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No Discrimination When Persons Not Similarly Situated: Gujarat HC Refuses To Extend Govt Employee Benefits To Employees Of Autonomous Body

Drishti Yadav
28 Jan 2022 7:15 AM GMT
No Discrimination When Persons Not Similarly Situated: Gujarat HC Refuses To Extend Govt Employee Benefits To Employees Of Autonomous Body
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The Gujarat High Court recently held that the benefits flowing from a Resolution applicable to the State Government employees cannot be automatically claimed by the employees of the autonomous body. The bench comprising Justice A. P. Thaker and Justice N.V. Anjaria discarded the plea of discrimination asserted by the employees of Gujarat State Forest Development Corporation insofar as...

The Gujarat High Court recently held that the benefits flowing from a Resolution applicable to the State Government employees cannot be automatically claimed by the employees of the autonomous body. 

The bench comprising Justice A. P. Thaker and Justice N.V. Anjaria discarded the plea of discrimination asserted by the employees of Gujarat State Forest Development Corporation insofar as they were denied the benefit of a Resolution of the Public Works Department of the Government of Gujarat, whereby scheme was launched for the daily wagers working in the departments of the Government and under which the daily wagers came to be granted the benefits depending upon the completion of their service.

Noting that GSFDC is an independent autonomous body which does not get any grant or budgetary support from the State Government, the bench observed,

"the grievance of discrimination in not applying the State Government Resolution dated 17th October, 1988 which is meant for the daily rated employees of the government departments, cannot sustain when raised by the daily rated employees of respondent-GSFDC which is a different statutory entity registered under the Companies Act."

The Court explained that "apparent similarity" in a given case is not equality in law.

"It is well settled that plea of discrimination cannot hold good when the sets of persons are not similarly situated...The concept of equality as contained in Article 14 of the Constitution is not merely a process of comparison. The equality is matter of details. In other words, benefits flowing from the Resolution applicable to the State Government employees cannot be automatically claimed by the employees of the autonomous body. It is not a matter of right that employees of the class belonging to the statutory bodies other than the government departments may claim the benefits as of right when the Resolution in question is specifically made applicable to the government departments employees, the concept of ready parity does not hold good."

The Court further held that mere length of service would not be a consideration for seeking benefits under the Resolution which is operated for different classes of employees.

Background

The case came up as a result of a resolution passed by the government giving several benefits to the State Government employees. The employees of the autonomous body claimed the benefits that were given in the Resolution. Their claims were based on arguments that similar functions are discharged by both the employees and the length of service is similar.

By rejecting all the contentions made by the petitioners, the court held that employees of the class belonging to the statutory bodies other than the government departments cannot claim the benefits of the resolution as a matter of right when the Resolution is specifically made applicable to the government departments employees.

As to the question of the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14, the court denied any infringement or violation of the right to equality in the instant case and further held that:

"Discrimination arises between two homogeneous persons or a class of persons. Apparent similarity in a given case is not equality in law. The concept of equality as contained in Article 14 of the Constitution is not merely a process of comparison. The equality is a matter of details."

Differentiating between the two classes of employees, the court made it clear that the two classes of employees are both daily rated but they have different umbrellas of the employer bearing different characters. The mere fact that the respondent Corporation is to be viewed as 'State', would not be a sole guide for holding the two sets of employees, a single class for the purpose of extension of the said benefits.

Case Title: State of Gujarat v. PWD  & Forest Employees Union

Case No: C/LPA/613/2021

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Guj) 9

Click Here To Read/ Download Judgment

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