New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has upheld the Central Administrative Tribunal`s order asking the central government to pay pension benefits to former RAW official Nisha Priya Bhatia, who was compulsorily retired from service for security reasons after her identity became public in 2009.
In a recent judgement, the court has directed the government to pay the money within four weeks with nine percent rate of interest to Bhatia who was in news for her attempt to commit suicide before the PMO after alleging sexual harassment by her senior officers in 2008 and due to disclosure of her identity as a RAW officer she was compulsory retired.
Dismissing the appeal of Union of India against the CAT`s 2011 order asking it to give retirement benefits to Bhatia, a bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and RV Easwar also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on it.
After giving her compulsory retirement in 2009, the department had not released her pension and other financial benefits on the ground that she was unauthorisedly absent in the office from August 29, 2008 to November 22, 2009 which was "grave misconduct".
"Its (CAT) direction to fix her pension with effect from December 19, 2009, without treating such periods as unauthorised absence and take consequential action, and without requiring her to apply for leave, and to release differential amounts, are hereby affirmed."
"The amounts which are to be paid to Bhatia shall be released within four weeks. All consequential terminal benefits shall be revised within the same period and paid to her. All such amounts shall carry an interest at the rate of nine percent per annum from December 19, 2009 till date of payment."
Rejecting the Centre`s claims that there were evidences leading the government to give her compulsory retirement, the court examined them and said "these facts culminate in the alleged misconduct of unauthorised absence; however they are also linked with her allegations of harassment at the workplace."
"There cannot be any doubt that what is an act of harassment may be one incident, or a series of incidents; omissions to respond appropriately (as has been commented by the Jha committee) can also constitute harassment. The events after November 2007 are thus a live link with the allegations of misconduct levelled against Bhatia and therefore, acquire some relevance."
The court also observed the conduct of senior officers "amount to an indictment of culpable omission on their part" and added that "as per the rules..Neither was any inquiry initiated nor even contemplated at the time Bhatia was served with the compulsory retirement order...Yet, no attempt or effort to issue a charge sheet or consider that such absence amounted to grave misconduct was made".
Accepting the officer`s arguments, the court said "...The previous history of grievances articulated by her concerning sexual harassment at the workplace and the several adverse remarks made against the government officials with respect to the lack of any action in tune with the Vishaka guidelines..."
"This court has no doubt that the CAT`s order directing the government not to hold any inquiry into allegations of Bhatia`s period of absence was justified and calls for no interference."