Defying a Himachal Pradesh court’s directive to clear the dues of around 850 pensioners of an agricultural university has cost its top functionaries dear.
Expressing displeasure over non-release of pension arrears with dearness allowance even after the high court ordered this in 2011, a division bench consisting of Justices Sanjay Karol and Rajiv Sharma has directed that the salary of the vice chancellor and the registrar of the Palampur-based Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya be stopped for contempt of court.
The bench, in its order earlier this week, observed: “The salary of the vice chancellor and the registrar of the respondent – university – shall not be released without seeking liberty from this court.”
However, the court refused to restrain the two functionaries from using an official vehicle.
“We refrain from passing any order today, granting liberty to the petitioners to move an appropriate application in this regard,” the judges observed on the demand of the petitioners that their vehicles should also be attached.
The order came following contempt proceedings moved by the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University Pensioners’ Society, comprising over 450 members.
“We find that despite sufficient opportunities afforded to the respondents, they have not complied with the judgment dated Sep 15, 2011, passed by a division bench of this court,” the judges said.
“This court had directed the respondents to release retirement gratuity, death gratuity and arrears of pension with dearness allowance within six months. Time to comply with the judgment was extended by this court on request of the respondents. But despite that, the respondents failed to comply with the judgment. The respondents also failed to respond to the legal notice served upon them by the petitioners’ society,” the bench observed.
The court will now hear the matter Nov 5.
University officials said there are over 850 pensioners in the university.
“The total arrear liability on the university is over Rs.34 crore and its monthly pension bill is around Rs.2 crore,” a senior official told .
He said the university has almost exhausted the corpus for the pensioners as neither had it put matching grants nor was it provided by the state for over 13 years.
“We have been running from pillar to post for over two years now to get our arrears despite winning the battle in the high court. The state must bail out the university on this front,” said Sushil Kumar Phull, president of the pensioners association.
He said the pensioners have also been demanding their money should be disbursed from the state treasury.
The pensioners said the previous BJP government had discriminated against Palampur university and the Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry of Solan in favour of Shimla’s Himachal Pradesh University (HPU).
“While the HPU was given grants to implement revised pay scales with a gratuity limit of Rs.10 lakh, the government froze it at Rs.3.5 lakh for the Palampur university pensioners. So we had to take legal recourse,” said a pensioner.
He said even 59 pensioners of the Y.S. Parmar University had got relief from the high court in a similar case this year and got their dues.