The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Indian Navy to rework the pension plan of five women short service commission officers by waiving the interest on the gratuity refund, the Hindustan Times reported.
The five officers had missed out on getting permanent commission as they had been released from service before September 26, 2008.
In March 2020, the Supreme Court had directed that women short service commission officers in the Navy who continued in service after September 26, 2008 should be eligible for the grant of permanent commission.
The Navy officers who approached the apex court were eligible only for pensions benefits and a one-time compensation of Rs 25 lakh, and not a reinstatement.
Permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till they retire. A short service commission officer, on the other hand, has to serve a tenure of 10 years that can be extended by four years.
One of the petitioners told the Supreme Court that she would need to refund the gratuity along with an interest of over Rs 13.95 lakh, thus placing a huge burden on the officer.
The petitioners described the demand for interest as completely unjustified and untenable. They also contended that their pension was calculated against 14 years of service.
The officials cited a judgement passed on March 2020 by the Supreme Court. In its ruling, the court had held that the officers should be deemed to have completed the minimum qualifying pensionable service of 20 years.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the petitioners wanted the death-cum-retirement gratuity. This provision is meant for people who retired from service, according to Live Law.
He noted that the death-cum-retirement gratuity is calculated at the rate of one-fourth of a month’s pay for every six months.
On the other hand, terminal gratuity that was paid to the officers was at the rate of half a month’s salary for every six months of service.
Balasubramian told the court that the recovery was being made from the officers for this reason.
“Then let us not recover interest,” Justice DY Chandrachud told the central government. “These are officers who have served the nation.”
The court directed that the officers would not have to pay interest on the amount to be refunded. It also directed that they should be deemed to have completed 20 years of qualifying service for computing pension benefits.
The bench directed the Navy to pay the officers arrears from the date when they completed minimum pensionable service. The officers were also eligible for notional increments for the period between the date of their release from service and the date when they completed 20 years of service.