Why 17 December is observed as Pensioners Day : The Story Behind

Why 17 December is observed as Pensioners Day

Pensioners are the important part of the society who built up the nation with their bona-fide services during their “in service” days.  To respect the dignity of the pensioners, on 17th December, every year, is officially observed as the Pensioners day.  It is a memorable day for all the pensioners of India, be it Central Govt Service or State Govt service or from PSUs.

Why 17 December is observed as Pensioners Day ?

On 17th December 1982, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India delivered its landmark judgment in the famous Nakara Case. The judgment is treated as a magna carta of Indian pensioners. Let us remember Shri D S Nakara the man behind the Case. He was not a Trade unionist. He was an officer in Defence ministry. He fought against discrimination, against injustice caused by an order of the Government of India issued on 25th May 1979 introducing a Liberalized Pension Scheme. Pensioners retired before 31-3-1974 were denied the benefit of the new scheme. Nakara, retired before that cut of date was denied the benefit . Hence he filed the case.


Name /Title of the CaseD.S. Nakara & Others vs Union of India
Citation(1983) 1 SCC 305
date of JudgmentDec 17, 1982
PetitionersD.S. Nakara and Others
RespondentUnion of India
Bench/ JudgesJustice Y.V. Chandrachud, C.J.Justice V.D. TulzapurkarJustice D.A. DesaiJustice O. Chinnappa ReddyJustice Baharul Islam
Law/ConstitutionConstitution of India
Sections under considerationConstitution of India- Articles 14, 39(e), 41, 43

The Supreme Court observed that when the State decided to liberalize the pension system in order to enhance social security for old age government employees, it could not provide the advantages of liberalization only to those who retired after the stated date and refuse the same to those who resigned before that date. 

The division that distinguished pensioners into two classes based on their specific date of retirement is completely void of any rational principle and is both arbitrary and unscrupulous, being unrelated to the objective sought to be accomplished by granting liberalized pension. 

It also violates the equal treatment guaranteed in Art. 14 of the Constitution as well as the pension rules, which were statutory in nature, meted out differential and discriminatory treatment to equals in the matter of calculation of pension from the dates specified in the challenged memorandum.12

As observed in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India13, and Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice S.R. Tendolkar14 . Article 14 prohibits class legislation; it does not prohibit fair categorization for legislative purposes. To pass the test of appropriate classification, two conditions must be met: 

  • The classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia that distinguishes those who are grouped together from those who are excluded from the group; and 
  • That differentia must have a rational relationship to the objects sought to be achieved by the statute in question. The classification may be established on a different basis depending on the goals desired, but the implication is that there must be a nexus, i.e., a causal link, between the basis of classification and the goal of the statute under consideration. It is likewise well established by the Supreme Court’s rulings that Art. 14 outlaws discrimination not only by substantive law but also by procedural law.15

Both of the disputed memorandums couldn’t effectively explain why the pension formula needed to be liberalized. According to the opposition’s affidavit, the administration chose to liberalize due to the constant demand of the employees represented in the plan of Joint Consultative Machinery. This would suggest that the pre-liberalised scheme didn’t provide appropriate old-age protection, and that further liberalization was required as a measure of economic security.

The government also took into account the fact that the constant rise in the cost of living index and the diminishing purchasing power of the rupee mandated an increase in pension. When the government replied positively to the demand, it implicitly recognised that there was a bigger accessible national cake, a portion of which might be used to provide more security to retiring employees. With this underlying liberalization intention, it cannot be claimed that it was just good enough for those who would retire after the stated period but not for those who had already retired.

The Court also observed that if all relevant considerations are similar, people holding identical positions cannot be treated differently in terms of compensation just because they work in different departments. If something cannot be done while they are in service, can it be done after they retire? 

Extending on this concept, one may clearly state that if pensioners constitute a class, their calculation cannot be by separate formulas that provide uneven treatment only because some retired sooner and others retired later. The State is required under Art. 39 (e) to ensure that the health and strength of employees, men and women, and children of delicate age are not abused and that people are not pushed by economic necessity to engage in avocations that are unsuitable for their age or strength. Art. 41 mandates the state, within the limitations of its economic ability and development, to make appropriate provisions for safeguarding the right to work and education, as well as to offer help in circumstances of unemployment, old age, disease, disablement, and other cases of unjustified want. Art. 43 (3) requires the state to make every effort to provide complete enjoyment of leisure, as well as social and cultural possibilities.16

D S Nakara


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