (1910) AC 445 (HL), quoted in Jamma Masjid, Mercara v.

Kodimaniandra Deviah and Ors.(AIR 1962 SC 847).

The question is not what may be supposed and has been intended but what has been said. "Statutes should be construed not as theorems of Euclid". Judge Learned Hand said, "but words must be construed with some imagination of the purposes which lie behind them". (See Lenigh Valley Coal Co. v. Yensavage 218 FR 547). The view was re-iterated in Union of India and Ors. v. Filip Tiago De Gama of Vedem Vasco De Gama (AIR 1990 SC 981).

In Dr. R. Venkatchalam and Ors. etc. v. Dy. Transport Commissioner and Ors. etc. (AIR 1977 SC 842), it was observed that Courts must avoid the danger of a priori determination of the meaning of a provision based on their own pre-conceived notions of ideological structure or scheme into which the provision to be interpreted is somewhat fitted. They are not entitled to usurp legislative function under the disguise of interpretation.

The above position was highlighted by this Court in Maulavi Hussein Haji Abraham Umarji v. State of Gujarat and Another (AIR 2004 SC 3946).

The High Court's judgment affirming the order of the Tribunal cannot be sustained and deserves to be set aside which we direct. The appeal is allowed but without any order as to costs.

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