Old age pension can’t be linked to minimum wage, Centre tells SC

New Delhi: The Central government on Friday rejected the suggestion linking old age pension with minimum wage saying that while minimum wage was earned, the old age pension was a social welfare measure.

Supporting the continuous mandamus of the plea before the court, Additional Solicitor General A.R. Nadkarni told the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta that the old age pension is not earned, it is a welfare measure and its quantum can’t be decided by linking it to minimum wage.

He said that there were three crore people getting old age pension and if each one of them is to be given Rs 3,000 as is suggested by the petitioner Ashwani Kumar then it would amount to Rs 1.7 lakh crore and the total budget of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is Rs 1.12 lakh crore.

In the course of his arguments, petitioner Ashwani Kumar — a former Minister for Law and Justice in the UPA regime — told the court that every old person was given Rs 200 each as old age pension per month and said that now it should enhanced to at least 50 per cent of the minimum wage.

He founded his case on Article 21 — guaranteeing right to life.

Another petitioner told the court that what an old person was getting by way of old age pension can’t be less than what he was getting in 2007.

Seeking the linking of the old age pension with the price index, the petitioner in person said that the value of Rs. 200 that one was getting in 2007 has gone down substantially in 2018.

Citing the instance of Rajasthan, he said that there were 10 lakh people getting old age pension but later half of them were declared as duplicate and another 2.5 lakh were declared dead. He said in his own village nine out of 11 who were shown to be dead are alive.

As the Central government advanced the argument of the exponential burden that would fall on the exchequer if old age pension was hiked considerably, the counsel for Kerala said they were paying Rs 1,500 per month to every old person in the age bracket of 75 years plus.

The court was informed that Goa was paying Rs 2,000 per month.

The hearing will continue on December 3.