Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai*, JJ., dismissed an appeal challenging the decision of State of Rajasthan to place persons having experience in Rajasthan and those having experience in other States on different footings for extending benefits of State notification proving bonus marks. Approving the findings of Rajasthan High Court, the Bench held,

“…the experienced candidates in other States cannot be compared with the candidates working in the State of Rajasthan, as every State has its own problems and issues and the persons trained to meet such circumstances, stand on a different pedestal.”

Factual Backdrop

The State of Rajasthan had framed rules known as Rajasthan Ayurvedic, Unani, Homeopathy and Naturopathy Services (Amendment) Rules, 2013. Subsequently, the a State notification was issued on 30-05-2018 providing that the candidate who had worked under the Government, Chief Minister BPL Life Saving Fund, NRHM Medicare Relief Society, AIDS Control Society, National TB Control Program, Jhalawar Hospital and Medical College Society, Samekit Rog Nirgrani Pariyojna or State Institute of Health Family Welfare (SIHFW), would be entitled to bonus marks as per the experience attained. The notification provided,

“For 1 year of experience, the bonus marks will be 10, for 2 years of experience the bonus marks will be 20 and for 3 years of experience it will be 30. The advertisement also provided that only such of the candidates who were having experience certificate from the competent authority as mentioned in the said advertisement would be entitled to the bonus marks.”

On being aggrieved by the decision of the State to limit the benefit of the notification to those who had experience under NRHM in Rajasthan only and exclude those who had experience of working under the NRHM scheme on contract basis in different States, the appellants had approached the High Court vide various writ petitions seeking a direction to the State to accept the experience certificate of the petitioners which was issued by the NRHM authorities of different States, so as to qualify them for getting the bonus marks.

Findings of the High Court

The Single Judge of the High Court allowed the said writ petitions and directed the State of Rajasthan to grant bonus marks to the appellants. However, by the impugned judgment the Division Bench set aside the order of the Single Judge holding that the intention of the State of Rajasthan was to confine the benefit of award of bonus marks to those employed in the schemes within the State of Rajasthan and not in other States.

Was there any intelligible differentia?

Rule 19 of the Rules, 2013 provided that the Appointing Authority shall scrutinize the applications received by it and require as many candidates qualified for appointment under these rule as seem to it desirable for interview. The appellants argued that a plain reading of Rule 19 of the said Rules would clearly show that the experience of working anywhere in the country under the NHM/NRHM schemes would be sufficient to qualify a candidate to get bonus marks as both category of candidates either belonging to State of outside were doing same kind of work.

Therefore, the appellants alleged that to discriminate between employees working under the NHM/NRHM schemes in the State of Rajasthan as against those working outside the State of Rajasthan, was without intelligible differentia, not having the nexus with the object sought to be achieved and as such, was palpably arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Analysis and Observations

Noticing that the policy of the State of Rajasthan was that while selecting Nurse Compounder Junior Grade, the bonus marks were to be given to such employees who had done similar work under the State Government and under the various schemes, the Bench stated that when Rule 19 is read with sub clause (ii) of Clause 7 of the advertisement, the policy and object of the State of Rajasthan would be clear.

Sub clause (ii) of Clause 7 of the advertisement enlists the authorities who are competent to issue experience certificate for contractual employees. The list revealed that most of the competent authorities are the authorities who are heads of the institution like Government Medical College, Government Dental College, Director, Public Health, All Chief Medical and Health Officer of the State, All Primary Medical Officers, etc. Insofar as the NHM/AIDS is concerned, the competent authority is mentioned as Project Director, NHM/AIDS. Hence, the Bench opined that reading ‘Project Director, NHM/AIDS’ to be a Project Director of NHM/NRHM anywhere in the country would be reading the said words without context. The Bench expressed,

“When sub clause (ii) of Clause (7) of the advertisement mentions all other authorities who are the heads of the various establishments in the State of Rajasthan, the term ‘Project Director, NHM’ will have to be construed as ‘Project Director, NHM’ within the State of Rajasthan.”

The Bench noted that in Jagdish Prasad v. State of Rajasthan, (D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 12942/2015, dated 09-02-2016) the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court had held that the Government of Rajasthan had conducted several training programmes for the persons working with it on contractual basis, as well as under different schemes. The training programmes mainly pertained to the peculiar working pattern in the rural areas of the State of Rajasthan including tribal and arid zones and such a training is mandatory and non-joining of the same would result in non-renewal of service contracts. It had been held by the High Court that persons having special knowledge in working in the State of Rajasthan form a class different than the persons not having such experience of working in the State.

Approving the findings of the he Division Bench in the aforementioned case, the Bench stated that the experienced candidates in other States cannot be compared with the candidates working in the State of Rajasthan, as every State has its own problems and issues and the persons trained to meet such circumstances, stand on a different pedestal.

Verdict

In the light of the above, the Bench concluded that the policy of the State of Rajasthan to restrict the benefit of bonus marks only to such employees who have worked under different organizations in the State of Rajasthan and to employees working under the NHM/NRHM schemes in the State of Rajasthan could not be said to be arbitrary. The impugned order was upheld.

[Satya Dev Bhagaur v. State of Rajasthan, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 206, decided on 17-02-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice B.R. Gavai


Appearance by:

For the Appellants: Rishabh Sancheti, Himanshu Jain and Alpana Sharma, Advocates

For the State: Manish Singhvi, Senior Advocate


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna*, JJ., held that the action of the selectively applying the proviso to Rule 25(a) in relation  to one person, while not applying the said proviso in relation to similarly situated persons, is arbitrary and therefore illegal. The Bench stated,

“We accept the settled position of law that the rule applicable in matters of determination of pension is that which exists at the time of retirement, we are unable to find any legal basis in the action of the respondent University of selectively allowing the benefit of Rule 25 (a).”

Factual Matrix

The appellant joined as a Lecturer in the School of Legal Studies in Cochin University of Science and Technology on 07-09-1984. Prior to such appointment, the appellant was a lawyer practising in the District Court and Subordinate Courts and High Court of Kerala. The appellant made a representation before the Registrar of the University, requesting to reckon his practice of eight years at the Bar for the purpose of determining his pensionary benefits payable to him on his superannuation as provided under Rule 25 (a), Part III of Kerala Service Rules.

The respondent rejected the request of the appellant on the ground that the proviso to Rule 25 (a), Part III, KSR provides that the benefit under Rule 25 (a) would be available only to such employees who are recruited when practising at the Bar, to those posts requiring a qualification in law and experience at the Bar. Therefore, the respondent opined that since experience at the Bar was not essential for appointment to teaching posts at the University, the question of reckoning previous experience at the Bar would not arise in relation to the appellant.

The appellant stated in his appeal petition before the Chancellor that the proviso to Rule 25 (a), Part III, KSR was inserted in said Rule with effect from 12th February 1985. The appellant contended that the proviso could not be made applicable to him as the same was not in force as on the date on which he joined service at the respondent University. On the other hand, the respondent maintained that the Government or any other statutory body has the right to modify the service conditions, even retrospectively. The respondent further stated that since the proviso was introduced in Rule 25 (a) while the appellant was still in service, the proviso would apply to him.

Findings of the Court

Noticeably, in the case of one Dr. P. Leela Krishnan, a Professor of Law who was similarly situated as the appellant, the respondent University had duly considered the period of practice at the Bar as a part of qualifying service for the purpose of determining pension payable on superannuation, as perusal of extracts from the pension book of Dr. P. Leela Krishnan, revealed that his experience of practice at the Bar of 7 years, 2 months and 26 days was added to the period of his service at the  University, being 26 years, 9 months and 2 days. Accordingly, the respondent University had in determining his superannuation pension, considered 33 years, 7 months and 4 days as the qualifying period of service.

“Considering that no argument had been advanced on behalf of the respondents as to the manner in which the case of the appellant is different from that of Dr. P. Leela Krishnan and on what basis the benefit of Rule 25 (a) was granted to Dr. P. Leela Krishnan but was withheld in relation to the appellant.”

Pointing out the similarities between the two, the Bench stated, both these individuals were appointed as teaching faculty at the respondent University after practicing as advocates in various Courts of Kerala. They were both appointed before the proviso to Rule 25 (a) came into effect, i.e. before 12-02-1985 and retired after the said proviso came into force.

“In the circumstances, we find no valid ground to sustain the application of the proviso in relation to the appellant, thereby denying the benefit of Rule 21 25(a), when the same was not applied in the case of Dr. P. Leela Krishnan, thereby allowing the benefit of Rule 25(a).”

The law, as recognized in Deoki Nandan Prasad v. State of Bihar, (1971) 2 SCC 330, and Government of Andhra Pradesh v. Syed Yousuddin Ahmed, (1997) 7 SCC 24, states that the pension payable to an employee on retirement shall be determined on the rules existing at the time of retirement. However, the Bench stated, law does not allow the employer to apply the rules differently in relation to persons who are similarly situated. Therefore, the Bench opined that if the respondent University sought to deny the benefit of Rule 25 (a), in light of the proviso which was subsequently inserted thereby limiting the benefit of the Rule, it ought to have done so uniformly; as the proviso could have been made applicable in relation to all employees who retired from service of the respondent University following the introduction of the proviso, i.e. after 12-02-1985.

Conclusion

In the light of above, the Bench held that the denial of the benefit under Rule 25 (a), KSR, to the appellant was arbitrary and not in accordance with law. Consequently, the appellant was held entitled to receive pension having regard to his total qualifying service, inclusive of the period of his service at the respondent University and the period of his practice as an Advocate in various Courts of Kerala.

Accordingly, the impugned judgment of the High Court, whereby it was approved the action of respondent university was set aside. The respondent University was directed to calculate the amount of pension short paid to the appellant from the date of his superannuation and disburse such amount together with interest at the rate 5% p.a. till date of payment in favour of the appellant.

[G. Sadasivan Nair v. Cochin University of Science and Technology, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1155, decided on 01-12-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistance has put this report together 


Appearance by:

For the Appellant: K.P. Kylasanatha Pillay, Senior Counsel along with Sajith P. Warrier, Counsel

For the Respondents: Malini Poduval, Counsel

For the State: G. Prakash Counsel


*Judgment by: Justice B.V. Nagarathna

 

Tags: Service Law, Government Servant, University, Teacher, Bar Council, Experience, Retirement, Superannuation, Pension