The Allahabad High Court has come to the aid of a railway employee, who suffered decline in his eyesight due to strenuous round-the-clock job only to be decategorized medically and moved to another post at a much lower pay scale and then being dragged into unnecessary litigation by the Railways.
A bench of Justice Bharati Sapru and Justice Siddharth has directed the Railways to not only compensate their former employee Syed Qzair Ahmad, but also slapped a cost of Rs 50,000 on it which will also be paid to Ahmad.
In the instant case, Ahmad was working as Assistant Yard Master in Railway at Allahabad in the pay-scale of Rs. 1,600-2,600.
He was medically de-categorised on December 18, 1992, due to constant decline in the eyesight standards, which he attributes to constant and round-the-clock strenuous work in the Railways.
At the time of de-categorisation, he was drawing the pay-scale of Rs. 1,600-2,660, and was about to get pay-scale of Rs. 2,000-3,200, in accordance with the Railway Board’s letter dated January 27, 1993. However he was accommodated on the post of Head Posting Clerk (Coaching Cadre) in Parcel Wing in the pay-scale of Rs. 1,400-2,300 in violation of Master Circular which provides that while absorbing de-categorised staff in alternative employment, the interest of staff in service in that cadre shall not be adversely effected as far as possible.
Ahmad claimed that his predecessor in the new post was drawing a higher pay scale and moved the Central Administrative Tribunal, which, in the year 2002, directed the Centre to grant the grade payscale of Rs. 1,600- 2,660 to Ahmad for the post of Head Coaching Clerk with effect from the date he was posted on that post, instead of the pay-scale of Rs. 1,400-2,300 granted to him pursuant to medical de-categorisation.
It was this order which was challenged by the Railways and decided against them by the Allahabad High Court.
The Railways claimed in appeal that medical de-categorisation of an employee only entitles him to be considered for alternative employment in such category under which he is found fit on the basis of available vacancies.
The bench, however, referred to the Indian Railway Establishment Manual, which it held “do not support the case of the petitioners (Railways)”.
Clause 1303 of the Manual, the bench noted, provides that de-categorised staff shall be absorbed in any suitable alternative post immediately and in case it is not possible, a special supernumerary post in the grade in which the employee concerned was working should be created till the alternative post is located and such post will stand abolished as soon as alternative employment is located.
Similarly, Clause 1308 of Indian Railway Establishment Manual provides that pay of the disabled /medically de-categorised employee will be fixed on absorption in alternative post at a stage corresponding to the pay previously drawn in the post held by them on regular basis before acquiring disability/medically de-categorisation.
“…the provisions of Railway Establishment Manual are clear regarding the entitlement of pay scale payable to the petitioner without any prejudice to him,” the court said.
The high court referred to the observation of the apex court in case titled Kunal Singh vs Union of India and Another, wherein it had said, “It must be remembered that person does not acquire or suffer disability by choice. An employee, who acquires disability during his service, is sought to be protected…”
“As stated above the provisions of Indian Railway Establishment Manual as well as of The Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 are supporting the case of the respondent no.1 (Ahmad) and therefore, the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal is correct and calls for no interference,” the high court held.
Ahmad deprived of right to use his money
The court noted that Ahmad had retired from service on March 31, 2012, and directed the Railways “to pay the monetary benefits due to the respondent no.1 as per order dated 30.4.2012 passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal within a period of one month of filing of the certified copy of this order”.
It also imposed a 7 per cent simple interest from the date of CAT’s order and ordered that his pay and post retirement dues shall be recalculated and paid to him treating his accommodation on alternative post in the payscale of Rs. 1,600-2,660.
7 pc interest a form of compensation
The bench stated that the interest of 7% awarded in favour of Ahmad is in the nature of compensation as “he had right to use the said amount, but on account of fault of the petitioners, he was deprived of the same”.
It relied on a 1992 apex court decision in Secretary, Irrigation Department, Government of Orrisa vs GC Roy, where the constitution bench observed that “a person deprived of use of money to which he is legitimately entitled as of right, to be compensated for the deprivation, call it by any name. It may be called interest, compensation or damages”.
Cost for dragging employee into litigation
“Since the respondent no.1 was dragged into litigation for no fault on his part and has suffered harassment on account of monitory deprivation on account of fault on the part of the petitioners, therefore, the petitioners are liable to be saddled with heavy cost,” the bench said while imposing a conservative cost of Rs. 50,000 in favour of Ahmad.