Ved Prakash Juneja's long fight for his right ended with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission reversing a subordinate consumer commission's decision against him and giving the central government till Aug 31 to provide him the card.
The apex consumer commission took note of the plea of Juneja, who retired in 1988, that the Central Government Health Scheme authorities should treat him as a consumer under the law.
"The state consumer commission gravely erred in ignoring the settled law which recognises a pensioner and beneficiary of the CGHS as a consumer under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986," said Juneja's plea.
The national commission's presiding member, Suresh Chandra, in a recent order, said: "He drew our attention to an order in the case of Jagdish Kumar Bajpai Vs. Union of India which has been delivered by a six-member bench of this commission holding that a pensioner and beneficiary of the CGHS would be a consumer under the provisions of the Act, for the alleged deficiency in service by the CGHS officials."
Juneja's plea alleging bias against him as compared to other employees was also taken on record by the national commission.
"We may also note that in spite of repeated representations the (CGHS officials) have miserably failed to give any explanation regarding issuing different CGHS I-Cards in two other cases of retired employees referred to by Juneja," said Chandra.
Holding the CGHS guilty of deficiency in service, Chandra said, "We direct the CGHS director... to issue pensioner's I-card with nursing home facilities to Juneja...subject to the petitioner making payment of lump sum amount of contribution to the CGHS."
Chandra cited another earlier ruling to point out that "where as part of conditions of service the employer bears the expense of medical treatment of the employee and his family members dependent upon him, the service rendered to him by the medical practitioner would not be free of charge and would, therefore, constitute service under Section 2(1)(o) of the Act".
"The same analogy would apply in case of retired employee. As stated above, past service would be consideration for providing such medical facility or other facilities," the national commission said.
The top consumer commission said counsel for CGHS did not file any instructions of the government contrary to the clarification contained in the office memorandum of Oct 11, 1989, which clearly made Juneja eligible for the nursing home facility on payment of the required contribution as per rules.
"We may also note that on superannuation, every pensioner can either contribute on a monthly basis to the CGHS or make a payment of 10 times of the annual contribution as may be applicable in his case,' said Chandra.
"If we go by the contribution of Rs.4 per month as on the date of retirement (June 30, 1988), Juneja would be entitled to availing the treatment of his level as on the date of his retirement by making a lump sum payment of Rs.480 which is equivalent of 10 years contribution in lump-sum," the national commission said.
The CGHS now has the option of challenging the national consumer commission's decision in the Supreme Court.