Punjab: 6 ex-MLAs move High Court over one MLA one pension scheme

A group of six former MLAs in Punjab have challenged the a new legislation brought in by the Punjab government that limits the pension drawn by a former legislator to only one term, regardless of the number of times elected to Vidhan Sabha. The petitioners want that the new rule not be implemented with retrospective effect.

They have sought quashing of a letter whereby the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Secretariat (pension branch) had ordered that remuneration be released to the petitioners under the government’s one MLA one pension rule.

The plea filed states that the retrospective implementation of the one MLA one pension rule by the government reduced the remuneration being drawn by them considerably.

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha had passed the Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2022, on June 30, paving the way for a single pension to each MLA, irrespective of the terms for which he or she gets elected. Following the Gubernatorial assent, the legislation was notified on August 13.

The petitioners — Rakesh Pandey (67), Laal Singh (80), Sarwan Singh (74), Sohan Singh Thandal (65), Mohan Lal (55), and Gurbinder Singh Atwal (71) — contended that secretary of Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s pension branch had through a letter dated August 24, communicated to the Accountant General (Accounts Audit) to retrospectively implement the 2022 amendment, thereby ordering that “the pension be released to the pensioner as per the amendment”.

“The impugned measures equate persons who have served as legislators for multiple terms and puts them on the same pedestal with some who have just served as an MLA for merely one term. Such an action, either taken administratively or legislatively, will be wholly arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” read the petition.

The plea further states that a perusal of the impugned letter or 2022 amendment reveals that it has delinked the nexus between pensionary entitlement of a former legislator from the number of terms served by such person as a legislator. Every former MLA now is to receive a blanket pension (of Rs 60,000 plus DA) regardless of the number of times he or she may have served as a legislator in Punjab.

It was also submitted there was no provision enabling the 2022-Amendment Act to be implemented retrospectively. The benefit of pension accrued at the end of the last term could not be taken away by a prospective legislation. Even a retrospective legislation could not take away the vested rights, the plea contented.

The matter on Friday was heard by the Bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli.