16 Jan 2023 2:25 PM GMT
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravi Kumar have held that academic qualifications are a valid criteria to differentiate pay scale for different employees even when the nature of the work undertaken by them is more or less the same. Issue posed before the Top CourtThe issue before the top court was, "Whether in a case where the educational qualifications for...
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravi Kumar have held that academic qualifications are a valid criteria to differentiate pay scale for different employees even when the nature of the work undertaken by them is more or less the same.
Issue posed before the Top Court
The issue before the top court was, "Whether in a case where the educational qualifications for the post of Nursing Assistant and Staff Nurse are different, still the Nursing Assistants shall be entitled to the Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurses?"
Facts of the Civil Appeal with its Judicial History in Brief
The present Civil Appeal was filed by the Union of India feeling aggrieved with the judgment passed by the High Court of Gauhati which held that the original writ petitioners are entitled to Nursing Allowance.
The respondents, in the appeal, were Nursing Assistants in various hospitals under the establishment of Border Security Force. All of them were being paid the ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’. According to the original writ petitioners, they were entitled to the Nursing Allowance like it was being given to the Staff Nurse. Therefore, a writ petition was filed before the High Court.
The claim of the original writ petitioners claiming Nursing Allowance at par with the Nursing Staff was opposed by the appellants contending that they were being paid the special allowance known as ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’ and were therefore not entitled to the Nursing Allowance at par with Staff Nurses as they are not qualified as a Staff Nurse.
Decision of the Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court
The Single Judge, negating the objection of the appellants, observed that the duties performed by the writ petitioners are the similar duties performed by the Staff Nurses. Single Judge further also observed that educational qualification cannot be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance. Subsequently, the Division Bench, too, dismissed the Appeal. Therefore the Appellants had moved the Supreme Court.
Appellant’s Arguments before the SC
Ms. Madhavi Divan, ASG, who was appearing for the Appellant submitted that, “It is submitted that so far as the qualification of the Staff Nurses is concerned, it is four years course and so far as the Nursing Assistants are concerned, they have completed only one year course which is the requirement for the post of Nursing Assistants. Therefore, they shall not be entitled to claim the Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurses.”
It was further submitted by Ms. Divan that, “as observed and held by this Court in a catena of decisions classification of the different pay scales is permissible based upon educational qualifications, experience and nature of duties.”
The Respondents argued that, "Nursing Assistants are being integral part of the nursing service and when both the Nursing Assistants as well as the Staff Nurses are integral part of the nursing service and would be performing the similar duties, the High court has not committed any error in directing to pay Nursing Allowance to the Nursing Assistants at par with the Staff Nurse."
'High Court has committed a serious error'
The court held, "The view taken by the High Court is contrary to the decisions of this Court in the case of Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited and Another versus Balbir Kumar Walia and others, (2021) 8 SCC 784; Director of Elementary Education, Odisha and Others versus Pramod Kumar Sahoo, (2019) 10 SCC 674 and Secretary Department of Personnel Public Grievances & Pension & Anr. versus T.V.L.N. Mallikarjuna Rao, (2015) 3 SCC 653."
It is important to point out that in the above mentioned cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the different pay scales/pay structure based on different educational qualifications and has reiterated that different educational qualification and experience prescribed for appointment can be a ground to have different pay scales/pay structures.
Educational Qualification is a valid criteria
The court therefore held, "Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions to the facts of the case on hand the view taken by the High Court that the educational qualification cannot be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance to the Nursing Assistants is unsustainable. The Nursing Assistants in the BSF neither have relevant experience for appointment as Staff Nurse nor they possess any educational qualification for appointment as Staff Nurse. Therefore, the case of Nursing Assistants cannot be compared with that of the Staff Nurses as both carry different educational qualification."
"In view of the above and for the reason stated above present appeal succeeds. The impugned judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench of the High Court holding and directing that the original writ petitioners – Nursing Assistants shall be entitled to Nursing Allowance at par with the Staff Nurse is hereby quashed and set aside," the court added.
Case Title: The Union of India & Ors. Versus Rajib Khan & Ors. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 172 of 2023 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.8083 of 2022)
Citation. : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 35
For Appellant(s) Mr. Arvind Kumar Sharma, AOR
For Respondent(s) Mr. Omanakuttan K. K., AOR
Service Law - Educational qualification can be a ground for different pay scale even if the nature of duties are the same-Pay scale difference in the posts of Nursing Assistant and Staff Nurse in Border Security Force upheld-Nature of work may be more or less the same but the scale of pay may vary based on academic qualification or experience which justifies classification - Paras 4.4, 5
Read the Judgment Here