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Maharashtra: Health dept officials, sales tax commissioner get contempt notice

Updated on: 25 October,2022 07:46 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal had ordered them to ensure revised pension was paid to litigants by October 4, which they failed to do

Maharashtra: Health dept officials, sales tax commissioner get contempt notice

Retired sales tax inspector Vasant Utikar, retired public health dept official Neelam Tulaskar and Shyamsundar Lagade

A contempt of court notice was issued last week (October 19) to the secretary and other senior officials of the state public health department and commissioner, sales tax, for not adhering to orders of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), dated July 5, directing the departments concerned to make payment of arrears within three months (from the date of order) and also ensure that revised pension is paid accordingly to the litigants.

mid-day in its article ‘Govt should issue a GR, say litigants after MAT ruled in their favour’, dated July 28, highlighted the litigants’ stand that the state’s directive is required so that other employees who retire a day before their increment do not have to go to courts for benefits. As many as 30 retired state government officials, who were deprived of their annual increment as they retired just a day before the increment was to be enforced, i.e. July 1, got a major relief from the MAT, which ruled that the exchequer should have considered their annual increment figures while calculating their retirement benefits.

Some of the litigants had retired last year while others retired a few years ago and all their communications with departments went unanswered, forcing them to approach the tribunal. The MAT directives had to be implemented by October 4, but the respective departments failed to do so and hence the contempt notice was sent through their advocate Rajeshwar Panchal last week.

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Out of the thirty complainants, twenty-six were mostly retired employees from the sales tax department, which include officers of the rank of deputy and assistant commissioners and inspectors of sales tax, followed by public health, and state police. The remaining four complaints included officials from vocational education and training, state police and public health. MAT clubbed all the complaints and passed its landmark order.

“Despite the issue having been settled more than once, up to the apex court, the government is sitting on the order of the tribunal. The retired employees are again forced to get dragged into contempt proceedings. The state, a so-called model employer, should display that it is truly a model employer. I hope that wisdom dawns upon the state government and it will implement the order of the tribunal. Else, we will be left with no option except prosecuting the concerned officers under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971,” said Panchal, who represents most of the litigants.

Neelam Tulaskar, a non-medical assistant leprosy technician and Thane resident, said, “We had won the case in the MAT which had directed that the order needs to be implemented by October 4; but instead, the directives of MAT have not been implemented yet. Inquiries revealed that the departments concerned have written to their high authorities and are awaiting a reply. I presume the case is pending before Manatralaya and the state government”

On the road ahead, Neelam stated, “Panchal has already sent notice to all the authorities concerned, giving them four weeks to implement the MAT order failing which, we will have no option but to file contempt proceedings before the MAT. We were hopeful that before Diwali, we will get our revised increment and also an increase in our monthly pension, but unfortunately, it has not happened, so far.” Panchal added, “The government departments are no exception to the consequences of wilful disobedience of the orders of the court. The orders passed by this court are the law of the land in terms of Article 141 of the Constitution. No court, tribunal or any authority can ignore the law stated by this court.”

The case

The litigants’ case is that they are entitled to the benefit of increment which was payable and due on the very next day of their retirement. Indisputably, as per the recommendations of 6th Pay Commission to have uniformity, the first day of July of each year was fixed for the next increment. In other words, by the recommendations of 6th Pay Commission, uniformity was decided and July 1 of each year was considered to be the date on which annual increment would be payable. Increment has to be granted after rendering one year of service in terms of Rule 36 of Maharashtra Civil Services (Pay) Rules and the increment has to be drawn as a matter of course unless it is withheld as a penalty. 

MAT observation

Advocates who represented the litigants cited the most popular similar case of P Ayyamperumal v/s The Registrar, Central Administrative Tribunal and others, which was though rejected by the Central Administration Tribunal, was upheld by the Madras High Court and even the Supreme Court. The advocates even cited other similar cases heard and decided by Bombay High Court’s Nagpur and Aurangabad benches in the recent past. 

A P Kurhekar, member (judge) MAT, in his order stated, “In view of the aforesaid legal position, the applicants cannot be deprived of the benefit of increment which was due on July 1 of the concerned year. In response, Presenting Officer Kranti Gaikwad, who appeared for the respondents, informed MAT that since the applicants had approached belatedly, the actual monetary benefits be restricted to three years preceding the filing of original applications. The MAT agreed to the same. 

The day in October when the contempt of court notice was issued

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