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Continued Employment In Public Service Projects For Several Years Creates Rights On Employees: Madras HC Directs State To Frame Regularization Scheme

Upasana Sajeev
28 April 2022 5:31 AM GMT
Continued Employment In Public Service Projects For Several Years Creates Rights On Employees: Madras HC Directs State To Frame Regularization Scheme
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The Madras High Court has recently held that when a competent authority/government makes an appointment to an unsanctioned post and when the employee has been engaged in such public service project for long years, the Government cannot turn a blind eye to these employees and say that they have no right for regularisation. The court also directed the State Government to formulate schemes...

The Madras High Court has recently held that when a competent authority/government makes an appointment to an unsanctioned post and when the employee has been engaged in such public service project for long years, the Government cannot turn a blind eye to these employees and say that they have no right for regularisation.

The court also directed the State Government to formulate schemes for the regularisation of such employees.

"Even assuming that the recruitment of these writ petitioners had not been fully in consonance with the procedure for appointment in Government services, the fact remained that these persons have been consciously appointed by the Government for implementing public projects and the work has been extracted from them continuously for several years. It is therefore, not open to the Government after a period of time to turn around and contend that these writ petitioners have no right at all to seek any kind of guarantee for their future."

The bench of Justice V Parthiban was considering a writ petition filed by a group of people who were appointed as Block Level Coordinator of sanitary work in all the Block Development Units concerned under the Department of Rural Development.

The petitioners submitted that they were originally appointed in various projects introduced by the Central Government like Swachh Bharat Mission principally with a view to maintaining a clean and healthy environment. They were recruited by the Collectors of the Districts concerned after a selection and assessment of suitability. The selected candidates were then imparted with the necessary training in order to equip them for the job.

The Block Level Coordinators are appointed by the State Government and funded by both Central and State Governments towards the payment of the consolidated salaries every month. Ever since their appointment in 2013, these petitioners have been continuously engaged. Their services are indispensably required throughout the year for meaningful and purposeful implementation of the various projects/schemes connected with the objectives.

The grievance of the petitioners was that despite being appointed and engaged for several years, none of the benefits that are admissible and payable to the regular employees manning similar positions for similar work has been extended to them. The government has labeled them as project employees and has not sanctioned regular posts.

Mr. C. Kanagaraj, appearing for the petitioners further submitted that the petitioners were given regular appointment letters, were given certificates on completing the necessary training, and were given identity cards. For all practical purposes, they were in charge at the ground level for implementing the projects meant to serve the public purpose. Even though the government has introduced schemes for regularising various categories of employees, no such scheme has been introduced for the present petitioners. He further contended that fair play and good conscience demand that the Government is to be directed to formulate a scheme for these employees for their regularization by the sanction of regular posts and the Government can consider deploying them wherever any regular vacancies arise in various departments.

Mr. Venkatasamy Babu, Senior Panel Counsel appeared for the first and second respondents, Mr. G. Ameedius, Government Advocate appeared for the third and fourth respondents while the fifth and sixth respondents were represented by Mr. L.S.M. Hasan Fizal, Additional Government Pleader.

The main contention of the respondents was that no regular post was sanctioned for the implementation of the projects. The petitioners were engaged on a contract basis, based on the requirements of the project for a limited period only. They were engaged on an Adhoc basis to lend support to the regular District and Block Level Officials involved in the various sanitation programs after the launching of the Swachh Bharath Mission (Gramin). Thus, in the absence of any sanctioned posts, and the nature of the projects being temporary, the petitioner's regularisation request cannot be considered. The respondents also submitted that previously a similarly placed person had approached the court seeking similar relief and the matter was dismissed. In view of the same, the present writ petitions were also to be dismissed as not maintainable.

The court observed that while dismissing the previous writ petition, the court had relied heavily on the case of State of Karnataka v. Uma Devi (2008). The court in Uma Devi's case had held that officials providing employment through back door was in violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution and also a violation of equal opportunity in employment. However, this precedent cannot be applied in the present case. Here, the appointments were made by the District Collector after following some criteria. Thus, it cannot be said that the petitioners gained employment through back door. The court observed –

"When a competent authority/Government is involved in selection and appointment towards implementation of the sanitary program at the District and Block levels, to say that they have no right at all and to be considered as illegal occupants of the posts is unfair, unjust, opposed to justice. In the said circumstances, the grievance of the petitioner herein need not be brushed aside brusquely and summarily as not maintainable."

The court also observed that it did not have powers to issue directions that the petitioners be engaged as project workers. The court, however, also observed that not giving any remedy to the petitioners, who have been engaged for public purposes would be against the concept of the welfare state. The court observed that some rights accrue to the petitioner to claim for the formulation of a scheme for regularisation by nature of them being employed for several years.

"This Court is quite conscious of the fact that the Government has been benevolent and had come up with several schemes in the past and directed regularisation of services of thousands of employees over a period of time. Such benevolence ought to permeate to the lowest levels to take within its sweep the desperate cry of the petitioners as well."

The court thus directed the State Government to formulate comprehensive schemes for providing a guarantee of employment to the petitioners either by deploying them in any suitable post on a preferential basis against regular vacancies that may arise in various Departments of the Government or may sanction regular posts in the sanitation programs that are being implemented by the State Government for their eventual regularisation.

Case Title: N. Karunanidhi v. The Union of India and Others

Case No: W.P No. 12887 of 2016 and others

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 183

Click here to read/download the judgment

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