The High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday took suo moto cognisance on a letter-petition on the issue of deferment of payment of salaries & pensions as per a Government Order issued by the State Government on March 31,2020.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J.K Maheshwari & Justice Satyanarayana Murthy granted one week's time to the Advocate General to respond on the issue and listed the matter for further hearing on April 15, 2020.
According to the letter written by Advocate Ravi Shankar Jandhyala, the State Government lacks jurisdiction to issue Executive instructions for deferment of payment and the G.O. dated March 31,2020 must be struck down.
Accordingly, in light of the rationale that "gratuity & pension are not bounties as employee earns these benefits for dint of his long, continuous, faithful & unblemished services", the petitioner has contended that this "hard earned benefit accrues to an employee in the nature of property".
"This right to property cannot be taken away without the due process of law as per the provisions of Article 300A of the Constitution of India." states Shankar in his letter.
Furthermore, the petitioner has also contended,
"......that there is no provision in the Epidemic Diseases Act,1897; the Disaster Mangement Act,2005 or Regulations framed under the Epidemic Diseases Act,1897 which empowers the Government to curtail the rights of the pensioners to receive the full pension or as a matter of fact differ salaries also. Therefore,the impunged G.O. is liable to struck down."
On March 31, 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government had announced deferment of salaries to its employees, including the Chief Minister, Cabinet Ministers and IAS officers. In an order issued around midnight, Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney said that the imposed lockdown have "completely dried-up" state's revenue streams. According to the order, the deferments will be applicable to pensions and honorariums as well.
The salary deferments in Andhra Pradesh were announced hours after the Telangana government took a similar decision. The Telangana government also imposed salary cuts ranging from 10 per cent to 75 per cent for its executive, political representatives and employees on Tuesday.
A similar petition is pending before the Telangana High Court challenging the deferment of salaries and shall come up on April 17, 2020.