28 Jun 2021 6:10 AM GMT
Observing that the State cannot be permitted to function in a laid-back style, the Uttarakhand High Court, in a special Saturday hearing requested Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat to convene an urgent meeting for ensuring that arrears of salaries are paid to the employees of State Transport Corporation which is unpaid from the last five months. A division bench comprising of Chief...
Observing that the State cannot be permitted to function in a laid-back style, the Uttarakhand High Court, in a special Saturday hearing requested Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat to convene an urgent meeting for ensuring that arrears of salaries are paid to the employees of State Transport Corporation which is unpaid from the last five months.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma observed thus:
"Despite their tragedies and crisis, the State is merely making a mumble full of promises that "it shall look into their future difficulties and resolve them in an uncertain future date". The State cannot be permitted to function in a laid-back style. Each day, without any financial support, is an uphill task for its people to survive. It is a critical condition that requires an immediate solution for people who are penniless, and who are beginning to starve."
Furthermore it directed thus:
"Considering the critical financial problem being faced by the employees, considering the violation of their fundamental rights under Articles 21 and 23 of the Constitution of India, considering the violation of their statutory rights under the Payment of Wages Act, and other labour legislations, this Court requests the Hon'ble Chief Minister to immediately call an emergent Cabinet meeting, preferably on or before 28.06.2021 to resolve this financial crisis of the Corporation, and to ensure that the arrears of salaries for the months of February to June, 2021 are paid to the employees."
"This Court merely hopes that within its financial means and limits, the State will take up the present issue of payment of arrears of salaries of four months of the employees of the Corporation on a war-footing, and to immediately resolve the financial crises being faced by the employees of the Corporation."
Observing that the State cannot turn a Nelson's eye to the plight of its employees, the Court said that during the crisis of pandemic, the employees are left "high and dry by the State" when each employee has his own familial and social obligation to fulfil on a daily basis including that their children need to be fed, elderly parents need to be taken care of and medical needs of the wife have to be fulfilled.
In view of this, the Court observed thus:
"The Government is also required to ensure that not only the present salaries, but also the future salaries for the remaining period of the year are assured to the employees of the Corporation. Thus, the Corporation would need a total of Rs. 170.00 crores. And yet, there is no discussion, and no proposal as to where and how the Corporation will get Rs. 170.00 crores in order to meet-out its salary expenditure for its employees?"
During the last course of hearing yesterday, the Court had directed personal appearances of Secretaries of Transport and Finance Department of the State along with the Director of Uttarakhand Transport Corporation.
The Court had observed yesterday that "It is rather surprising, if not shocking, that the State has turned a Nelson's eye towards the plight of its people who have been suffering financially for the last five months, as they have not been paid a single penny of their salary for the said period. Even the loan amount that the State claims that it is 'willing to disburse', is still stuck in the red-tapism of the bureaucracy, as the file continues to be kept in animated suspension in the Government."
According to a document submitted on behalf of the State of Uttarakhand earlier, it was submitted that the Government had claimed that it is willing to grant Rs.23.00 crores to the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation for "the hill loss" suffered by it.
Additionally, it also stated that that due to the Uttaranchal C.M. Discretionary Fund Rules, 2000, which were amended in 2014 and 2017, it was not possible for the office of the Chief Minister to disburse Rs.20.00 crores in favour of the Corporation.
Furthermore, it was also submitted that the State was not in a position to make any categorical statement as to when the "Soft Loan" of Rs.20.00 crores would be disbursed to the Corporation.
On the other hand, the Court was apprised by the Managing Director of the Corporation that it has neither received the "Soft Loan" of Rs.20.00 crores, nor the proposed disbursement of Rs.20.00 crores from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
During the course of hearing today, the Finance Secretary had apprised the Court that the State has suffered a financial loss of Rs. 1000 to 1200 crore, however, it does have a contingency budget of Rs. 500 crores. It was submitted that since 500 Crores cannot be given to a single Corporation, it is for the Cabinet to decide as to how much funds can be disbursed to the Corporation out of the contingency budget.
On the other hand, the Chief Secretary had apprised the Court that the Cabinet is likely to be convened within fifteen days.
Hearing the submissions, the Court observed thus:
"Moreover, this Court is well-aware of the fact that the State does have its own financial constraints. The State has to cater to the needs and interest of different sections of the society, of different departments, and of different State Corporations. By no means is this Court asking the State Government to go beyond its financial means and limits."
The Court directed that:
"In case, the Cabinet were to be convened on or before 28.06.2021, the learned Chief Secretary Mr. Om Prakash is directed to inform this Court on 29.06.2021 about the decision of the Cabinet with regard to the proposals made by the learned Secretary, Transport, and about the payment of arrears of salary to the employees of the Corporation."
With the aforesaid observations, the Court said that it will hear the matter again on 29th June.
Title: WRIT PETITION (PIL) NO. 82 OF 2019
Click Here To Read Order