Supreme Court | Denying similar benefits to similarly situated Government employees working under same employer amounts to discrimination

   

Supreme Court: In an appeal filed against the judgment of the Delhi High Court, wherein the Court has set aside the orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal and thereafter directed the northern railway (appellants) to count 50% of respondents service as commission vendors, prior to their absorption, as “qualifying service” for grant of pensionary benefits, the division bench of M.R. Shah* and B.V. Nagarathna held that the respondents/commission vendors working in the northern railway shall also be entitled to the same benefits which the other commission vendors working in different zones/divisions are entitled to and there cannot be discrimination among the similarly situated commission vendors as to deny similar benefits would be tantamount to discrimination and in violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.

The Court noted that the issue in the present case is with respect to commission vendors working in the Northern Railway, and the issue is whether the commission vendors who were absorbed in the regular service are entitled to reckon 50% of the period of service as commission vendors, prior to their absorption, as qualifying service for grant of pensionary benefits, at par with the casual labourers whose services were regularized by virtue of Rule 2005 of the Indian Railway Establishment Manual, Vol. II, 1991 read with Rule 31 of the Railway Services (Pension) Rules, 1993.

It was also noted that so far as the commission vendors working in the western railway, eastern railway, southern railway and south-eastern railway are concerned, pursuant to different orders passed by the Central Administrative Tribunals and High Courts, which have been confirmed by this Court, the issue is held against the Union of India/Railways, as the commission vendors are held to be entitled to 50% of the services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits and all of them were granted such benefits.

The Court said that it cannot be disputed that employees working in different divisions/zones in the Railways are under the very same employer – Railway Board which is under the Ministry of Railways. Therefore, the employees working under the same employer in different zones/divisions are required to be treated similarly and equally and are entitled to similar benefits and are entitled to the same treatment.

Thus, it was held that, on the ground of parity, the commission vendors working in the Northern Railway are entitled to the same benefits which are provided to all the similarly situated commission vendors working under different zones/divisions and there cannot be different criteria/parameters with respect to similarly situated employees.

The Court noted that the submission of the Railways that there will be huge financial burden on them, is not a reason to deny the similar benefits to the respondents, as the commission vendors working in the northern railway are also entitled to similar benefits given to the similarly situated commission vendors working in different divisions who are already being paid the pensionary benefits by counting the benefit of 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization.

Thus, the Court while applying the doctrine of stare decisis, dismissed the appeals and held that commission vendors working in the northern railway are entitled to have 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits like other office bearers working under the Railway Board, working in different zones/divisions.

[Union of India v. Munshi Ram, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1493, decided on 31-10-2022]

*Judgment by: Justice M.R. Shah.


*Apoorva Goel, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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