The Delhi High Court Wednesday slammed the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) for stopping pensions of nearly 45,000 people, including disabled, widow, and aged persons.
A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva issued notice to the EDMC and asked it to file affidavit stating the number of persons entitled to receive the pension under old-age pension scheme and the number of persons actually receiving the pension.
"Issue notice to EDMC. The counsel shall file affidavit which clearly sets out the number of persons entitled to receive the old age stipend/pension under the old age pension scheme," the bench said.
It added: "The counsel shall also indicate the number of persons actually receiving such stipend and the method EDMC is using for selecting to grant stipend. It shall also be indicated to whom the EDMC have stopped giving such stipend."
The court added the South and North Delhi Municipal Corporations as parties to the case and issued notice to them too. The court sought responses from the civic bodies by March 11.
During the hearing, counsel appearing for the EDMC told the court that the civic body does not have the funds for granting pension. "We have scheme but we are out of funds. We have applied to the home ministry for funds. We have paid pensions till April 2013," counsel told the bench.
The bench, however, was disappointed by the EDMC action of stopping pension, and said the arguments of counsel are absurd.
"It's absurd. It's a complete eyewash. You (EDMC) are not giving pension to anyone. Give list of persons you are giving pensions," said the court.
The PIL filed by NGO Social Jurist through advocate Ashok Agarwal termed denial of pension the old and the disabled as a violation of fundamental rights.
The PIL claims these persons were allowed the pension under the municipal corporation's pension schemes which were abruptly stopped recently without specifying a reason.
Agarwal said the action of the EDMC is "arbitrary and illegal".
The PIL said: "The civic agency has framed a scheme for the disbursing stipend/pension inter alia to the old people above the 60 years of age, disabled and widows residing in Delhi. The municipal corporation is also stated to have approved of the rules and regulations for disbursement of pensions to old aged persons etc, in 2008."
The NGO said, last month its office-bearers visited the slum of Shashi Garden, Patparganj, in east Delhi as part of their constant initiative to spread awareness on health, education and labour rights.
While interacting with the locals, around 50 of them complained they were not receiving pension which they were earlier getting from the EDMC as disabled/widows/old-aged persons. Several persons have not received pension for more than a year.
"The destitute, whose only means of survival was the said stipend/pension, have thus been left in a lurch by the abrupt and arbitrary stoppage of stipend/pension. Their monthly budgets have been hit hard and many of them have been drawn to the brink of starvation," the PIL pointed out.