Is One Rank One Pension (OROP) only for the IAS?


Yes, the question is rightly posed and to the right class as it is a little known or, say, little publicised fact that it is only the IAS who are the biggest beneficiaries of the concept of One Rank One Pension (OROP). They crafted the Pension Fixation Formula in such a manner that they are immune to any post-Pay Commission disadvantage to the old retirees. This article explains how it was manoeuvred.

A few decades ago, the IAS ‘invented’ a secret magic wand to make sure that they get OROP eternally and surreptitiously but others don’t. This is how it was manipulated: The highest pay in the Govt currently is Rs.80,000 fixed, called the Apex Scale (though it is not a scale in the true sense as it does not scale up). Only the three Defence Chiefs and the Cabinet Secretary get the higher fixed pay of Rs.90,000. The invention of this concept of “Fixed” pay was meant to shield them for ever from the ill effects of the formula they devised for others. It was contrived that the pension of the Apex Scale retirees would always be linked to whatever the revised Apex Scale is in future. Since most of the IAS/IFS officers retire in the Apex Scale, this decree eternally ensured OROP for this class. To meet any murmur to the stratagem, some Apex Scale peanuts were also flung at a few posts in some other services including the defence forces. Army Commanders and a large number of Lt. Generals and their equivalents in the other two forces were also granted this privileged Scale.

The Real Culprit: The Pension Fixation Formula

Clause 4.2 of the Office Memorandum F.No. 38/37/08-P&PW(A) dated 01.09.2008 issued by the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare goes as under:-

“4.2   The fixation of pension will be subject to the provision that the revised pension, in no case, shall be lower than fifty percent of the minimum of the pay in the pay band plus the grade pay corresponding to the pre-revised pay scale from which the pensioner had retired. In the case of HAG+ and above scales, this will be the fifty percent of the minimum of the revised pay scale.

This is the clause that fixes the pension and is deliberately meant to discriminate between the old and the new pensioners of all the services except the IAS/IFS and a few other apex scale holders in other services (which includes me). This formula wipes out all the increments one had earned during the service and ignores the level of last pay. It knocks down all the pre-2006 retirees to a different inferior class at the bottom of the revised scale irrespective of whether they had retired at the bottom of the scale without earning any increment or at the top where they stagnated for years. No credit is given for the past increments.

A minute reading of this formula shows that it conceals more than it reveals. Without declaring in so many words, it bestows OROP on all the “Apex Scale” retirees. “Apex Scale” is the only scale (apart from Cabinet Secretary’s) which is not a running scale like others and serves the interest of almost all the directly recruited IAS/IFS officers who invariably reach it before retirement.

In the above formula, please note the other mischievous stipulation: For HAG and below, the revised pension, in no case, shall be lower than 50% of the minimum of the pay, meaning it can go above but not below 50%. But for HAG+, it says it will be 50%meaning fixed, neither less nor more than 50%. The dictum ‘and above’ after HAG+ (which is Rs.75,500–80,000) is meaningless because there is no running scale above HAG+ and is deliberately inserted to mislead. Above HAG+, there is only the Apex Scale (Rs.80,000 fixed) where minimum or maximum does not mean anything. Therefore, the question of “fifty percent of the minimum of the revised pay scale” does not arise in the case of Apex Scale.

Please note that HAG+ scale is only for DG rank and is inferior to the Apex Scale. This scale simply does not exist for the IAS/IFS. IAS officers jump directly from HAG scale (which is for Addl. Secretary to the Govt of India) to the Apex scale without suffering the adverse pensionary pangs of HAG+. As mentioned above, for HAG and below, the revised pension, in no case, shall be lower than 50% of the minimum of the pay, meaning it can go above 50%. This benefits those Addl. Secretary rank officers who fail to get the Apex Scale before retirement. On the contrary, it is made sure that the HAG+ scale retirees are placed at the bottom of the revised scale for fixation of pension whenever a new Pay Commission comes. This results in old retirees drawing less pension than the new ones.

On the other hand, since the Apex Scale always remains fixed at the same level even after revision of scales, there is no question of any disparity cropping up between the pensions of old and new retirees of Apex Scale. Thus, old retirees of the IAS draw the same pension as the new retirees, meaning they perpetually enjoy OROP. The existing formula grants this benefit to the IAS (and a few others) stealthily, without creating any fuss. The “Apex Scale” is a perfect camouflage to protect the interests of the elite class.

In the IAS, apart from all the Secretaries, even Special Secretaries enjoy the fixed Apex Scale. Almost all the IAS officers reach it and get ‘Moksha” (salvation), in that they get entitled to the “Apex Pension’ in perpetuity. If due to any reason, a special Secretary fails to get promotion to the Secretary rank, he has nothing to lose as his pension is protected for ever.

The policy makers are the Secretaries, most of whom are IAS officers. Their class is the biggest user of OROP. And they decide and preach that others should not get OROP otherwise the country will go bankrupt !! Isn’t it ridiculous when they cry hoarse asking “why should old retirees get the same pension as the new retirees”? Why don’t they apply the same principle to their own class? Why should the old retired Secretaries get the same pension as the newly retired Secretaries? Doesn’t it speak of their double standards?


Giving OROP to just the Apex Scale holders was a bad and inequitable decision. If the country really cannot afford OROP, then why doesn’t the IAS come forward and make the first ‘sacrifice’? Let them forego OROP for themselves and then preach others not to press for it on the excuse of the country’s inability to afford it. Let them abolish/forego the Apex Scale and remove the concept of fixed pay. Make the Apex Scale running like other scales. Replace it with the HAG+ scale of Rs.75,500 – 80,000 which they don’t have. This scale, in any case, touches the Apex Pay of Rs.80,000 which most of the current retirees of all services reach before retirement.

If the IAS does so, then what will happen? It will level the playing field for everybody. It will fix the pension of the newly retired IAS at Rs.40,000 (50% of 80,000) {equivalent to the Apex Pension} and of the pre-2006 retiree IAS at 37,775 (50% of Rs.75,500) as dictated by the pension fixation formula. Though it won’t have much financial gain for the country but it would level the playing field. This way, senior retired IAS officers will get less pension than the junior retired IAS officers like it is happening with all other services. This will remove the concept of OROP altogether. This may occasion resistance from some IAS officers but it would remove the heart burn of millions of others and restore equity. This will ‘save’ the country from the projected ‘bankruptcy’.

The million dollar question is: Will the IAS accept this class differentiation between themselves, of old retirees getting less pension than the new retirees?Who will bite the bullet and who will bell the cat?

Logical Pension Fixation Formula

Apart from the above step of turning the Apex Scale into a running scale, the illogical pension fixation formula is fit to be modified. The new formula should give due weightage to the following factors which are the root cause of the present turmoil, dragging the Govt to a plethora of litigation and protests by the ex-service men:-

a)     Full credit should be given in the replacement scale to the number of increments earned in the retiring rank.

b)     The equivalent of the last pay drawn must be protected in the replacement scale.

c)     The formula should clearly state that, as per law settled by the Supreme Court, seniors (intra-service as well as rank seniors) will not draw less pension than juniors.

Keeping these factors in view, the pension fixation formula could be logically framed as under:-

The fixation of pension will be subject to the provision that the revised pension, in no case, shall be lower than 50% of the equivalent of the last pay drawn in the pay band plus the grade pay corresponding to the pre-revised pay scale from which the pensioner had retired, subject to the following conditions/provisos:-

a)     The same number of increments, which the pensioner had earned while in service in the last rank, and equivalent of the last pay drawn before retirement, whichever is more beneficial to the pensioner, will be taken into account for fixation of pension in the revised pay scale;

b)     The revised pension will, in no case, be lower than the maximum pension admissible to lower rank retirees;

c)     Further, the revised pension will, in no case, be lower than the pension of the intra-service juniors as per the seniority list of the same/similar rank.”

If adopted, the above formula can remove the disparities caused by the current formula and will benefit every service and every rank.

I may add that the current pension fixation formula was declared unconstitutional to an extent by the Supreme Court in two cases: (i) D.S. Nakara & Others Vs. Union of India, (1983) 1 SCC 305 (at page 323), AIR 1983 SC 130 (ii) Union of India Vs. Major General (Rtd) SPS Vains, (2008) 9 SCC 125. In these cases, the issue was whether there could be a disparity in payment of pension between officers of the same rank who had retired prior to the introduction of the revised pay scales and those who retired thereafter. TheSupreme Court held it to be wholly erroneous and violative of the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Court held that the object sought to be achieved was not to create a class within a class, but to ensure that the benefits of pension were made available to all persons of the same class equally.

Though the law on OROP was settled by the Supreme Court seven years ago in the afore-mentioned SPS Vains case, it was applied by the Govt only to the petitioner’s rank, i.e. Major General. Unfortunately, the Govt adamantly expects every rank to approach the court to get the benefit of OROP and does not relent until it finally loses face in the Supreme Court.

The Forum of Retired IPS Officers (FORIPSO) too had to approach CAT to challenge the pension fixation formula where it has won in January this year and OROP has virtually been granted. As per habit and moved by the nexus, the Govt is heading to the High Court though they have no case. No wonder, Indian Govt has the dubious distinction of being the biggest litigant. May be such litigations will come down if the IAS, who are the brains behind it, voluntarily shed OROP for themselves and sail in the same boat as others.

About J.K. Khanna

J.K. KhannaJ.K. Khanna is a retired IPS Officer of Bihar Cadre, 1974-batch. He retired in the rank of D.G.Police in 2011. He is the Secretary of the Forum of Retired IPS Officers (FORIPSO) which is an all India body, representing 23 States.

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  1. Pension should be based on performance during the working tenure. Any other formula will promote mediocrity. The only way to make the system more efficient would be to see how pension is structured in the private sector.
    It is unlikely that the Judicial System will ever call out the bluff in case of the IAS officers but thanks for enlightening us.