Patna/Ranchi, Oct. 18: The Supreme Court today declined to stay the Centre's order asking Jharkhand to pay Bihar Rs 2,584.09 crore in lieu of pension dues, but kept alive the younger state's hopes of challenging the very law under which the order was passed by agreeing to hear the case.
The two states have been at loggerheads for over a decade to settle the dispute of division of liabilities on account of payment of pension and other retirement benefits to government employees who retired prior to November 15, 2000, when Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar.
The court gave its direction while rejecting a petition filed by Jharkhand challenging a September 25, 2012, order of the Union home ministry asking the state to pay the amount to Bihar on account of pension. Jharkhand had sought an interim stay on the order.
But the special bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir left open a window of opportunity for Jharkhand. It said the state's plea, challenging a contentious provision of the Bihar Reorganisation Act, 2000, was maintainable and set November 7 as the next date of hearing.
Senior counsel Ajit Sinha, appearing for the Jharkhand government, said even though the apex court had denied the state interim relief by not staying the Centre's order, its fate (the order) would ultimately depend on the final ruling. "So, we are very much hopeful of getting justice when the case is heard on merit," he said.
A senior government official in Ranchi said the state did not have reasons to be worried as there was no deadline to pay Bihar.
The Bihar government welcomed the order. The state's principal secretary, finance, Rameshwar Singh said: "The apex court order has come as a relief for us (state government) as we have been making the pension payments by borrowing money from the government of India and the market at a higher rate. So after a long battle, we will be getting something on this count."
Singh said the Bihar government would make its claim before the union home ministry for interest payment which stood at Rs 2,371.54 crore as of 2010-11.
The Centre has warned Jharkhand that it would deduct the amount from central grants if it refused to pay up.