New Pension Scheme for railway employees challenged
The new pension scheme introduced by the Union Government for railway employees has been challenged in the Madras Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal.
An employee of the southern railway and Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) have challenged the scheme terming it unconstitutional and invalid.
According to the new scheme, employees appointed on or after 01.01.2004 in the Railways would be governed by the new pension scheme which would be governed by 'Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority' which would function under the overall control of Ministry of Finance. According to the new scheme, 10% of Pay and DA of an employee would be deducted and an equal amount would be contributed by the central government.
The entire pension scheme is being authorized through various executive orders, which cannot be done to govern the retirement benefits of government employees which has to be in tune with Articles 41 to 43 of the Constitution, alleges the application. The notifications issued by the government constituting PFRDA dated 10.10.2003 and 14.11.2008 are unconstitutional, as they have not been issued by the President of India and authenticated as required under Article 77 of the Constitution and the ordnance sanctioning this also lapsed in 2005, which renders the entire process without authority of law alleges DREU in its application.
The new pension scheme, which is mandatory to government employees curtails them from exercising any option said V. Daniel, a Helper in Southern Railway. According to the New Pension Scheme, any citizen of India can join the Scheme and they can choose their Fund Managers or opt for different schemes whereas no such option is available to government servants.
The application also raised serious apprehension over the way in which their funds are being exposed to market risk and they cite the risk clause in the offer document of the NPS which says that "there are no guarantee on investments and investments involve risks such as trading volumes, settlement risk, liquidity risk, default risk, including possible loss of principal'. The application also cited the statement of PFRDA Chairman that pension fund managers regulated by PFRDA are not giving minimum guarantee on returns in their products.
Besides seeking quashing of the notification and grant retiral benefits to all employees on par with those who joined prior to January 1994, the application sought an interim injunction against the notification and also to release family pension and gratuity to certain employees who died after the introduction of the new scheme.
The matter came up before the Madras Bench of the CAT comprising Members K. Elango and R. Satapathy. Counsel R. Vaigai advanced arguments on behalf of the DREU and highlighted how the funds of the employees are being entrusted with private players and are subjected to undue risks. She also apprised the Bench that the government as an employer cannot transfer its funds to a private player and expect him to discharge government's obligation.
After hearing the arguments on behalf of the applicant and of the central government, the Bench ordered interim relief directing the railway authorities to offer gratuity and family pension to all employees who joined after January 2004 within four weeks from the date of application and posted the matter for June 1