FEW Ex-MLAs HAVE APPROACHED HIGH COURT CHALLENGING RETROSPECTIVE OPERATION OF AMENDMENT LAW WHICH RESULTS IN DRASTIC REDUCTION IN THEIR ERSTWHILE PENSION AMOUNT
STATE LEGISLATURE HAS POWER NOT ONLY TO REDUCE BUT EVEN TO WITHDRAW PENSION OF Ex-MLAs BY AMENDING RELEVANT LAW SINCE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA IS SILENT ON GRANT OF PENSION TO FORMER LAWMAKERS — HEMANT KUMAR
Chandigarh – On Sep 16, 2022 a Division Bench of Punjab & Haryana High Court comprising Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli issued Notice of Motion returnable by 17 Jan 2023 to State of Punjab and Others on Civil Writ Petition (CWP) filed by certain ex-MLAs of Punjab Vidhan Sabha who have assailed a recent Amendment made in section 3 of Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Act, 1977 (IN short Punjab MLAs Pension Law) which now provides that there shall be paid to every person, who remained as a member (read of Punjab State Legislature), a Pension of sixty thousand rupees per mensem plus Dearness Allowance thereon (as admissible to the Punjab Government pensioners), irrespective of the number of terms he had served as a member and irrespective of the tenures of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, in which he had served as a member.
The aforementioned Amendment to ibid Punjab MLAs Pension Law of 1977 was made via passage of Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2022 by House of Punjab State Assembly in June this year which later received the assent of Governor of Punjab on Aug 4, 2022 and thereafter it got published on Aug 11, 2022 in the State’s Official Gazette. As per Section 1(2) of above Amendment law, it shall come into force on and with effect from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
Meanwhile, an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Hemant Kumar, told that prior to the above Amendment in Sec 3 of 1977 Act, every person, who remained as a Member of Punjab State Legislature, received a pension of fifteen thousand rupees per mensem plus Dearness Allowance thereon, as admissible to the Punjab Government Pensioners, for the first term, and an additional ten thousand rupees plus Dearness Allowance thereon as admissible to the Punjab Government pensioners for every subsequent term, irrespective of the tenures of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, in which he had served as a Member.
However both prior to and post Amendment, it was provided and it still exists that after attaining the age of 65 years, 75 years and 80 years, every Ex-MLA is entitled to an increase of five percent, ten per cent and fifteen per cent respectively of the basic pension.
Be that as it may, certain Ex-MLAs ( of course those who remained MLA for more than one term) are raising the point that since the recent Amendment in Punjab MLAs Pension Law has come into force only with effect from Aug 11, 2022 i.e. from date of its publication in Official Gazette as per Section 1(2) of above 2022 Amendment Act hence their erstwhile Pension amount can’t be curtailed/reduced consequent upon enforcement of One-Term Pension norm for all ex-MLAs irrespective of their tenures which is nevertheless is the agenda of ruling AAP dispensation.
Amidst all this, Hemant opines if for whatever reasons be it owing to language employed in aforementioned 2022 Amendment Law or otherwise it is argued or canvassed that One-term Pension norm for ex-MLAS in Punjab would not have retrospective operation and it applies prospectively i.e. with effect from Aug 11, 2022 then the same is clear mis-interpretation of ibid Amendment Law and the same clearly defeats the very purpose and spirit of such Amendment.
Hence, Hemant has publicly appealed to CM Bhagwant Mann that notwithstanding the fact regarding High Court being currently seized of the matter regarding the recent Amendment in Punjab MLAs Pension Law, since as on date only Notice of Motion has been issued and especially no Stay of any sort has been granted by the Court, hence the AAP Government should get the 1977 Punjab MLAs Pension Law further amended via State Assembly, where it commands thumping majority, by explicitly providing in the Law itself that “On and from the enforcement of Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Act, 2022, the Pension of every then existing former member of Punjab State Legislature (MLA) shall be revised in accordance with the provision made by such Amendment Act” i.e. in other words irrespective of the fact that a person has served as a Member of Punjab State Legislature for how many terms, he/she shall receive Pension for only one term as mandated by 2022 Amendment Act.
Hemant also shares an interesting (read constitutional) point that grant of Pension not only to ex- MLAs of any State Legislature in our country but also to former Members of Parliament (MPs) has got only statutory (legal) and not constitutional sanctity since both in Article 106 (pertaining to MPs) and Article 195 (pertaining to MLAs/MLCs) of Constitution of India, there is mention of only Salary and Allowances for Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures respectively. The provision for grant of Pension for former MPs was made in 1976 by the Parliament via amendment in the Salary and Allowances of MPs Act, 1954 i.e. more than two decades after such law was enacted.
Likewise in case of State of Punjab , the relevant law for grant of Pension to ex-MLAs viz. Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Act, 1977 was enacted by Punjab State Assembly which came into force with effect from May,1977. Hence, grant of Pension to Ex-MLAs is a legal entitlement and not a constitutional obligation.
In other words, if incumbent Bhagwant Mann led AAP Government takes a decision to even completely withdraw the Pension being granted to Ex-MLAs of Punjab, it can very much do the same by repealing the aforementioned Punjab MLAs Pension Law of 1977 itself via State Assembly. The same would not be unconstitutional since the Constitution of India is silent on grant of Pension to former lawmakers.