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Exit of Imran Khan once again shows real power is with the Pakistan Army

The countdown for the exit of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had begun when he decided to confront the Army.

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The exit of Imran Khan from the premiership in Pakistan has once again shown the power of the army in the country. Even as the drama unfolding in Islamabad which looked like a T-20 cricket match with full excitement was played at the Supreme Court and the Parliament, nothing was left to the imagination that there was an unseen umpire playing behind the scene – that was the Pakistan army.
The countdown for exit had begun for the cricketer-turned- politician, who had no experience of governance before taking the PM’s seat, when he decided to confront the army. Initially being called ‘selected’ Imran Khan has open differences with the Army Chief General Bajwa. Subsequently, matters came ahead such as the appointment of the Director-General of the ISI to the Peshawar command.
On the fateful night of October 9, the army ensured that the vote on opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion took place as per the orders of the Supreme Court, even if it meant opening the court at midnight for any possible contempt proceedings. To meet that eventuality, a prison van was also kept ready if the court issued detention orders for the contempt.
Realising that the noose around his neck was tightening, Imran Khan that night even suggested to his cabinet colleagues that he intends to replace General Bajwa with his favourite, Lt General Faiz Hameed. Finally, some plain speaking had to be done by Director General ISI and commander 111 Rawalpindi Brigade before Imran finally gave up and flew back to his residence on the outskirts of Islamabad late in the night.
Khan also failed the expectations of the masses, couldn’t keep up with his election promises of ‘Naya Pakistan’ and, very importantly, lost the confidence and support of the military establishment that facilitated his victory in the 2018 elections, which were also termed as Selection 2018 in Pakistan. Since his ouster, Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is holding massive rallies to display the mass appeal and popularity. These rallies are aimed at exerting pressure on the judiciary and military establishment and also building the momentum of his support. He has been targeting the opposition leaders and, at the same time, blaming foreign hands for persuading and using the opposition against him and creating instability in the country.
While it is outlandish on his part to convey to the masses that the entire political opposition of Pakistan, the military establishment, and his party members are so naïve and vulnerable to foreign influences and monetary incentives, it is not surprising that Khan once again has tried to shift the blame of his incompetence and poor governance to the foreign forces. In the last 3.5 years, there have been a series of incidents, including the attacks on the Chinese workers engaged in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan and peaceful resentment by the popular Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) demanding basic civil rights of the Pashtuns, where Imran Khan and his loyalists have invariably blamed a foreign hand. Not only the PTI’s allies but also important members of the PTI have been frustrated and disappointed with Imran Khan and turned against him, making his chances of survival extremely bleak.
New dawn for democracy?
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment holding the ruling of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) disallowing the vote on the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister as ultra vires and unconstitutional, and restoring the NA was exactly what it should have been. In any other country, such a unanimous judgment would be a no-brainer given that it was an open-and-shut case. The SC ruling was seen as a new dawn for democracy, the upholding of the rule of the Constitution and law, and the burial of the infamous ‘doctrine of necessity’ that has been used by Pakistan’s judiciary to legitimise and justify extra-constitutional steps taken mostly by the military.
Even though the no-trust motion was placed on March 8, Khan lost power when he lost the unwritten no-confidence motion of the military establishment. His simmering stresses with the military started to become more prominent in the last few months which facilitated the opposition to gain momentum and finally bring Imran to the crossroads. It would be interesting to analyse what went wrong with Imran Khan and how the civil-military dynamics turned against him. While there are several factors, some developments are critical to understanding the current situation in Pakistan.
In 2018, Imran Khan’s PTI was supported by the military as he was probably the best option for the military after a bad political inning (yet again) with Nawaz Sharif. During the 2018 election campaign, even two months before the polls, the statistics favoured Sharif’s PML(N) till the military showered its blessings on Imran Khan. PTI promised development and Khan were projected as a clean, selfless leader solely driven by the welfare of the state, which Pakistan’s dwindling economy and declining human development index desperately needed.
For three years, a projection of comfortable civil-military relations was maintained until Khan’s inability to deliver and frequent controversial statements in international forums started to impact the military’s image and position. The economy went from bad to worse, inflation stood at an all-time high, and Pakistan couldn’t convince the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to move it out of the ‘grey list’. Perpetual struggles for external financial funding were adversely impacting Pakistan’s bilateral relations with its conventional Muslim brother nations, and the strict conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indispensable loan added significantly to the woes of the masses.
Foreign policy
For decades, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been defined by how it manages its relationship with the United States. The relationship has gone through its phases of highs and lows, but it hit its lowest during Imran Khan’s tenure. The US has cut military aid and support to Pakistan over links with the Taliban.
Although the US military has continued to engage with the Pakistani military on the peace deal with the Taliban. The US President Biden has not called Imran Khan even once since taking office. Following this, when President Biden invited Imran Khan to the US Democracy Summit, the latter rejected the invitation. Meanwhile, on the other hand, Imran Khan has visited China four times in four years. He also visited Russia on the day the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his ‘military operation’ on Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Imran Khan has put prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and political parties supporting his government in a quandary thereby making the task of mending the relationship with the US difficult. Without US support, Pakistan may not be able to access urgently needed funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid a default on external loan repayments. Pakistan needs $8.6 billion by June 30 only to repay external debts. Khan’s repeated praise for India’s independent foreign policy was in essence a critique of the Pakistan army that has long steered Islamabad’s international relations. Even in opposition, he might serve a useful purpose for China and Russia who want to prevent Pakistan from getting too close to the US.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He couldn’t resist being openly critical of the US, holding his compulsive victimhood card without realizing that the military was keen to revive its ties with the US given its military relationship and also, Pakistan’s high dependence on the international financial institutions. Pakistan’s relationship with New Delhi has seen the worst phase in the last three years. While the ceasefire agreement was announced in February 2021 along the LoC, the bilateral relationship remained extremely stressful. Imran Khan has probably been the most toxic Pakistani Prime Minister with his uncompromising targeting of the Indian leadership, accusing it of being run on Nazi ideology in every possible forum.
Ties with the Taliban have not improved since they won control of Afghanistan and gained independence from their Pakistani controllers. Even on issues like dealing with India, the differences between the Taliban and Pakistan are visible. Also, the Taliban has been at odds on other issues as well, the most important is the recognition of the Durand Line. Furthermore, Imran Khan has been unable to lobby successfully for any other country in the world to recognise the Taliban regime.
Imran Khan’s closeness with the former Director-General of the ISI, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, and whispers about him being appointed as the next army chief were surely not comforting for the military’s senior leadership. The military’s decision to replace Faiz Hameed with Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum received a nod from Khan after a rather unprecedented delay.

No end to problems
Imran’s end is, however, not the end of Pakistan’s problems. He is leaving behind a broken, bankrupt economy that is on the verge of a meltdown; a divided and toxic political culture; strained foreign relations; governance that is drifting in its policies and an administration that is in complete disarray. His successor—Shahbaz Sharif—faces a Herculean task to put the country back on the rails. Pakistan’s crises are immediate, but Shahbaz’s space for manoeuvre is very constrained. The turmoil—political, economic, and social—in Pakistan is just starting to unfold and the crown of thorns being placed on Shahbaz’s head will not be easily borne.
Shahbaz will have to run the show with a disparate coalition. The components of this coalition have competing interests. They got together to get rid of Imran Khan. Beyond that one-point agenda that they have achieved, they compete against each other. None of them is going to sacrifice their political interests, which will end up pulling the coalition in different directions. To face the onerous, even existential, challenges that confront Pakistan, the last thing Shahbaz needs is this kind of a coalition. He might be able to keep this motley crew together for a couple of months during which the coalition partners will agree on some immediate economic measures, and also do some political and legal engineering to undo some of the malicious things Imran did. But it will be impossible for this coalition to survive until next August when the term of the National Assembly ends.
By November end, a new army chief has to be appointed. Surely Shahbaz would want to pick the next chief—it is now clear it will not be former ISI Chief Faiz Hameed, the man Imran wanted—before he demits office to a caretaker. More than the army chief’s selection, it is the political and economic factors that will also have to be kept in mind before deciding when to dissolve the National Assembly and hand it over to a caretaker. On the political level, the Sharif government will want to make sweeping changes and cleanse the administration of Imran loyalists. After getting rid of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, the government will try to eject President Arif Alvi, who is Khan’s protégé.
There is a possibility of Shahbaz deciding to take the risk and hold office until August next when the current National Assembly term ends. But this would mean managing the coalition and implementing the tough economic measures and hoping that the economy turns around. The chances of that happening are extremely slim given the scale of the problems. Structural reforms take years and not months. They require strong political will, something that politicians will find difficult to summon when they are facing an election. Simply put, even if Shahbaz is ready to implement the tough decisions, his coalition partners will baulk and perhaps even desert him.

Short interregnum and India’s choices
Therefore, chances are that the Shahbaz government will only be there for a short interregnum and will soon give way to a caretaker which will hold fresh elections by September/October, maybe even earlier if the Election Commission works overtime.
As far as relations with India are concerned Khan started his tenure by offering a hand of friendship to India. He subsequently completed the Kartarpur Gurudwara Corridor for Indian pilgrims. However, he turned against the Indian government and made personal remarks on PM Narendra Modi, especially after the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. Therefore, a different prime minister at the helm now is seen as having more friendly ties with India, particularly re-opening trade.
The change in the government might even be able to hold a virtual SAARC summit. Something Pakistan has been unable to hold all these years because of India’s objections.
The backchannel is less likely to be affected by the change in the government. The backchannel between India and Pakistan is operational even after so many crises. There was no military escalation after the Indian missile misfired into Pakistan is being credited to this backchannel. It looks like Pakistan is not currently a priority for India as it remains focused on several international events, including the Ukraine Crisis and next year’s G20 in Delhi.
But it is advisable that in this fast-polarising world, it would be better for Pakistan to move forward with India bilaterally rather than seeking external help. India is always for peace and good neighbourly relations with Pakistan For the economic betterment of the people of the sub-continent ,an accommodative and flexible approach would be required by the leadership of both the countries to keep the two competing neo-colonial wolves (the US and China) at bay.

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Legally Speaking

Disproportionate assets case: Delhi High Court stays Lokpal proceedings initiated against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren

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Disproportionate assets case: Delhi High Court stays Lokpal proceedings initiated against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren

On Monday, the Delhi High Court has stayed the proceedings initiated by Lokpal of India under the provisions of the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act, 2013 against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chief and Rajya Sabha MP Shibu Soren in connection with a disproportionate case of assets.

The bench comprising of Justice Yashwant Varma observed and has passed an order on Soren’s plea challenging the validity of the said proceedings, claiming that the same was ex facie bad in law and without jurisdiction.

In the present case, the proceedings were initiated by Lokpal of India pursuant to a complaint dated August 5, 2020 filed by BJP’s Nishikant Dubey. Therefore, it has been directed by the CBI to make a preliminary enquiry into the Complaint under section 20(1)(a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. It was claimed by Soren that the said order was not served on him.

While claiming the complaint was false, frivolous and vexatious, Soren in his plea submitted that according to section 53 of the Act and there is a statutory bar against the Lokpal of India assuming jurisdiction to investigate or inquire into any Complaint made after the expiry of seven years from the offence alleged.

The plea reads that the initiation of the proceedings under the Complaint, or at the very least, continuation thereof, once it has been demonstrated by the preliminary inquiry that it pertains to alleged acquisitions prior to the 7-year period and is clearly barred by statute, without jurisdiction and the same is liable to be quashed.

Further, the petition filled submits that the maximum period of 180 days for completion of preliminary enquiry from the date of Complaint expired on February 1, 2021. In this backdrop, it has been stated that by this time, only on July 1, 2021, the comments were sought from Soren which is beyond the prescribed statutory period.

The plea adds that the final preliminary enquiry report was submitted by the CBI on 29.06.2022, about a year and a half after expiry of the 180- day period. Such purported report is void and null and non-est in the eyes of law and cannot be received or considered by the Respondent No.1.

Thus, the court took note of the order passed by Lokpal of India dated August 4, 2022 directing that proceedings under section 20(3) of the Lokpal Act be initiated to determine whether a prima facie case existed to be proceeded against Soren. It is Soren’s case that the order was passed without considering the preliminary objection on jurisdiction being raised by him.

In the said order, the court noted that all the Lokpal of India recorded was that the comments received from the petitioner were forwarded to CBI so as to examine and submit an enquiry report.

It was ordered by the court that the challenge to assumption of jurisdiction by respondent no. 1 (the Lokpal of India) has neither been answered and nor dealt with. Matters require consideration. Subsequently, there will be a stay of proceedings pending before the Lokayukta.

Accordingly, the court will now hear the matter on 14 December.

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DELHI HC SETS ASIDE MURDER CONVICTION & LIFE SENTENCE OF MAN WHO WAS UNPRESENTED BY LAWYER; REMANDS CASTE BACK TO TRIAL COURT

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DELHI HC SETS ASIDE MURDER CONVICTION & LIFE SENTENCE OF MAN WHO WAS UNPRESENTED BY LAWYER; REMANDS CASTE BACK TO TRIAL COURT

The Delhi High Court in the case Narender @ Lala v. State Of NCT Of Delhi observed and has set aside the orders of conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment awarded to a man in 2018 who was unrepresented by a lawyer before the Trial Court. Thus, the Delhi High Court has remanded the case back to the Trial Court for cross examination of certain prosecution witnesses.

The division bench comprising of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal observed and was of the view that there had been a grave miscarriage of justice to the man as when number of witnesses were examined, he was not represented by a counsel and that the legal aid counsel, who was present before Trial Court and was appointed on the same day and asked to cross- examine the witnesses on the same day.

On March, 2018, Narender was convicted for offence of murder punishable under section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. On 4th May, 2018, he was sentenced by the Trial Court for life imprisonment and also to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000.

In the present case, the case of the prosecution was that the man had committed murder of his wife by strangulating her to death.

In a appeal, it was argued by the man that during the substantial course of trial, he was not represented by a lawyer and hence the trial in the absence of a lawyer had seriously prejudiced him. He thus sought recalling of all the prosecution witnesses and thereby ensuring a fair trial.

The Court observed that the manner in which the trial is conducted, there was a serious denial of fair trial to the appellant and the appellant is required to be given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses i.e., the witnesses examined in the absence of the lawyer, or the lawyer having been appointed on the same day from the legal aid and is asked to cross-examine the witnesses.

Further, the court remanded the back to Trial Court for cross-examination of ten prosecution witnesses. Also, the court directed the Trial Court Judge to follow due process of law and also to record the statement of the man under Section 313 CrPC and permit leading the defence evidence if so required.

The Court ordered that the case be listed before the learned Trial Court on 26th September, when Superintendent Tihar Jail will product the appellant before the learned Trial Court and the learned Trial Court is requested to expedite the trial and conclude the same preferably within four months.

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SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO ENTERTAIN PLEA CHALLENGING EXCLUSION OF SC/ST RESERVATION IN JHARKHAND DISTRICT JUDGES APPOINTMENT

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SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO ENTERTAIN PLEA CHALLENGING EXCLUSION OF SC/ST RESERVATION IN JHARKHAND DISTRICT JUDGES APPOINTMENT

The Supreme Court in the case Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Educational And Cultural Trust v. Hon’ble High Court Jharkhand And Ors. observed and has refused to entertain a plea challenging the non-inclusion of reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes communities in the process of appointment of District Judges in pursuant to an advertisement issued in March, 2022 by the High Court of Jharkhand. The present petition claimed that the exclusion of reservation violates Jharkhand State Reservation Policy and constitutional guarantee under Article 16(4). Apart from this, it is also in derogation of a resolution being passed by the High Court vouching to implement reservation in the Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service.

The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the Justice Hima Kohli observed and has granted liberty to the petitioner to file a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution before the Jharkhand High Court.

The court while considering that the process of appointment as per the concerned notification is underway, Justice Chandrachud asked the petitioner to approach the High Court with respect to future appointments.

It stated that “For the future you can file a petition before the High Court… We will give you liberty to approach the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.”

The bench of Justice Chandrachud observed that the Decisions of the Administrative side of the High Court can be challenged before the judicial side of the High Court. You can move the High Court.

In the present case, a writ petition challenging a similar notification was filed in 2017 before the High Court, which was eventually dismissed. It was observed by the High Court that there is no duty vested in the authorities to reserve seats for all posts, more particularly in higher judiciary. Moreover, it had already initiated the appointment process, the High Court opined that it cannot alter the rules midway. Thus, the appeal filed before the Apex Court was also dismissed.

However, in 2018 the Full Court of the Jharkhand High Court had agreed in principle to grant reservation in the recruitment for Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service. The advocates belonging to the SC/ST/OBC communities in 2021 had made representations to the Chief Justice of the High Court requesting for the implementation of the Reservation policy in appointment of District Judges (direct entry from Bar)/ superior judicial service. The impugned notification was issued without incorporating reservation for SC/ST/OBC communities in March 2022.

Mr. Arvind Gupta, Advocate on Record has filled the present petition.

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Right to contest election is not a fundamental right; it is only a right conferred by statute: Supreme Court

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Don’t compare Turban, Kirpan with Hijab: SC

The Supreme Court in the case Vishwanath Pratap Singh vs Election Commission of India observed that the right to contest an election is not a fundamental right but only a right conferred by a statute.

The bench comprising of Justice Hemant Gupta and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia observed while dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by Vishwanath Pratap Singh that an individual cannot claim that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as is required under the Act, to file his nomination without any proposer.

Also, the court imposed a cost of Rupees one lakh on Singh.

In the present case, Singh had first approached the Delhi High Court challenging a notification issued by Election Commission of India for election to Rajya Sabha after he was not allowed to file his nomination without a proper proposer being proposing his name. His contentions were rejected by the High Court that his fundamental right of free speech and expression and right to personal liberty has been infringed.

While dismissing the SLP, the Apex Court observed that the writ petition before the High Court was entirely misconceived.

The bench observed while referring to earlier judgments viz Javed v. State of Haryana, (2003) 8 SCC 369 and Rajbala v. State of Haryana (2016) 2 SCC 445 wherein it was stated that the right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is a right conferred by a statute.

However, the Supreme Court in Javed (supra) had made the following observations: Right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and it is a right conferred by a statute. At the most, in view of Part IX having been added in the Constitution of India that a right to contest election for an office in Panchayat may be said to be a constitutional right and a right originating in the Constitution and given shape by a statute. But even if, it cannot be equated with a fundamental right. It is stated that there is nothing wrong in the same statute which confers the right to contest an election also to provide for the necessary qualifications without which a person cannot offer his candidature for an elective office and also to provide for disqualifications which would disable a person from contesting for, or from holding, an elective statutory office.

It was held in Rajbala (supra) that the right to contest for a seat in either of the two bodies is subject to certain constitutional restrictions and could be restricted further only by a law which the parliament made.

Further, the court added that Singh did not have any right to contest election to the Rajya Sabha in terms of the law made by the Parliament.

The Court stated while dismissing the SLP that the Representation of People Act, 1950 read with the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 has contemplated the name of a candidate to be proposed while filling the nomination form. However, it cannot be claimed by an individual that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as to file his nomination without any proposer as is required under the Act.

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Post-conviction compounding of offences is permissible: Himachal Pradesh High Court

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The Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case Shri Kantu Ram v Shri Beer Singh recently observed that a court, while exercising powers under Section 147 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and can proceed to compound the offences even after recording of conviction by the courts below.

The bench comprising of Justice Sandeep Sharma observed in a case where the revision Petitioner, who was convicted under Section 138 of the NI Act by the Magistrate Court and was aggrieved by subsequent dismissal of appeal by the Sessions Court and had agreed to pay the amount due and settle the matter.

Thus, the petitioner had sought compounding of offences.

In the present case, the respondent admitted the factum with regard to receipt of the amount due from the accused and expressed that the prayer made on behalf of accused for compounding of offence can be accepted.

However, the High Court allowed the prayer and the offence committed by the Petitioner under Section 138 NI Act was ordered to be compounded.

The Court observed that the Reliance was placed on Damodar S. Prabhu V. Sayed Babalal H. (2010) 5 SCC 663, wherein the Apex Court has categorically held that court, while exercising power under Section 147 of the NI Act and can proceed to compound the offence even after recording of the conviction by the courts below.

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‘Pensionary benefits to employee, who is removed from service for misconduct, is not at par with those who retire on superannuation’

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The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court in the case Bashir Ahmad Wani v Jammu and Kashmir Grameen Bank and Another recently observed and stated that an employee who is removed from service for misconduct is not at par with those who is being retired on superannuation.

The bench comprising of Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed while dismissing the pension claim made by a former employee of the J&K Grameen Bank, who was removed from service in 2011.

In the present case, the petitioner had sought benefit of the J&K Grameen Bank (Employees) Pension Regulations, 2018 whereby provision was made for terminal benefits.

However, the court disallowed the claims on two grounds:

Firstly, that at the time of removal of the petitioner from service when there were no norms, rules or regulations providing for the benefit of pension to the employees of the respondent-Bank.

In the year 2011, the employees of the respondent-Bank were governed by the J&K Grameen Bank ( the Officers and Employees) Service Regulations, 2010… it is abundantly clear that it does not prescribe imposition of a penalty of removal along with the pensionary benefits.

Secondly, it was opined by the court that though the 2018 Regulations had been made applicable to those employees who were in service between 1st day of September, 1987 and 31st day of March, 2010 and the employees retired from the services of the Bank before 31st day of March, 2018, however, this leeway cannot come to aid of the Petitioner.

The Curt observed that the reason for finding that the Petitioner was not an employee who had “retired” on superannuation from the bank. Rather, he was “removed” for misconduct.

The Court stated that the regulations apply to those employees who retired from the service of the Bank before 31.03.2018 and not the employees who were terminated for misconduct. Viewed thus, the order of removal of the petitioner dated 02.09.2011 holding the petitioner entitled to terminable benefits and cannot, by any stretch of reasoning, be construed to be an order of removal with the benefit of the pension. Neither, the petitioner, at the time of his removal from service, nor with the promulgation of Pension Regulations of 2018, is entitled to the benefit of pension.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition.

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