KOCHI: The Kerala High Court has come out against the alleged forcible deduction by the KSEB of a part of the pension of retired employees towards the Chief Minister's Relief Fund under the 'Vaccine Challenge'. The court declared that no amount shall be deducted from the pension, except if they give specific consent in writing.
The court also directed the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to refund the amounts deducted from the pension of the petitioners within two weeks.
Justice Devan Ramachandran issued the order while allowing a petition by 73-year-old Rajan E G and 71- year-old M Kesavan Nair from Thiruvananthapuram -- two retired KSEB employees -- challenging the deduction of a portion of their pension toward the Chief Minister's Relief Fund under the 'Vaccine Challenge' without their consent.
The court observed that normally, any contribution to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund or similar fund could be effected only with full volition of the contributor and could not be a matter of compulsion or forced compliance unless there was a valid law that sanctions such deductions.
"The KSEB or the state had no case – even whisperingly – that the petitioners or other employees – serving or retired – were under any legally sanctioned obligation to suffer any remittance under the 'Vaccine Challenge'. However, the KSEB circular, nevertheless, mandated that certain deductions would be made from the pension of retired employees towards the relief fund, but without conceding to any provision for such deduction being done only with the prior consent of the retirees," the court said.
The petitioners contended that they had not agreed to any contribution to be made under the 'Vacince Challenge'. Nor had they consented that their pension be reduced in any manner for such a purpose. They, therefore, sought to set aside the KSEB action in forcibly deducting a certain amount from their pension and its remittance into the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
The KSEB argued that the circular did not intend to forcibly contribute any amount from any section of the employees or former employees, except with their consent. It was issued solely on the basis of the specific agreement of the association of pensioners that their members were willing to contribute one day's pension to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund under the 'Vaccine Challenge'. If the petitioners were not agreeable to have their contribution retained by the KSEB, the amount would have to be refunded without any delay, the court said.