Formulate medical aid plan for pensionsers, HC tells BWSSB

In what could be termed a ray of hope for Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) pensioners, the High Court of Karnataka has asked the board to reconsider its decision on paying medical benefits to its former employees.

Hearing a petition by BWSSB Pensioners’ Association (BPA), Justice A N Venugopala Gowda suggested that the board may formulate a contributory scheme and make available medical aid to the pensioners. 

“The board, keeping in view the financial implications, may formulate a contributory scheme and make available medical aid to the extent finances permit, in as much as members of the petitioner are getting pension and can become members of a contributory scheme making contribution and the board, if necessary, may obtain a health policy from an insurance company and extend the same to pensioners,” the court observed in its order dated April 2, 2014.

The BPA had moved the High Court after they were left out of the pay scale revision for 1990, 1994, 1998, 2003 and 2008 by BWSSB stating that there will be no revision for those who retired before 1990. 

Justice Jaganathan, who heard the matter, directed to give them the revised pension and consider extension of medical benefits to the pensioners and their spouse.The order was upheld by a bench headed by the then Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen on  January 31, 2012, which dismissed an appeal by the BWSSB. 

When there was no response by the board to the order, a contempt petition was filed by the petitioners. However, during the hearing before Justice Shylendrakumar, the board agreed to pay the revised pension, but stated that it cannot consider the directions on extension of medical facilities. 

It submitted that no public sector has so far provided medical facilities to pensioners.A fresh petition was filed by the petitioners seeking extension of medical benefits.  

Revised benefits

During  the hearing, counsel for petitioners Lakshmy Iyengar submitted that in the earlier petition before the Court, the Court had directed to give the revised pensionary benefits and consider medical benefits for the petitioners and their spouses. 

“It was not an option to consider or reject the medical benefit, but was an option on how much of benefit, each pensioner is entitled for,” she said.

Allowing the petition, Justice Venugopala Gowda observed, “Relevant portion of the order of the learned single judge, which has been extracted above, clearly goes to show that this court left the matter to be decided by the board as it deems fit. When a court directs an authority to consider, it requires the authority to apply its mind to the facts and circumstances of the case and then take a decision thereon in accordance with law.”

Since the board has not considered the claim of petitioners for extension of medical aid on par with in-service personnel, at least prospectively, by keeping in view the observation made in the order, it said: “Writ petitions are allowed in part and first respondent- board is directed to reconsider the claim of petitioners by keeping in view the observations made in the order within a period of three months from the date a copy of this order becomes available.”

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