Delhi High Court: A batch of petitions were filed by various petitioners employed in the respondent schools at various Teaching and Non-teaching posts such as TGT, PET, PGT, PRT, Librarian, Assistant Teacher, Peon, Electrician, Mali, Housekeeper, Nurse etc. against the respondent schools, and also against the Government of NCT of Delhi through the Directorate of Education seeking benefits of the 6th Central Pay Commission (6th CPC) along with the arrears, benefits under the 7th Central Pay Commission (7thCPC) along with the arrears, and retirement benefits such as gratuity, leave encashment, Dearness Allowance (DA), Medical Allowance (MA), House Rent Allowances (HRA), Travel Allowances (TA), etc., along with the interests and costs which are due as per the guidelines of 7th CPC. Chandra Dhari Singh, J., held that the schools are liable to pay for all the dues of its employees, irrespective of the fact whether the said dues pertain to three year or are prior to that and directs Government of NCT of Delhi to constitute a ‘High-Powered Committee‘ to supervise the implementation of recommendations and guidelines prescribed in the 6th and 7th Central Pay Commission with regards to the salaries and arrears thereto, retirement/terminal benefits, arrears of allowances etc. and to draw up a plan of action which may help in achieving results at the ground level.
The first set of writ petitions pertains to the allegations made on behalf of some of the petitioners concerning the failure on the part of the respondent schools and Directorate of Education (DoE) in the proper implementation of the recommendations of the 6th CPC which has led to non-payment of arrears. The second set of writ petitions pertains to the submissions made on behalf of some of the petitioners that they are entitled to the salary and arrears, as per the recommendations of the 7th CPC, and the same has not been implemented upon them, and in some cases only partially implemented. The third set of writ petition pertains to the grievances of the petitioners who are retired and are seeking the arrears of retirement/terminal benefits as per the recommendations of 6th and 7th CPC such as DA, TA, MA etc. A unanimous submission of the counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners that the respondent schools, contrary to the notifications issued by the DoE, have unnecessarily held the salaries and other consequential benefits of the Teaching and Non-Teaching staff, for which they are legally entitled to.
On the aspect of whether the paucity of funds can be a ground for non-implementation of 6th and 7th CPC by any recognized school, the Court noted that the employees of the school have a vested right of being paid the salary and emoluments as per the recommendations of the Pay Commission. The respondent DoE issued notification dated 17-10-2017, whereby, all the private recognized schools were directed to implement the recommendations of the Pay Commission. Hence, the said recommendations are binding on the schools as per the notification irrespective of it being run by the appropriate authority or any private body. Moreover, the recommendations of the Pay Commission have to be retrospectively implemented from the date of the said recommendations.
In case a school is running into losses or does not have the financial capacity to pay its employees, the same would not preclude its liability for paying its employees their salary and other benefits in accordance with the recommendations of the Pay Commission. Moreover, if the schools are granted waiver from implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission, then the same would result in the school’s employee salary be given as per the whims and fancies of the school. They may also force the staff to work at lesser pay than the pay as stipulated by Section 10 of DSE which states that the salary as well as the other allowances of the employees of recognized school should not be less than that of the employees of the corresponding status in schools run by the appropriate authority. Thus, the paucity of funds cannot be ground for denial of arrears of salaries and emoluments as per the 7th Pay Commission. The schools have no other alternative but to pay their staff the arrears of salaries and emoluments as fixed by the 7th Pay Commission and no school can seek waiver of implementation of Pay Commission by citing any reason whatsoever.
On the aspect of whether the private unaided school must implement the recommendations of 6th and 7th CPC, the Court further noted that the scope of Section 10 of the DSE and held that the employees of the unaided recognized schools are entitled to the same salary and emoluments as that of the school operated by the appropriate authority i.e., schools receiving grants/ aided by Central Government, Delhi Government or Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Section 10 of DSE confers the employees of unaided school a legal vested right to be entitled to salary not less than the salary paid to the employee of the aided school at the same position. Thus, any unaided recognized school shall be governed by Section 10 of the DSE regarding the salaries and emoluments of the staff of the said school and the same shall be equivalent to person at the same position in an aided school.
On the aspect of whether it is mandatory for the private unaided minority school to implement the recommendations of 6th and 7th CPC, the Court observed that the said schools fall under the ambit of Section 10 of DSE, thus, they are liable to follow the recommendations of the pay commissions and accordingly, pay the staff of their school at par with the employees of the government aided schools. Thus, the unaided minority schools are bound by the Section 10 of DSE and hence, the staff of the unaided minority school is entitled to salary and emoluments at par with the salary and emoluments as payable to the employee at the same position of the school owned by the competent authority. The employees of the unaided minority schools have a vested right to claim the arrears and dues in accordance with the Pay Commission.
On the aspect of whether the writ petitions are hit by delay and laches and claim can be restricted to 3 years only, the Court noted that in cases of continuing actions, the benefits of the arrears have to be limited to three years. Due to lapse on behalf of schools in non- payment of the benefits to its employees, the same cannot be used to the advantage of the schools by restricting dues to 3 years. The Schools are obligated to arrears of its employees to them in this regard. The claims of the employees shall not be restricted to the claims up to three years from filing of the writ petition. Hence, they may claim benefits as are due to them and the schools are obligated to pay the same. Moreover, the employees of the school should not be at the mercy of the schools for the purpose of receiving the pension and other retiral benefits which are due to them and the same should not be hindered merely by the fact that the benefits accrue for the period of three years or more before the filing of the petition.
The Court remarked that in cases where there is delay and latches attached to the employee who will be at very disadvantageous position if his claims are not allowed, then the Courts under its extraordinary power in writ jurisdiction may condone such delay. Thus, the claims of the petitioners do not hinder the settled rights of the third parties. Moreover, the issue of limitation does not come into play since there is a continuing wrong done to the petitioners.
The Court concluded that this is a fit case to exercise its extraordinary writ jurisdiction and to ensure that there is implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Commission. The Court directed the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi to constitute a ‘High-Powered Committee‘ unless the same is already constituted, to supervise the implementation of recommendations and guidelines prescribed in the 6th and 7th CPC with regards to the salaries and arrears thereto, retirement/terminal benefits, arrears of allowances etc. and to draw up a plan of action which may help in achieving results at the ground level. The various stakeholders are also directed to render full cooperation to the aforesaid High-Powered Committee bearing in mind that the issues being examined is the one which concerns all and sundry. Since the facts and circumstances are peculiar to each stakeholder, therefore, the said Committee before passing any order, is directed to scrutinize the various aspects and only after due assessment of the eligibility, validity of appointment, amount, period of calculation, revision of fee etc., it shall pass the orders.
The DoE is directed to issue a notification within two weeks from the date of pronouncement of this judgment, for the purpose of convening zonal committee, wherein, various stakeholders including teaching and nonteaching staff of several schools, who are aggrieved by the non — implementation of the Pay Commission shall file their claim before the concerned Zonal Committee and by way of the said Committee the grievances of the various stakeholders will be addressed and the recommendations of the Pay Commissions will be implemented in accordance with the law.
[Anjali Vaid v Adarsh World School, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7423, decided on 17-11-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Nikhilesh Kumar, Advocate for Petitioner;
Ms. Samdarshi Sanjay and Mr. Ashish Kr. Sharma, Advocates for R-1 and R-2 Mr. Yeeshu Jain, ASC with Ms. Jyoti Tyagi, Ms. Manisha and Mr. Hitanshu Mishra, Advocates for DOE Mr. V. Balaji and Mr. Nizamudeen, Advocates for DOE.