(Published in Daily English TheNews on Wednesday, December 08, 2010)
Karachi: Sindh High Court has directed the State Bank of Pakistan to pay pension benefits to retired bank employees who opted for a golden handshake scheme in 1997, in accordance with SBP officers (pension-cum-gratuity) regulations.
Imtiaz Ali Khan and 202 others moved the SHC against the denial of pension benefits by the SBP.
The petitioners submitted that they had opted for the golden handshake scheme after their 10 years’ service and it was agreed in the scheme that they would be entitled to retirement benefits available under the existing rules and regulations. However, they said, the bank was not paying them pension benefits which was discriminatory and they prayed to the court to direct the bank to pay them the pension benefits.
The SBP counsel, however, opposed the petition, submitting that the SBP officers (pension-cum-gratuity) regulations were not applicable to the petitioners as they did not retire from the service but voluntarily opted for the golden handshake scheme.
The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Shahid Anwar Bajwa observed in the judgment that the petitioners were entitled for pension benefits, and directed the SBP to pay them pension benefits in accordance with Section 4 of the SBP regulations.
Age limit petition: Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court dismissed a petition that sought direction to the federal government to amend the policy regarding the age limit for public representatives and public servants as not maintainable.
Dr Mohammad Ali Thalho, chairman of the Sindh Doctors Etehad, submitted in the petition that all political representatives happen to be public servants and when medical fitness and mental capacity is considered compulsory for common citizens of the state then there must be clear criteria for the retirement age of politicians as well since they are also the members of society and they also possess the same features and physique as like common people and civil servants.
On the contrary, he mentioned, public representatives are used to holding public executive offices without limitation of age and medical fitness.
Dr Thalho submitted that the retirement age for government servants has been fixed while no maximum age limit has been fixed for the public office holders, which is discriminatory as all citizens have equal rights under the Constitution.
He submitted that the minimum age requirement of a candidate for contesting the election of the Majlis-e-Shoora and the provincial assembly is clearly described but the age of retirement is nowhere mentioned in the election laws and the Constitution.
He further submitted that with the growth in age psychological, physical and hormonal changes occur as natural phenomenon and a person reaches high risk after the age of 60 on medical grounds such as memory loss, loss of determination, muscular and mental fatigue and lack of work interest.
Dr Thalho further submitted that the eligibility criteria for public leaders should not only be considered on degrees but also age, health and capabilities should be the mandatory requisite as like a 60-year age limit has been fixed for every common citizen of the country for government service.
Dr Thalho, who is also a former coordinator of the late PPP chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, submitted that the chief minster Sindh was about to reach the age of 80 years and his age group and his working capacity was not recommended to make him hold executive office of the province. He said that at the age of 70-80 years a person becomes highly prone to many psychological and physical disorders and it is not possible for a person on medical and moral grounds to hold the main public office.
During the previous hearing, the court had directed the petitioner to produce law or reference in which the court could give direction to parliament regarding legislation on this specific issue. The petitioner produced a reference of the US electoral system in which medical examination is necessary. However, the court did not agree with the reference, observing that fixing the age limit for the legislators and public representatives is the prerogative of parliament and dismissed the petition for the reasons to be recorded later on.