Supreme Court Upholds Gujarat HC Judgment Recognizing Daily Wagers’ Right for Regularization
26th July 2021, the Supreme Court in Vice Chancellor Anand Agriculture University vs Kanubhai Nanubhai Vaghela and Anr. (CA no. 4443 of 2021) and two other cases upheld the order of Gujarat High Court directing appellant University to treat the daily wagers such as sweepers, helpers, plumbers, etc employed in their research centers, as permanent employees from the date they completed 10 years of service in accordance with the University scheme.
Earlier, the Gujarat Agricultural University, which was dissolved and four new universities including the appellant University were constituted in 2004, had filed a writ petition before the Gujarat High Court challenging the decision of the Industrial Tribunal, Rajkot directing regularization of services of the daily wagers who completed 10 years of service as on 1st January 1993. The tribunal’s decision was set aside and the appellant was directed to pay the workmen at the minimum of the pay scale. The appellant was further directed to come up with a scheme to regularize the services of daily wagers. Accordingly, a scheme was framed which allowed regularisation of daily wagers as regular employees provided that such daily wagers completed 10 years or more of continuous service with a minimum of 240 days in each calendar year as on 31st December 1999.
In the meantime, aggrieved by the Gujarat High Court judgment, the Gujarat Agricultural University filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, which by an order dated 18th January 2001 in Gujarat Agricultural University vs Rathod Labhu Bechar & Ors, directed phase-wise absorption of all daily wagers and approved the scheme subject to certain modifications as suggested.
The daily wagers then filed writ petitions before the Single Judge Bench of the Gujarat High Court for regularization as per the said court-approved scheme. These petitions were allowed by order dated 13th March 2018 and the appellant University was directed to treat the daily wagers as permanent employees from the date they completed 10 years of service. The Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant University.
Aggrieved, the appellant University filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court.
The appellant University contended that the daily wagers have been absorbed in the 890 posts created by a resolution of the State Government (pursuant to Supreme Court order dated 18th January 2001) and since further posts have not been created, the remaining daily wagers are not entitled to regularization of their services. Further, the appellant University relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Secretary, State of Karnataka and Ors. vs. Umadevi and Ors. and asserted that as there are no available sanctioned posts, the remaining daily wagers cannot be regularized. Rejecting the contentions of the appellant University, the Division Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose observed:
“It is no doubt true that in Umadevi’s case, it has been held that regularization as a one-time measure can only be in respect of those who were irregularly appointed and have worked for 10 years or more in duly sanctioned posts. However, in the instant case the respondents are covered by the judgment of this Court in Gujarat Agricultural University (supra)… The right to be regularized in accordance with the scheme continues till all the eligible daily-wagers are absorbed. Creation of additional posts for absorption was staggered by this Court permitting the appellant and the State of Gujarat to implement the scheme phase-wise.”
The court added:
“The judgment of this Court in Gujarat Agricultural University (supra) inter partes has become final and is binding on the university. Even according to Para 54 of Uma Devi’s case, any judgment which is contrary to the principles settled in Umadevi shall be denuded of status as precedent. This observation at Para 54 in Umadevi’s case does not absolve the university of its duty to comply with the directions of this Court in Gujarat Agricultural University (supra).”
With respect to the absorption of some of the daily wagers (by regularizing their services) and leaving out the rest of the daily wagers, the court held:
“The Division Bench of the High Court has taken note of the discriminatory approach of the university in conferring the benefit of regularization to some and not to all those daily wagers who are eligible. There is no error in the Judgment of the High Court which warrants interference by this Court. Eligible daily wagers in accordance with the scheme have been eagerly awaiting regularization as per the judgment of this Court in Gujarat Agricultural University’s case (supra). The right of the respondents for regularization has been correctly recognized by the High Court.”
: Anand Agriculture University vs Govindbhai Thakarshibai Kori Patel (CA no. 4444 of 2021), Vice Chancellor Anand Agriculture University vs Pujabhai Gagjibhai Boriya (CA no. 4445 of 2021)
Ankitha Subramanya | EduLegaL