1996 ugc pay scale

Supreme Court: While deciding whether physical education and library personnel drawing UGC pay scales of 1996 could be denied other State Government benefits under the Government Order dated 15-11-1999, the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ. quashed and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the Karnataka High Court and directed the State Government to extend the said benefits to the appellants within 3 months.

Factual Background

The appellants in the instant matter were initially employed as Physical Instructors in Government Grade Colleges in Karnataka. On 1-01-1986, the first appellant reached selection grade pay scale of the University Grants Commission (‘UGC’), while the second appellant was granted senior scale of pay on the same date, and selection grade of pay from 13-07-1990. The first appellant was superannuated on 31-01-1998, while the second appellant was superannuated on 31-05-2004. Both of them were selection grade Physical Education Directors in the State Government Colleges at the time of retirement.

The State Government revised the pay scale of Teachers, Librarians and Physical Education Directors in the Government Colleges vide order dated 15-11-1999, which also provided that the benefit of UGC pay scales as revised from 1-01-1996 was granted to the said three categories of employees with retrospective effect from 1-01-1996. On the same day and through a separate order, the same benefit was granted to the same stakeholders in Government-aided colleges. The order dated 15-11-1999 was partially modified on 29-07-2000. On 23-10-2001, the State Government issued a circular which stated that physical education and library personnel drawing UGC pay scales of 1996 shall not be granted other government benefits under the Government Order dated 15-11-1999. Therefore, the appellants were denied benefit of the same which led them to file an application before the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal which got rejected. The writ petition challenging the decision of KAT was also dismissed by the Karnataka High Court through impugned judgment, which was challenged in the instant matter.

Court’s Findings

The Court noted that in N. Ramesh (Writ Petition No. 5855 of 2008, decided by the learned Single Judge of Karnataka High Court on 13th February 2009) involving similar dispute, the Single Judge of High Court held that the party was the benefit of the revised UGC pay scale from 1-01-1996 based on order dated 15-11-1999. The said decision had attained finality since writ appeal and SLP against the same were dismissed.

The Court highlighted that the UGC’s order dated 19-10-2006 and State Government’s order dated 4-07-2008 were not pointed out to the Single Judge who decided N. Ramesh (supra). Also, even in the appeal or the SLP, the two orders were not brought to the Court’s notice, and the State Government never applied for review. It further acknowledged that in subsequent decision of Division Bench dated 29-04-2011, the Court held that Government employees were not entitled to a revised pay scale with retrospective effect. The Court pointed that the Order in N. Ramesh (supra) was implemented by the State Government. The Court further cited Irayya v. The Secretary wherein, a direction was issued in favour of similarly placed employees who were entitled to revised UGC pay scales with effect from 1-01-1996 with all consequential benefits, and the same was confirmed by the Division Bench.

The Court noted that accompanied with the same application, the appellants had also produced copies of orders in K.C. Patil and S.H. Hallur (order dated 7-01-2014), who were retired librarians, similarly placed as appellants, were granted the benefit of revised pay scale from 1-01-1996 along with consequential benefits. The Court acknowledged that not only N. Ramesh (supra) but even thereafter, the benefits of revised UGC pay scale were granted in terms of GO dated 15-11-1999.

The Court stated that the State Government ought to have applied for review of order in N. Ramesh (supra), but the same was allowed to become final. The Court noted that regardless of GO dated 4-07-2008, the benefit was granted to similarly placed employees even on 7-01-2014. It further pointed towards the conscious decision of the State Government accepting the High Court’s decision in N. Ramesh (supra) and expressed that now, the State Government cannot rely upon the GO dated 4-07-2008, which was not pointed out to the Courts dealing with the said matter, since it accepted the judgment and granted benefits to N. Ramesh (supra) as per GO dated 15-11-1999. The Court did not find any reason or justification for denying the same relief to the appellants in the instant matter.

Therefore, the Court quashed and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the High Court. The Court further directed the State Government to extend the benefits under GO dated 15-11-1999 to the appellants within 3 months. The Court also clarified that the judgment in the instant matter would be applicable to all the cases pending before the KAT as well as Karnataka High Court, related to similarly situated employees claiming similar relief. The Court restricted the use of instant decision for filing new cases by retired employees who have been denied the said benefit and have not challenged the action till date and restricted the already concluded cases from reopening after the instant decision.

[B.C. Nagaraj v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1156, decided on 13-09-2023]

Judgment authored by: Justice Abhay S. Oka

Know Thy Judge | Justice Abhay S. Oka – Harbinger of Social Change and Preserver of Administrative Accountability

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Advocate on Record Charudatta Vijayrao Mahindrakar, Advocate Darshana Mahindrakar

For Respondents: Additional Advocate General Prateek K Chadha, Advocate on Record V. N. Raghupathy, Advocate Manendra Pal Gupta, Advocate Apzal Ansari, Advocate Sreekar Aechuri, Advocate Pragya Ganjoo, Advocate Muskaan Singla

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