A last-minute realisation may have saved the Central government from blowing away the legal cover available to authorities right from the President and Supreme Court judges to ministers and members of Parliament against any orders of attachment of their pensions from the courts.
The government had almost decided to axe the 145-year-old Pension Act in its zealousness to heed the Prime Minister’s call to scrap obsolete laws. But at a meeting held on April 28, minutes of which have been accessed by ET, several ministries pointed out that no other law protects government authorities from seizure or attachment of pension by process of any court at the instance of a creditor who raises a demand against the pensioner.
This led the government to consider doing away with some of the “irrelevant or redundant” provisions of the Pensions Act, 1871 instead of repealing it. The final decision will now be made by Prime Minister Modi, who heads the pensions department of the personnel ministry. The government has so far repealed 125 archaic laws.
It has proposed to scrap over 1,000 more such laws. The representative of the Department of Financial Services (DoFS) said at the meeting that the Pensions Act is applicable to pensions under a large number of rules and Acts of Parliament.
“He specifically mentioned that pensions of the President, vicepresident, ministers and MPs are regulated by Acts of Parliament.
Similarly, pensions of Supreme Court/high court judges, central vigilance commissioners, central information commissioners and members of UPSC are also granted under Acts regulating their service conditions. These Acts of Parliament do not contain provisions securing the pension against attachment,” the minutes recorded.
Only Section 11 of the Pensions Act provides this protection to the constitutional authorities. When the pensions department proposed that the rules regulating various types of pension be amended to secure the pension and hence facilitate repealing of the Pensions Act, all ministries raised objections.
The home ministry “expressed apprehension” that the protection against attachment by courts, if provided in rules, “may not be as effective” as that provided in an Act of Parliament.
The rural development department concurred, saying all social security pensions administered by it are through executive orders and any provisions for security against attachment by court “may not be effective” as the provisions will not have any statutory backing.
The ministries of environment, culture and external affairs, and the departments of telecom, expenditure and posts said they do not even administer any separate pension rules.
The financial services department said the government will have to amend all other Acts and rules regulating various kinds of pension to incorporate the safety net, if the Pensions Act is to be repealed.
It proposed that instead of amending a large number of Acts and rules, the Pensions Act may be amended to repeal only those provisions which have since become irrelevant or redundant.
“Ministries of home, labour, rural development, defence, railways and DoPT endorsed the views of the Department of Financial Services… the aforesaid views of the ministries/departments will be placed before competent authority for taking a decision in the matter,” the minutes noted.