3 May 2023 11:36 AM GMT
The Supreme Court recently set aside a judgment of the Tripura High Court which directed the State Government to raise the retirement age of Anganwadi workers from 60 years to 65 years.A bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Ahsanuddin Amanullah found fault with the High Court for issuing a mandamus to the State Government to change its policy regarding the retirement age of...
The Supreme Court recently set aside a judgment of the Tripura High Court which directed the State Government to raise the retirement age of Anganwadi workers from 60 years to 65 years.
A bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Ahsanuddin Amanullah found fault with the High Court for issuing a mandamus to the State Government to change its policy regarding the retirement age of workers. The High Court reasoned that since 90% of expenses of the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme - under which the Anganwadi workers are engaged- are borne by the Central Government, there will not be an fundamental increase in the burden of the State if their retirement age is increased. The Supreme Court said that this line of reasoning adopted by the High Court is unacceptable.
"Looking to the very nature of the work and the structure of services, when the state government is the primary authority to decide the service conditions, no mandamus can be issued to the state government to change its policy, regardless of the proportion of the share of the central government in the expenditure burden", the Top Court observed while allowing the appeals filed by the State of Tripura against the High Court directions.
The bench noted the submissions of the appellant-state that the age of discharge of AWs/AHs in the state was 58 years in the beginning of ICDS scheme and was increased to 60 years in the year 2012 to bring uniformity with the state government and Public Sector Undertakings employees; and that in fact, the post of AW serves as feeder post for promotion as Supervisor ICDS, which is a regular Group-C post in the state and has superannuation age of 60 years. It was further advanced on behalf of the state that the 2012 communication from the Ministry of Women and Child Development providing broad framework of implementation of ICDS, which was relied upon by the High Court in the impugned judgment, was not of any decision by the Central government and only a statement indicating future course of ICDS implementation, making age of discharge as 65 years as supported by most state governments. Accordingly, it was contended on behalf of the state that such a proposition cannot override the policy of the state government and no mandamus could have been issued to the appellant-state to revise the age of discharge of AWs/AHs.
Since there was no representation for the private respondents in the case, the bench appointed Senior Advocate Ritin Rai, assisted by Mr. Siddhartha Sinha, as an amicus curiae.
Supporting the High Court judgment, the amicus curiae contended that the the Court can always issue relevant directions to ensure that fundamental rights and protections available to the citizens are not violated. The amicus also pointed out retirement age of Anganwadi Workers was 65 years in many states and stressed that parity in employment is a reasonable expectation.
However, the bench of Justices Maheshwari and Amanullah found it difficult to accept the contentions of the Amicus. The bench of Maheshwari and Amanullah opined that as regards the scheme in question, it is clear that even while certain propositions/expectations had been laid by the central government, the existing statutory norms do not provide for uniform age limit for retirement of AWs/AHs; and it is for the state government to decide as regards the service conditions, including the age of discharge.
The bench further expressed that the stretch of consideration by the High Court Division Bench that by enhancing the age of retirement, the requirement of substitute is delayed, remains bereft of logic, and that in any case, that does not provide a legal ground to force the state government to alter its policy only because such expectations are stated by the central government or because some other states have provided for such an age of discharge.
"The decision cited by the learned counsel dealing with different eventualities and different principles do not provide any basis for issuance of a mandamus to the state government to change its policy, particularly when the policy is otherwise not shown to be suffering from any illegality or irrationality; rather the state is categorical in its submission that by way of this policy, the age of discharge of AWs/AHs is placed at par with those of the other employees of the state government and Public Sectors Undertakings in the state", observed the bench.
Case Title : State of Tripura vs Rina Purkayastha and others
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 387
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