The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday restrained the Punjab government from disbursing pension to those who participated in the agitation for the creation of the “Punjabi Suba” (province) on the basis of identification by MPs, MLAs and sarpanches till the next date of hearing.
The high court bench of justice SS Saron and justice Gurmit Ram also directed the government to frame criteria, such as minimum prison term, death during custody and death in police firing, for giving pension to those who participated in the “Punjabi Suba” movement, before the next date of hearing.
The high court order came on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate HC Arora, challenging the pension scheme wherein Rs 1,000 is given as monthly pension to identified beneficiaries.
The government scheme envisages disbursal of pension to the “sangharshi yodha” identified by former or sitting MPs and MLAs, zila parishad chairpersons and members, block samiti chief and members, panchayat samiti or sarpanch, municipal committee president, mayor and councillor.
The scheme was launched in December 2015 for those who had participated in agitation (from 1955 to 1965). Earlier, deputy commissioner-led committees were entitled to decide claims for such pension based on first information reports and other records pertaining to the movement.
Coming down heavily on the government, the HC bench said: “It appears you are encouraging malpractice. We are not averse to it, but the criterion is vague.” The word “participation” in the movement cannot be treated as a criterion, the HC bench added.
The high court referred to the scheme evolved by the Bihar government for giving pension to those who were detained during Emergency in which only those persons are getting pension who have remained in the jail for at least six months or who were killed in police firing or who died in custody during protests. The scheme was upheld by the Patna high court in 2014.