The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Mumbai University to pay salary dues to a professor cum director of a Management Institute run by the university for a second time as the University breached a previous order directing payment of salary dues to the 61-year-old who was appointed to the said post as per the prescribed procedure of the University, yet was retired from it on the grounds that he had completed 60 years.
While hearing Satish Ratanparkhi's application via video conference for interim relief filed in the University's writ petition, Justice SJ Kathawalla noted that the Court was "aghast by the University's contemptuous conduct" because by an order dated December 16, 2019, the High Court had already directed MU to allow Ratnaparkhi to continue as a Director. However, the applicant contended that he was not allowed to function as a director of the institute.
In 2012, the applicant was appointed as Professor-Cum-Director(Open), at the Alkesh Dinesh Mody Institute for Financial and Management Studies, University of Mumbai, as per the recommendation of the Committee constituted under Section 78 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994, after following all the selection process prescribed by the University.
However, by an order dated February 21, 2019, issued by the Registrar of the University, the applicant was retired from the said post on the ground that he had completed 60 years of service. The applicant filed an appeal before the College Tribunal challenging the order of the registrar.
The applicant relied upon the Government Resolution dated March 5, 2011, as per which the tenure of the Principals/Directors in any government college affiliated to non-agricultural Universities has been extended upto 65 years, with a rider that on completion of 62 years, there shall be a performance review of the incumbent.
Thereafter, the Tribunal by its order dated September 20, 2019, allowed the applicant's appeal and set aside the order issued by the Registrar. The petitioner university filed a writ petition before the High Court challenging the said order of the Tribunal.
In an order dated December 16, 2019, High Court refused to stay the Tribunal's order and observed that the Tribunal had clearly held that the Registrar's order was illegal and allowed the applicant to continue as Director till the age of 65. Thus, the High Court allowed the applicant to continue on the said post and directed the University to pay him salary every month.
But, the University has not paid salary to the applicant since September 20, 2019 i.e. the date on which the College Tribunal's order was passed in his favour.
Court noted that the University has flagrantly breached its order, leaving the applicant with no choice but to move Court and seek directions against the University.
The applicant's lawyer Seema Chopda stated that for the last 15 months her client has been surviving on his savings, which are now exhausted and it is becoming difficult for him to sustain himself, also he is burdened with a loan. Thus, keeping in mind his financial condition the applicant sought interim relief in the form of directions to release his salary from December 16, 2019 till date.
University's counsel Ashutosh Kulkarni submitted that the University intends to file an SLP before the Supreme Court challenging the High Court's order passed last year dated December 16. However, due to the situation surrounding the pandemic of Covid-19, the SLP has not been filed till date and thus the University has not paid the applicant his dues, Kulkarni stated after taking instructions.
Justice Kathawalla observed-
"The Court is aghast by this contemptuous conduct of the Petitioner University. Despite specific directions given by this Court as far back as 16th December, 2019 vide its reasoned Order, directing the Petitioner University to allow the Applicant to continue as a Director of the Institute and pay his salary, the Petitioner University has flagrantly disregarded the direction of this Court, and not paid him a single rupee till date.
The Petitioner University has therefore with impunity breached / disobeyed the Order passed by this Court and has deprived a Senior Citizen of his dues from 16th December, 2019, who has in fact stopped receiving his salary since February, 2019."
Furthermore, the Court acknowledged that Mumbai University is one of the oldest and premier Universities of India imparting education to millions of students over the years. However -
"It is incomprehensible to this Court, as to how an Institute of such stature which seeks to imbibe in its students, inter alia values of honesty, discipline and good governance, can justify breaching the Order of this Court."
Expressing displeasure at the excuse of the pandemic of Covid-19 to justify non-filing of the SLP, Justice Kathawalla said-
"Even today dishearteningly, the Petitioner University is using the current pandemic situation as an excuse for non-filing of the SLP, despite having received the Order more than two and a half months before the present Lock Down in the Country."
Thus, the Court directed the University to pay the applicant his dues and to continue paying him before the 5th of every month until further orders.
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