The Gauhati High Court has directed the Assam Government to provide allowances to the staff members who were appointed in various Fast Track Courts and are currently drawing a minimum pay scale in Grade-III posts. The division bench, consisting of Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Mitali Thakuria, noted that those holding Grade-IV posts had already been granted the benefit of minimum pay scale as well as allowances by virtue of the State Government’s notification dated 08.03.2019. Therefore, the court found it discriminatory to exclude the remaining petitioners/appellants serving against Grade-III posts and denying them the benefit of allowances attached to the minimum pay scale. This is a clear violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India, according to the court.
The appellants, who were selected and appointed in different categories of Grade-III and Grade-IV posts, were provided postings in various Fast Track Courts across the state. However, they were not granted regular pay scale since there was no encadrement of posts for the Fast Track Courts. They submitted representations dated May 30, 2017 and August 05, 2017, to the Judicial Department of the Assam Government, but their request was rejected by a speaking order dated May 11, 2018. The order stated that the benefit of the Assam Services (Pension) Rules, 1969, could not be extended to the appellants.
The appellants-petitioners argued that they were entitled to allowances such as Dearness Allowances, House Rent Allowances, and Medical Allowances as their wages would mean basic pay plus the applicable allowances. They also submitted that the duties and responsibilities discharged by the petitioners were at par with their counterparts in the department. Therefore, any disparity in the matter of wages suffered from the vice of discrimination, according to them. They relied upon the ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Jagjit Singh & Ors. However, the single judge bench on September 21, 2021, dismissed the writ petitions, which led the appellants to assailed the impugned order of the single judge in the present intra-court appeal.
Advocate S. P. Sharma, the counsel appearing for appellants, submitted that the reliance placed by the State counsel on observations made at paragraph 55 of the Jagjit Singh judgment related to purely ad hoc and daily rated casual employees. In contrast, the appellants fell under the category of temporary employees for which the Supreme Court clearly held that such employees would be entitled to draw wages at the minimum of pay scale extended to regular employees holding the same post.
It was further submitted that on the concession of the State Government, the appellants have been given the benefit of minimum pay scale. Therefore, once the benefit of minimum pay scale stands extended to the employees, their right to claim allowances is automatic since such allowances are a part and parcel of the pay scale.
However, the State submitted that most of the appellants who were serving against Grade-IV posts had already been extended the benefit of minimum pay scale and allowances in terms of the notification dated March 08, 2019, issued by the Government of Assam. However, those of the appellants who were serving against Grade-III posts would not be entitled to claim the benefit of allowances since no such specific circular/notification had been issued by the State for such posts.
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