HIGH COURT EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION Vs. STATE OF MANIPUR
LAWS(MANIP)-2019-2-1
HIGH COURT OF MANIPUR
Decided on February 20,2019

HIGH COURT EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION Appellant
VERSUS
STATE OF MANIPUR Respondents

JUDGEMENT

Nobin Singh - (1.) Heard Shri H.S. Paonam, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioner; Shri N. Kumarjit, learned Advocate General, Manipur for the State respondents and Shri A. Bimol, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the High Court of Manipur.
(2.) The petitioner has filed the above writ petition praying for issuing a writ of certiorari to quash and set aside the letter dated 14.07.2017 as not sustainable in the eyes of law and also to issue a writ of mandamus to direct the State respondents to extend the benefits of Principal Seat Pay to the employees of the High Court of Manipur along with its arrears within a stipulated period of time. 3.1. Facts and circumstances as narrated in the writ petition, are that the petitioner is an association called "the High Court Employees Association, Manipur" (hereinafter referred to as "the petitioners' association") which is formed by the employees of the High Court of Manipur (hereinafter referred to as "this Court") and the present writ petition is being filed by the petitioners' association through its General Secretary who is duly authorized by it. 3.2. On 15.02.2007, the Registrar General, Gauhati High Court wrote a letter to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur as regards the uniform, better and higher pay scales for the employees of the Principal Seat as well as the outlying benches of the Gauhati High Court enclosing therewith the recommendation of the Committee constituted by the Chief Justice, Gauhati High Court pursuant to a resolution taken at the Chief Justices' conference held in the year, 2002 for having a uniformity in respect of pay structure, recruitment rules etc. and the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur was requested to accept the same for implementation. The aforesaid letter was followed by a letter dated 04.08.2007 addressed to the Deputy Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur by the Deputy Registrar (Judl.), Gauhati High Court stating that there were altogether 118 sanctioned posts drawing Assam scale of pay in the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench for which it had incurred a sum of Rs.11,26,258 (Rupees eleven lakh twenty six thousand two hundred and fifty eight) only towards their salaries as on 01.07.2007; that in respect of two posts- the Registrar and the Deputy Registrar (Judl.) manned by the Manipur Judicial Services (MJS) Officers, it had incurred a sum of Rs.75,547/- (Rupees seventy five thousand five hundred and forty seven) only and that since the proposed uniform scale of pay etc. related only to the employees concerned of the Gauhati High Court, the implementation of the new uniform scale of pay w.e.f. 01.07.2007 would incur a sum of Rs. 12,86,295/- (Rupees twelve lakh eighty six thousand two hundred and ninety five) only. On 21.02.2008, the Deputy Registrar (Judl.), Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench wrote a letter to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur requesting him to expedite the process of the proposed uniform, better and higher scale of pay of the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench. 3.3. On 23.03.2010, the Registrar General, Gauhati High Court wrote a letter to the Registrar, Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench informing that the Government of Assam vide its letter dated 22.03.2010 had conveyed sanction for the revision of scale of pay of the officers and staff of the Gauahti High Court w.e.f. 01.01.2006 and that the Chief Justice (Acting) directed that the fixation of pay of the officers and staff of the Principal Seat as well as the outlying benches at Imphal and Shillong be made in the revised scale in accordance with the procedure as laid down in the Assam Services (Revision of Pay) Rules, 2010 mutatis mutandis. 3.4. The North-Eastern Areas (Re-organization) Act, 1971 came to be amended with an assent being given by the President of India on 04.06.2012. Section 28 E thereof provides that the law in force immediately before the commencement of the North-Eastern Areas (Re-organization) and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act, 2012 (hereinafter referred to as "the Amendment Act, 2012") with respect to the practice and procedure in the common High Court shall, with necessary modifications, apply in relation to the High Court of Meghalaya, the High Court of Manipur and the High Court of Tripura. 3.5. On 07.06.2013, the Deputy Registrar (Finance), Gauhati High Court wrote a letter to the Registrar of this Court conveying the sanction for drawal of DA/ DR at the enhanced rate as prescribed in the Office Memorandum dated 20.05.2013 issued by the Government of Assam for the employees who were/ are drawing the pay scale of Government of Assam. In view of the approval of the Government of Manipur vide order dated 26.4.2016 issued by the Under Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur, on 16.6.2016, the Registrar General (i/c) of this Court issued an order to the effect that the enhanced rate of DA/DR, admissible to the employees of the Gauhati High Court, would be admissible to the employees of this Court. 3.6. On 10.08.2016, the Registrar General of this Court wrote a letter to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur informing that the Acting Chief Justice of this Court had been pleased to convey the approval for adoption of the pay scales and the rules of the Gauhati High Court with some modifications as the pay scales and rules of the employees of this Court for the present, as this Court was/ is in the process of formulating its own rules including service conditions and pay scales of the employees and accordingly, a request was made to move the Government of Manipur for approval of the said pay scales and rules of the employees of this Court at the earliest. 3.7. In compliance with the order dated 04.04.2016 passed by the Hon?ble Gauhati High Court in writ petition being WP(C) No.1724 of 2015, the L.R. and Secretary to the Government of Assam, Judicial Department issued a notification dated 16.08.2016 to the effect that the Government of Assam had approved the payment of Principal Seat Pay to the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court as an interim measure. By the said order, it was further ordered that the Principal Seat Pay would be given notionally to the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court w.e.f.. 01.01.2006 and it would be counted for arrears from 01.04.2008 in addition to the benefits which the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court might be entitled to as granted to the State Government employees under the Assam Services (ROP) Rules, 2010. The Principal Seat Pay should be paid as a part of the current salary w.e.f. 1.8.2016 and the arrears from 1.4.2008 to 31.07.2016 should be paid in a single installment during the current financial year 2016-2017. 3.8. On 24.08.2016, the General Secretary of the petitioners' association submitted a representation to the Registrar General, Gauhati High Court with a request to send a forwarding letter to the Registry of this Court about the enhancement of pay and allowances by way of giving Principal Seat Pay to the employees of the Gauhati High Court and to make a mention that similar benefits be given to the employees of the erstwhile Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench, followed by a representation dated 09.09.2016 addressed to the Registrar General of this Court requesting him to look into the matter and take up necessary action to extend the benefits of the Notification dated 16.08.2016 highlighting the points that before the establishment of this Court, the existing employees of this Court were the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench and their service conditions were governed by the provisions of the Gauhati High Court Services (Appointment, Conditions of Services and Conduct) Rules, 1967 (hereinafter referred to as "the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967"). Referring to its earlier representation, a reminder dated 20.10.2016 was submitted stating that Shri T.Z. Haokip who is presently serving as Sr. A.A of this Court, was transferred to the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench on 01.03.2012 and has been enjoying the benefits of Principal Seat Pay. On receipt of the said representations, the Registrar General of this Court wrote a letter dated 06.12.2016 to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur informing that the Gauhati High Court Services Rules, 1967 was applicable to the employees of the erstwhile Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench and that even after the establishment of this Court w.e.f. 23.03.2013, the same had been adopted with the approval of the Government of Manipur and in view of the provisions of Section 28 E of the Amendment Act, 2012, the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967 would continue to apply to the members of the petitioners? association. A request was made to the Government of Manipur for doing the needful as per the resolution taken by the Full Court of this Court in its meeting held on 24.10.2016 and to refer the same to it. Being unsatisfied with the decision taken by the Full Court in its meeting held on 24.10.2016, the petitioners' association submitted a representation dated 03.02.2017 to the Hon'ble the Chief Justice of this Court praying for reviewing its resolution. Thereafter, the Registrar General of this Court wrote a letter dated 14.02.2017 to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur informing that the Notification dated 16.08.2016 was adopted by the Full Court in its meeting held on 07.02.2017 so that the same benefits could be given to the employees of this Court till the relevant rules were finalized with a request to approve it. In reply thereto, the Deputy Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur wrote a letter to the Registrar General of this Court on 18.04.2017 informing that the matter was consulted with the Finance Department which had observed that Principal Seat Pay was an initiative of Assam Government keeping in mind the circumstances prevailing there and not in Manipur. On 25.04.2017, the Registrar General of this Court wrote a letter to the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur informing that the reasons for adoption of Principal Seat Pay for the employees of this Court had already been stated in its earlier letters dated 06.02.2016 and 14.02.2017 and that the employees of this Court are still in similar circumstances as those of the Gauhati High Court, Principal Seat and the Finance Department be advised accordingly. On receipt of the said letter dated 25.04.2017, the Deputy Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur wrote a letter dated 02.06.2017 to the Registrar General of this Court requesting him to furnish the details of the financial implications in the event of the Principal Seat Pay being granted to the employees of this Court. The Registrar General of this Court vide its letter dated 05.06.2017 furnished all the information as required by the Secretary (Law) but on 14.07.2017 the Deputy Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur informed the Registrar General of this Court about the decision of the Finance Department to the effect that since this Court came into existence in the year 2013, the Principal Seat Pay would not be applicable to its employees prior to 2013; that the additional financial liability for grant of Principal Seat Pay would be around Rs.3,31,044 pm and that the arrear would be around Rs.2.43 crore for the period from 01.04.2008 to 31.05.2017.
(3.) Being aggrieved by the said letter, the instant writ petition has been filed by the petitioners' association on the inter-alia grounds that as on date, there is no separate service rules for the employees of this Court and that the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967 governs the service conditions of the employees of this Court as the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court vide its notification dated 02.08.1985 has notified that the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967 shall be mutatis mutandis applicable to the outlying benches of the Gauhati High Court. Accordingly, the Deputy Registrar (Finance), Government of Manipur vide its letter dated 07.06.2013 informed the Registrar of this Court conveying the approval of the Gauhati High Court for drawal of DA/DR at the enhanced rate as prescribed in the Office Memorandum dated 20.05.2013 which was allowed to be enjoyed by the members of the petitioners association by the Government of Manipur. Section 28 E of the Amendment, Act, 2012 provides for the continuation of the existing rules of the Gauhati High Court to the employees of this Court and without considering the provisions and other relevant laws, the proposal made by the Registrar General of this Court was rejected by the Government of Manipur. Since the members of the petitioners' association are similarly situated with that of the employees working at Gauhati High Court, the benefits enjoyed by the employees of the Gauhati High Court should be extended to the employees of this Court by invoking the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Since the Government of Manipur has approved that the employees of the erstwhile Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench will be governed by the Gauhati High Court Rues, 1967, they cannot be permitted to say that the benefits of the Principal Seat Pay would be confined only to the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Principal Bench. Such action of the respondents is barred by the principles of estoppels and doctrine of election as their action amounts to blowing hot and cold in the same breath which is not permissible in law. 5. An affidavit has been filed on behalf of the respondent Nos. 1 and 3 wherein it has been stated that the Government of Manipur has taken conscious decision not to extend the benefits of Principal Seat Pay to the employees of this Court as the Government of Manipur did not have sufficient resources or funds to meet the arrears which could be about Rs.2.43 crore. The decision of the Finance Department to the effect that since this Court came into existence only in the year 2013, the Principal Seat Pay would not be applicable to the employees of this Court prior to 2013. Merely because the employees of this Court are getting less pay and allowances than that of the employees of the Gauhati High Court, it cannot be a ground for grant of Principal Seat Pay. The stand of the Department of Finance as indicated in its separate affidavit is that the Principal Seat Pay was granted to the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court (Principal Seat), Guwahati after lot of deliberations and rounds of discussions and negotiations between the Gauhati High Court and the Government of Assam. The scale of pay enjoyed by the employees of this Court at par with the employees of the Gauhati High Court at present is a temporary arrangement due to non-finalisation of the rules since 23.03.2013. After the establishment of this Court, its employees' claim for grant of equal pay scale with that of the employees of the Gauhati High Court is quite unreasonable. Shri T.Z. Haokip cannot be compared with the employees of this Court, as he had served in the Gauhati High Court prior to his transfer to this Court. The volume of work that is shouldered by the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Principal Bench is understood to be more than that of its outlying benches like Kohima, Itanagar, Aizawl. This establishes the rational for such benefits being granted to the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court and in such conditions, it cannot be compared with that of the employees of this Court. With respect to the proposal for grant of Principal Seat Pay to the employees of this Court, a committee was constituted and after an in-depth examination and consideration of the proposal, the Finance Department observed that the adoption of pay structures of Gauhati High Court would not be appropriate and advisable. 6. The short question that arises for consideration by this court is as to whether the employees of this Court who were the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench, will be entitled to Principal Seat Pay which is being paid to the officers and staff of the Gauhati High Court, in view of the fact that the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967 are still being applied to them. 7. It has been submitted by Shri H.S. Paonam, the learned Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioner association that since no rules have so far been made by the Hon?ble Chief Justice, the employees of this Court are governed by the Gauhati High Court Rules, 1967 and will continue to be governed by them in terms of the provisions of Section 28 E of the Amendment Act, 2012. Unless and until the relevant rules are made by the Hon'ble Chief Justice, the employees of this Court will be entitled to pay and allowances and in particular, the Principal Seat Pay, being enjoyed by the employees of the Gauhati High Court. While issuing the letter dated 14.07.2017 Impugned herein, the Government of Manipur has failed to appreciate that while the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Kohima bench and Tripura bench were enjoying the pay and allowances as prescribed by their respective States, the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal bench and Shillong bench were allowed to enjoy the pay and allowances as prescribed by the Assam Government for the employees of the Principal Bench. In other words, the employees of the Gauhati High Court, Principal Bench, Imphal Bench and Shillong Bench were treated equally and that is the reason why the Government of Meghalaya issued the Notification dated 5.3.2018 extending the benefits of Principal Seat Pay to the employees of the Meghalaya High Court. Shri T.Z Haokip who had been transferred to this Court in the year, 2012 from the Principal Bench, Guwahati, was/is being allowed to enjoy the Principal Seat pay and the denial of the same to the other employees of this Court is unreasonable and arbitrary. In support of his contention, he has relied upon the decisions rendered by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in M. Gurumoorthy Vs. Accountant General, Assam and Nagaland and Ors. (1971) 2 SCC 137; State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr. Vs. T. Gopalkrishnan Murthi and Ors., (1976) 2 SCC 883; Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association Vs. Union of India and Ors., (1989) 4 SCC 187; State of Maharashtra Vs. Association of Court Stenos, PA, PS and Anr., (2002) 2 SCC 141 and State of West Bengal Vs. Subhash Kumar Chatterjee and Ors, (2010) 11 SCC 694. Shri A. Bimol, Senior Advocate appearing for the High Court of Manipur supported the arguments of Shri H.S Paonam, Senior Advocate and in addition thereto, he has submitted that the Registrar General of this Court vide its letter dated 10.08.2016 informed the Secretary (Law), Government of Manipur that the pay scales and the rules of Gauhati High Court had been adopted with modifications and that the Government of Manipur be moved for approval. The Government of Manipur failed to consider it for grant of approval and therefore, a writ of mandamus be issued directing the Government of Manipur to consider it within a reasonable time. Reliance has been placed by him on the decisions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court rendered in State of Maharashtra Vs. Association of Court Stenos, PA, PS and Anr., (2002) 2 SCC 141; High Court Employees Welfare Assn., Calcutta and Ors. Vs. State of West Bengal and Ors., (2004) 1 SCC 334 and Union of India and Anr. Vs. S.B.Vohra and Ors., (2004) 2 SCC 150. ;


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