The Supreme Court on Friday observed that voluntary retirement schemes have to be strictly adhered to, and the very objective of having such schemes would be defeated, if parts of other schemes are sought to be imported into such voluntary retirement schemes.
The bench comprising Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was considering a batch of appeals filed by associations of employees of Insurance companies, who had availed General Insurance Employees’ Special Voluntary Retirement Scheme, 2004. Their contention was that they are also entitled to certain benefits arising under the earlier scheme known as the General Insurance (Employees) Pension Scheme, 1995, which inter alia provided that the qualifying service of an employee, retiring under that 1995 Scheme, would be increased by a period not exceeding five years, subject to certain conditions.
The issue before the apex court bench was whether the beneficiaries under the SVRS-2004 Scheme, which specifically excludes the benefit of additional five (5) years’ service of the 1995 Scheme, would still be entitled to claim the said amount contrary to the explicit terms.
Referring to various judgments and also perusing the schemes in question, the bench observed that what is binding between the parties is the statutory scheme itself, as per its terms. Approving the contention raised by insurance companies that, if one has availed of the benefits, it would not be open to raise pleas and seek benefits beyond what is stipulated in the scheme, the bench said: “We have, thus, no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that statutory or contractual, such voluntary retirement schemes as the SVRS2004 Scheme have to be strictly adhered to, and the very objective of having such Schemes would be defeated, if parts of other Schemes are sought to be imported into such voluntary retirement schemes. What is offered by the employer is a package as contained in the Schemes of voluntary retirement, and that alone would be admissible.”
Dismissing their appeals, the court said: “Employees avail of the benefit of such a Scheme with their eyes open, they cannot look here and there, under different schemes, to see what other benefits can be achieved by them, by seeking to take advantage of the more beneficial schemes, while simultaneously enjoying the more beneficial aspects of the SVRS-2004 Scheme.”