'Charity Begins At Home': Delhi HC Holds Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee's Top Officials In Contempt Over Non-Payment Of Teachers' Salaries

Nupur Thapliyal

27 Feb 2024 4:25 AM GMT

  • Charity Begins At Home: Delhi HC Holds Sikh Gurdwara Management Committees Top Officials In Contempt Over Non-Payment Of Teachers Salaries

    The Delhi High Court has found the President and General Secretary of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee guilty of intentionally not complying with a 2021 ruling that ordered payment of arrears of salaries to teachers and staff of Guru Harkrishan Public School (GHPS), in view of fixation of their pay under the 6th and 7th Pay Commission.Justice Navin Chawla found the Committee's...

    The Delhi High Court has found the President and General Secretary of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee guilty of intentionally not complying with a 2021 ruling that ordered payment of arrears of salaries to teachers and staff of Guru Harkrishan Public School (GHPS), in view of fixation of their pay under the 6th and 7th Pay Commission.

    Justice Navin Chawla found the Committee's President Harmeet Singh Kalka and General Secretary Jagdeep Singh Khalon guilty of having wilfully and intentionally failed to comply with the judgment and issued notice to show cause to them on the quantum of punishment.

    In 2021, a coordinate bench directed the Committee and the School in question to re-fix the salaries and other emoluments of the teachers under 6th and 7th CPC in accordance with the rules. This was after the teachers had filed a plea before the court.

    It was directed that the arrears under the 6th CPC shall be paid to the teachers with interest at the rate of 6% per annum whereas the arrears of 7th CPC would not carry any interest.

    A contempt plea was then filed by the teachers where the Committee and the School's Society gave an undertaking that all dues, arrears and salaries to all the employees, irrespective of whether they had filed a plea in court, would be cleared.

    An undertaking was given by the Committee and the School that they would start paying the prospective salaries as per the 7th CPC from September 2023, and also offered to clear the dues of the 6th CPC without any interest in a phased manner till November 2027.

    However, Justice Chalwa observed that there was never an intent to comply with the 2021 judgment as it was admitted that the Committee and the School had not started paying the salary to the teaching and non-teaching staff as per the 7th CPC.

    As the Committee's resident and General Secretary as well as the Honorary Secretary of School's Society expressed their helplessness to comply with the judgment in question due to lack of funds, the court said that they do not deserve to be in the Management of either the Society or the Committee.

    However, before directing their removal from the posts, the court directed that an Auditor be appointed to conduct a Forensic Audit of the accounts of the Society and the 12 schools managed by it from April 01, 2020, till December 31, 2023.

    Justice Chawla said that the helpless employees and teachers have been repeatedly knocking on the doors of the court and have been frustrated by the undertakings of the officials, who had no intention and means to comply with the same.

    “Such undertakings were given merely to buy time. Now, the blame is sought to be passed to the previous Managements, and by placing reliance on the order dated 02.06.2022 passed in the present batch of petitions, it has been contended that the persons in previous Managements have also been summoned in the present petitions and it is they who should be asked to purge their contempt,” the court said.

    It added that the financial incapacity to clear the arrears and pay even the current dues as pleaded by the officials, only strengthened the Court's belief that there is gross mismanagement of the affairs of the schools, GHPS (ND) Society, and the DSGMC.

    “The religion of Sikhism preaches the ideals of honesty, compassion, humanity, humility, and generosity in everyday life. While there is no doubt that various philanthropic and charitable causes are being discharged by the community and its leaders, at the same time, it should be kept in mind that 'charity begins at home',” the court said.

    It added that there is no point in such “philanthropic activities and values” when the teachers and staff of the schools, who are helping to lay down the foundation of a good and progressive society by imparting education and instilling moral values to young students and helping in running the said institutions, are ill-treated and not given their rightful dues and are made to suffer the agony of approaching the Court repeatedly for the same.

    The court said that there is an all-pervasive control of the DSGMC on the functioning of the schools and thus, the Committee cannot claim any immunity or claim that the officials were not bound to comply with the judgment.

    “The said judgment has been accepted by DSGMC and has attained finality and it is too late in the date to now contend to the contrary,” the court said.

    It directed the Forensic Auditor to take all necessary action to look into the affairs and accounts of the GHPS(ND) Society and the respective schools, seek clarifications, and give appropriate directions.

    Furthermore, the court directed the DSGMC to provide necessary funds to the GHPS(ND) Society and to the Schools managed by it so as to ensure that henceforth, the employees are paid in accordance with 7th CPC and the arrears as per the 6th CPC, including interest, are cleared at the earliest.

    It also directed that in the meantime, any rent received from any source by the GHPS (ND) Society, its schools, or DSGMC shall stand attached and be utilized only for clearing the arrears of the 6th and the 7th CPC owed to the employees of the twelve schools managed by the Society.

    The salary and other financial perquisites of the Members of the GHPS (ND) Society and the DSGMC shall also be withheld till further orders or till the entire dues of the employees, teaching and non-teaching staff, of the schools are fully paid,” it said.

    Counsel for Petitioners: Mr.Mohit Mathur, Sr. Adv.

    Counsel for Respondents: Mr.I.S.Alag, Sr. Adv. & Mr.Kirti Uppal, Sr. Adv; Mrs.Avnish Ahlawat, Standing Counsel for GNCTD (Service); Mr.Naushad Ahmed Khan and Ms.Pragya Dubey, Advs. for DOE; Mr.Anupam Srivastava, ASC, GNCTD

    Title: MRS TEJINDER PAL GUJRAL v. S MANJINDER SINGH SIRSA & ORS. and other connected matters

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (Del) 220

    Click Here To Read Order

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