EPF members may have won a long legal battle in the Supreme Court for higher pension contribution, but they are still far away from getting higher pension. When it comes to the actual implementation of the Supreme Court order, EPFO lags behind on many fronts.
In such a situation, there is a possibility that the deadline for higher pension application for EPFO EPS members should be extended. Let us understand the reason behind extending the application deadline.
According to the report, instead of being proactive, EPFO has mostly made last minute stop gap arrangements and has not provided any clarity in the most important issues. Along with the past contribution of EPF members, clear information has also not been shared about how the future contribution will be calculated. At the same time, EPS members are being told that any member who wants to apply for higher pension should confirm consent to pay or allow deduction from his EPF fund of an undisclosed amount during the online application process.
In the current situation, the EPS member will have to give consent for the higher deduction without knowing how much will be deducted from his EPF and what will be the approximate amount of higher pension he will get in return. Or what will be the calculation rule that EPFO will use. Apart from this, the confusion related to eligibility persists due to no FAQ being issued by EPFO.
The Supreme Court gave EPFO 4 months time till 03 March 2023 to allow EPS members to apply for higher pension. EPFO then came up with an online joint application form for eligible members who were members before 1st September 2014 and continued to be in service on or after 1st September 2014. This form was made available on the EPFO website on 27 February 2023. After this, the deadline for online application has been extended by 2 months to 3 May 2023.
One of the important points of confusion in the Higher Pension application process for eligible EPS members who are in service on or after September 01, 2014 is with regard to the new EPS contribution system. Because, the earlier system has to be changed later. The top court asked the EPFO to stop charging an additional amount of 1.16 per cent on contribution over and above the existing wage limit of Rs 15,000 from employees applying for higher pension and directed the EPFO to put in place a system. However, EPFO has not yet informed the EPS members about this new method or system.
Even if EPFO releases the new system now, EPS members will not have enough time to understand and assess its result, as very little time is left for the May 3 deadline to end. Apart from this, it will not be of any use to those people who have already applied for higher pension. Whereas, the Kerala High Court, in its interim order dated 12 April 2023, has asked the EPFO not to insist on documentary proof, on taking permission proof from the PF commissioner for online joint application. However, EPFO has not given clarity on its implementation.
EPFO should also provide an exit window to EPS members to review and withdraw the application. Especially those people who have already applied without knowing the new contribution system. In such a situation, there is a strong possibility that EPFO may extend the last date of online application for higher pension to May 3, 2023.