The Punjab and Haryana high court has asked the Punjab government to pay Rs 589.2 crore to the state warehousing corporation that has failed to clear pension dues.
The direction was issued by the HC bench of justice Kuldip Singh while disposing of a bunch of petitions pending since 2011 by retirees of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) challenging the orders to put the pension on hold.
The contention was that, as per a 1996 notification, all liabilities of pension account of employees has to be met from the designated pension fund only, not from the revenue and any other source of the PSWC. Since the pension fund dried up, the corporation stopped release of pension to its employees.
But the HC observed that the payment of pension is a statutory liability of the PSWC. “They cannot be allowed to take the shelter of pension scheme to claim that the pension is to be paid only from the pension fund and not from other sources,” the HC said.
During the hearing, it came to light that besides the Rs 589 crore from the government, the corporation has to recover Rs 470.88 crore from Food Corporation of India (FCI) and another Rs 717.52 crore from different agencies. Also, the corporation is in a dispute on recovery of Rs 297 crore on account of storage charges from the FCI.
Further taking into account the submissions from petitioners — that if Rs 300 crore is put into a pension corpus, all future liabilities could be met too — the HC directed that on recovery from various agencies, the corporation would deposit Rs 50 crore each year into the pension corpus until Rs 473 crore or more is deposited. The amount will be kept by the PSWC in some financial institutions, from where it can earn maximum possible interest, so that no difficulty arises in future.
The PSWC had 1,900 employees but, after 1992, due to a ban on fresh recruitment, the number dwindled to 1,200. As a result, the inflow of money into the pension fund also dwindled.