The Orissa High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on National Law University of Odisha (NLUO) for applying different principles in case of different employees without having a codified service condition.
Justice Biswanath Rath was adjudicating upon a plea moved by one Sabyasachi Mohanty who was appointed as an assistant finance officer on contractual basis in October 2016. He had challenged a letter dated October 17, 2020 vide which he had been informed that his service would not be extended further and that he would be relieved from his duties on October 19, 2020 at 9am. The impugned letter had also instructed the petitioner to hand over charge along with all documents in his custody to the Assistant Registrar of NLUO on October 19, 2020 at 9 a.m.
The Court observed that the university had removed the petitioner from his post of Assistant Finance Officer de hors the applicable terms and conditions and that petitioner undoubtedly had an expectation of being regularized or in the bare minimum continue further in his post by way of extension.
The Court also took into consideration that NLUO had regularized a large number of contractual recruitees after each of them had completed two years of satisfactory service and since the petitioner had already completed four years of unblemished tenure, his expulsion from service is contrary to the terms and conditions set by the university itself.
"This Court again finds, once the University decides to recruit through a regular process of selection and in the process you select a person though you are selecting on contractual basis but after allowing him to continue for multiple years, you cannot leave such employee to your mercy and there should not only be following of process of Law or Rules prevailing may be by way of terms and conditions in service but there should also be lawful reason in taking out the services of such selected person and failure of which there shall be no Job security of the employee concerned", the Court observed.
Opining that such reputed law universities should set up exemplary principles instead of indulging in diluting tactics, the Court underscored,
"It is surprise to note that such an important University does not have a codified service condition, being an University of International rapport it cannot apply different conditions at different point of time and there should be immediate attempt to have rule and/or regulation to regulate the field of engagements. For the University of this nature building career of the Lawyers in an attempt to strengthen the Judicial Institutions, Law Universities should set up exemplary principles and not to indulge in diluting tactics and working on hand made rules as already disclosed here that two offer of appointments involving non-teaching staffs vide Annexure-4 and Annexure-C/6 involved here even does not have similarity."
Justice Rath further opined that since the petitioner had already completed an unblemished service of more than three years, he had a reasonable expectation to continue in his post as the assistant finance officer.
Expressing displeasure at the conduct of the university for setting different service standards for different employees, the Court remarked,
".. it also makes it clear that the University in the guise of no permanent service conditions on its own employee, is applying different standards in case of different employees which cannot get approval of law. Once you set a principle that should be followed till it is replaced only by a better principle, if any. The attitude of the University in the circumstance makes it clear that the University applies different principles in case of different employees, which ought to be prohibited."
Accordingly, the Court declared the impugned order of the University to be bad in law and thus set it aside. The Court also ordered NLUO to treat the petitioner as deemed to be continuing in the post of assistant finance officer in his service uninterrupted.
The Court also ordered that the petitioner is entitled to 50% of his drawing taking into account his last pay drawn towards back wages which should be counted and paid to the petitioner within a period of 1 month. For illegally dispensing with the service of the petitioner, the Court directed that the petitioner is also entitled to interest on back wages at least at the rate of 5% per annum all through.
If back wages and interest together are not paid to the petitioner within a period of one month of this judgment, he shall be entitled to interest at the rate of 8% per annum from the date of expiry of one month of the judgment till it is released in favour of the petitioner, it was ordered further.
Case Title: Sabyasachi Mohanty v. State of Odisha
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ori) 65