Supreme Court: The bench of Justice Hemant Gupta* and AS Bopanna, JJ has held that Kashmiri migrants, who were once Government employees, cannot retain Government accommodation for indefinite period on the ground that “they would return to the Valley when the situation will improve”.
The Court was deciding the case of where some Kashmiri migrants had occupied Government accommodation in Delhi and in National Capital Region on the strength of an order passed by the Delhi High Court in a judgment reported as Union of India v. Vijay Mam, 2012 SCC OnLine Del 3218, pursuant to which a rehabilitation scheme was framed by the Central Government on 28.3.2017 as modified on 19.5.2017.
The Court, however, noticed that since the Office Memorandum issued on 28.3.2017 was in terms of the order of the High Court of Delhi, which has not been approved by the Supreme Court vide order dated 5.8.2021, the entire basis of issuance of Office Memorandum falls flat as the very foundation of such Scheme stands knocked down.
It was held that the Office Memorandum allowing government accommodation to the retired Government employees who are Kashmiri Migrants did not meet the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
“The Government houses/flats are meant for serving Government employees. Post retirement, the government employees including Kashmiri Migrants are granted pensionary benefits including monthly pension. The classification made in favour of Government employees who were Kashmiri Migrants stands on the same footing as that of other Government employees or public figures. There cannot be any justification on the basis of social or economic criteria to allow the Kashmiri Migrants to stay in Government accommodation for indefinite long period.”
Noticing that the compassion shown to Kashmiri Migrants has to be balanced with the expectations of the serving officers to discharge their duties effectively, bench said that the applicants are occupying the government accommodation at the cost of other Government servants who are waiting in queue for allotment of a government accommodation to discharge their official duties. The Government accommodation is meant for serving officers and cannot be taken as a recourse to stay in Government accommodation for the life time of the Government servants or his/her spouse.
“To say that they would return to the Valley when the situation will improve is an open-ended statement capable of being interpreted in different ways. The satisfaction of improvement of situation would be widely different by the erstwhile Government employees and the State. But in no case it can be countenanced that the former Government employee, may be a Kashmiri Migrant, is entitled to stay in a government accommodation for an indefinite period. Thus, we are unable to uphold the Office Memorandum and strike it down as being totally arbitrary and discriminatory.”
The Court went on to explain that in Para 2(ii) of the Scheme, Kashmiri Pandits were to be accommodated in Delhi for first five years starting from the date of their retirement and thereafter be shifted to National Capital Region. Hence, it would be reasonable if
- Kashmiri Migrants are allowed government accommodation for a period of three years from the date of retirement so as to make alternative arrangements within such period.
- If an alternative accommodation is not available for them at their instance, they are at liberty to move to the transit accommodation or to avail cash amount in lieu of transit accommodation.
“Thus, a government employee who is a Kashmiri Migrant would not be entitled to retain Government accommodation for a period exceeding three years, may be in Delhi or in the National Capital Region or for that matter anywhere in the country.”
The Court further held that the three-years period can also be considered as cooling off period for the officers who were in active intelligence work so that they can resume normal life but the excuse of once working for intelligence agency is not a valid ground to occupy the Government accommodation for indefinite period.
[Omkar Nath Dhar v. Union of India, MISCELLANEOUS APPLICATION NO. 1468 OF 2021, decided on 07.10.2021]
For applicants: Senior Advocate Bimal Roy Jad
For UOI: Madhavi Divan, Additional Solicitor General
*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta