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HC stops KSEB from Vaccine Challenge deductions

The facility cannot deduct money from its retired employees’ pension without their consent

The Kerala High Court has ordered that no amount should be deducted from the pension of the retired KSEB employees towards the Chief Ministers Relief Fund under ‘Vaccine Challenge’ except if they give specific consent for the same in writing.

Justice Devan Ramachandran made a declaration to the effect on Tuesday while allowing a writ petition by two retired KSEB employees—73-year-old Rajan E.G. and 71-year-old M. Kesavan Nair from Thiruvananthapuram—challenging the deduction of a portion of their pension towards the Chief Ministers Relief Fund under the ‘Vaccine Challenge’ without their consent.

The court observed that normally, any contribution to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund or such other could be effected only with full volition of the contributor and could not be a matter of compulsion or forced compliance unless there was a valid law that sanctions such deduction.

The KSEB or the State had no case that the petitioners or other employees, serving or retired, were “under any legally sanctioned obligation to suffer any remittance under the Vaccine Challenge”.

However, the KSEB circular mandated that certain deductions would be made from the pension of the retired employees towards the relief fund, “but without conceding to any provision for such deduction being done only with the prior consent of the retirees”, the court added.

The petitioners contended that they had neither agreed to any contribution to be made under the ‘Vaccine Challenge’ nor had they consented that their pension be reduced in any manner for such purpose. They, therefore, sought to set aside the KSEB action in forcibly deducting a certain amount from their pension and its remittance into the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

When the petition came up for hearing, the counsel for the KSEB argued that the circular did not intend to forcibly collect any amount from any section of the employees or former employees, except with their consent. In fact, it was issued solely on the basis of the specific agreement of the association of pensioners, that their members were willing to contribute one day’s pension to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund under the ‘Vaccine Challenge’.

Counsel further submitted that if the petitioners were not agreeable to have their contribution retained by the KSEB, the amount would be refunded without any delay. The court also directed the KSEB to refund the amounts deducted from the pension of the petitioners within two weeks.

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