P&H HC says election duties are constitutional obligations, no bar on teachers being assigned the same
Reiterating that there is no bar on teachers being posted on election duty, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the mere fact that some teachers are drawing higher salary than the Deputy Commissioner and therefore, cannot be directed by him to perform a duty, does not hold any significance as the electoral officer is discharging constitutional duties.
Justice Shekhar Dhawan said so while dismissing the plea moved by the Teachers Association of Central University of Punjab (Regd.) or quashing of order dated 6.9.2018 whereby the members of the association were deputed on duty of Zila Parishad Panchayat Samiti elections.
One of the contentions raised by the petitioners was that the Associate Professors and Assistant Professors (teaching faculty) were drawing basic pay and grade pay higher than that of the Deputy Commissioner and in no way were subordinate to the Deputy Commissioner. Otherwise also, deputing the teachers on election duty will adversely affect the studies in the university.
Justice Dhawan said the argument “has practically no relevance in this case because the employees have been asked to perform the election duty which is a constitutional obligation and District Electoral Officer, as per Section 23 of the (Punjab State Election Commission) Act, can ask any employee to perform such duties, drawing of higher basic pay or Grade Pay becomes more or less insignificant in such like matters because the District Electoral Officer is discharging the constitutional duties”.
While the petitioners relied on the Supreme Court’s observation in case titled Election Commission of India vs. St. Mary’s School and Others to say that such duty would affect studies in the varsity, Justice Dhawan read from the same judgment to say that the apex court had observed that as far as possible members of teaching faculty should not be put on electoral duty so that the teaching work may not suffer, but there is no bar that the teaching faculty cannot be put on election duty.
He also noted that election duty is a one-day affair and that too on a non-teaching day.