Sanjeev Kaushik, Member (J).
1. The applicant has approached this Tribunal by way of the instant Original Application (O.A) under section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, seeking quashing of the order dated 29.9.2018 (Annexure A-9), vide which her claim for medical reimbursement to the tune of Rs.5,81,311/- spent on treatment of her husband, has been rejected, primarily on the ground that Central Services (Medical Attendance) Rules, 1944, are not applicable to retirees and for issuance of a direction to the respondents to allow her aforesaid amount, with interest @12% per annum, as payment has been delayed to her illegally for such a long time.
2. The facts of the case are not largely in dispute.
3. Sh. Arjan Dass, late husband of the applicant retired from service of Postal Department, as Sub Postmaster, Tapa, Barnala, Punjab, on 31.3.2013, on attaining the age of superannuation. He was suffering from “Multiple Myeloma, lG, on VCD Regimen”. He underwent treatment at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, Sector-V, Rohini, Delhi during the period from 29.9.2014 to 3.10.2014, 12.10.2014 to 13.10.2014, 3.10.2015 to 7.10.2015, 17.11.2015 to 2.12.2015, and ultimately expired on 3.12.2015, due to cancer. The request of applicant for medical reimbursement was turned down, vide order dated 18.1.2016, on the ground that benefit is not admissible to retired government officials as per rule 1 (2)(iv) of Central Services (Medical Attendance) Rules, 1944.
4. Pursuant to directions contained in O.A.No.060/00400/2016, on a re-consideration, her claim was rejected on 13.7.2017 (Annexure A-6), primarily on the ground of inapplicability of CS (MA) Rules, 1944, to the retirees.
5. The applicant approached this Tribunal for second time vide O.A. No. 060/00779/2018 claiming parity with other cases in which retirees were held entitled to medical reimbursement. The Court, placing reliance on SHIVA KANT JHA VS. UNION OF INDIA (W.P. (Civil) No. 695/2015) decided on 13.4.2015, and decision of Jurisdictional High Court in a bunch of decisions titled UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS VS. MOHAN LAL GUPTA & OTHERS, 2018 (1) SCT, 687, upholding the view taken by this Tribunal, disposed of that O.A. on 9.7.2018, by quashing the impugned order dated 13.7.2007 and remitted the matter back to the respondents to re-consider it in the light of judgments mentioned in the order. However, the respondents, instead of considering the fact and effect of decisions mentioned in indicated order, rejecting the claim of applicant vide order dated 20.9.2018 on the same ground that deceased being a retiree, was not covered under CS (MA) Rules, 1944. Hence, the O.A.
6. So, this is the third round of litigation, challenging the order dated 20.9.2018, on the same ground, which is not available, in view of judicial pronouncements, including that of Apex Dispensation.
7. When the case was listed for motion heating on 18.9.2019, and noticing the plea that despite judicial view on the issue in a number of cases, the respondents rejected claim of applicant on the same ground, which is not tenable, Court issued notice to the respondents. Mr. Sanjay Goyal, Sr. CGSC, present in Court accepted the notice and sought time to file reply. Respondent No. 3 was also directed to be present in the Court for a clarification. On 1.10.2019, Mr. Mukesh Kaushik, appeared for respondents and sought 15 days time for filing reply. The Court was inclined to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings but gave an opportunity to the respondents to file a reply.
8. The matter was taken up for hearing today i.e. 15.10.2019. Mr. Kaushik, learned counsel for the respondents, on instructions from Mr. Charanjit Singh, SPO, Sangrur, made a statement at the bar that the respondents do not wish to file written statement and they would like to re-visit the issue once again in view of directions issued by office of Respondent No.1 in letter(s) dated 10.10.2018/10.10.2019 and compliance has also been sought with intimation about amount paid along with date of payment to the applicant. Both these orders are taken on record.
9. It is apparent that in a number of litigations of Postal Department itself, the Court has negated the view of respondents that retirees are not covered under CS (MA) Rules, 1944 and that being so, there was nothing with the respondents to reject the claim of the applicant, more so when there were specific judicial pronouncements on the issue.
10. The Courts, including our own jurisdictional High Court has held time and again that State has pervasive obligations to discharge in relation to maintaining its expected standards of employer-employee relationship. When judgments attain finality to which the State is a party, duty is casted upon the State to grant relief to its employees who are similarly situated and on identical facts. Benefit of such approach is many and it causes no disadvantage to the interests of the State. It is not necessary for the State to require each one of its employees to approach the Courts of law for grant of a relief which the State ought to grant to the employees in normal course of its administration. In view of this, the logic of rejecting the claim of the applicant, time and again, on the same ground, which has been declared as illegal by courts of law, is nothing but obduracy on the part of the department. It appears that the word used by the courts to “consider” is taken by the departments in a very light hearted manner. They think that they can pass same order, which stands quashed, afresh, due to which a litigant has to approach the court again. This causes unnecessary financial burden on the litigant as well as the department. In this matter, the applicant has come to this Tribunal thrice, which has obviously caused financial burden upon him. In first case, the respondents would also have paid the fee to the government pleader and now in this third round that they would have to pay their counsel. Even the precious time of this court has also been wasted by them, as it could have been used for some other cases as well. This kind of light hearted approach cannot be appreciated by a court of law.
11. To make the things more clear, we would quote here the decision in the case of BHIKHUBHAI VITHLABHAI PATEL & ORS. VS. STATE OF GUJARAT & ANR., (2008) 4 SCC 144, in which the Hon'ble Apex Court, while interpreting the word consider and application of mind on a particular issue by department, has held in paragraph 33 as under:
"33. The court is entitled to examine whether there has been any material available with the State Government and the reasons recorded, if any, in the formation of opinion and whether they have any rational connection with or relevant bearing on the formation of the opinion. The court is entitled particularly, in the event, when the formation of the opinion is challenged to determine whether the formation of opinion is arbitrary, capricious or whimsical. It is always open to the court to examine the question whether reasons for formation of opinion have rational connection or relevant bearing to the formation of such opinion and are not extraneous to the purposes of the statute."
12. If one is to examine the impugned order, in the light of the observation made above, it would become clear that the respondents have exercised their power of “consideration” of claim of applicant, in a colourable manner, which cannot be approved by a court of law.
13. Despite poser by the Court, there was no explanation, whatsoever, as to why the department has rejected the medical claim of the applicant, on the plea that CS (MA) Rules, 1944 are not applicable to pensioners, despite the fact that this issue has been decided by this Court in a number of O.As, including that of the applicant, and by Hon’ble High Court, as well as by Apex Dispensation, that pensioners are also entitled to reimbursement of medical claims. It was incumbent upon the officers of the respondents to have considered the decisions in the case of Mohan Lal Gupta & Ors (supra) by Hon’ble High Court and latest decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Shiv Kant Jha (supra), which had negated the same very view against a number of departments, including Postal Department, holding that respondents cannot discriminate, while allowing the bill for medical reimbursement between retirees and persons in service.
14. Not only that, the latest document issued by the office of respondent no.1 is also eye opener, which clearly talks about implementation of the decision qua reimbursement of medical claim of the applicant. The sequence of events and factual scenario of this case, leaves much to be desired. The respondents indeed are at fault and have forced a widow, like the applicant to approach a Court of law thrice, for the same very relief, which has been settled by this Court, High Court and even Apex Court. Thus, court has no hesitation in holding that action of the respondents and impugned order is nonapplication of mind, arbitrary, mechanical in nature, misuse of official process and is a glaring example of colourable exercise of powers as despite the law settled on the issue the respondents have passed similar order, which cannot sustain on the touch stone of fair play.
15. The practice and procedure adopted by the respondents, in rejecting the claim of medical reimbursement of the retirees in a mechanical manner and on hyper-technical grounds, to say the least, is not a sign of a model employer, as it results into unnecessary financial burden on the litigant as well as on the department, besides wastage of precious time of Court which can be utilised for some other better purpose. Just because now the respondents have woken up from their deep slumber and taken a decision to grant the b
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enefit, would not condone the obduracy shown by them in passing the impugned order, and it is fit case in which the respondents are liable to be burdened with costs to sent a message across the board to avoid repetition of such attitude in future, which court assesses at Rs.25,000/-. 16. In the wake of the aforesaid discussion, I am left with no other option but to set aside the impugned order dated 20.9.2018, Annexure A-8. The matter is remitted back to the respondents to grant the applicant admissible benefit of medical reimbursement and costs of Rs.25,000/-, within a period of 4 weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order. 17. Before parting, it the Court would like to observe that it is quite hopeful that in future, such like claims will not be considered and rejected in an arbitrary manner, as has been done in this case. I also restrain myself from passing any adverse order against the person who has passed impugned orders, else it may have adverse effect on his service career. 18. The O.A. stands allowed and disposed of in the above terms.