Government Employees Pay Commission: Setting the stage for resolution of years-old pay scale-related dispute of several employees and Tamil Nadu State Government, the Supreme Court passed several directions today (Thursday). The appellants (Tamil Nadu Rural Development Engineers and Assistant Engineers Association) can expect the matter to be resolved within four weeks, as per the SC direction. One of the questions before the top court in the case was whether the Tamil Nadu government was right in taking steps to reconsider the pay scales after accepting recommendations of a One Man Commission it had set up to look into anomalies arising out of implementation of the 6th Pay Commission recommendations in the state. The One Man Commission had recommended higher wages than earlier order of the state government, which was in tune with the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission. The apex court today ruled that the state government cannot be "faulted" for reconsidering the salaries after noticing certain anomalies.
Following recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission in March 2008, the Tamil Nadu government had constituted an Official Committee to examine and make recommendations about revision of pay-scales of the state government employees. The recommendations of the Committee for revised pay band and grade were accepted by the State government on June 1 2009. The monetary benefits of the government’s decision were accruable to the employees from 01-01-2007. The state government issued separate orders for each department. A One Man Commission was also constituted by the State Government to rectify the anomalies arising out of the implementation of the revised pay-scales. The state government accepted the recommendations of the One Man Commission on August 8, 2010.
As per the recommendations of the One Man Commission, Assistant Engineers in PWD were placed in the revised scale of pay of Rs.15600-39100 with Rs.5400 Grade Pay. They were earlier put in the pay-scale of Rs.9300-34800 with Rs.4700 as Grade Pay. However, the state government later scaled down certain benefits through Government Order dated February 2, 2011. This downgraded 52 categories of posts in various departments to lower pay scales. Further, the state government constituted a Pay Grievance Redressal Cell (PGRC) in Finance Department to look into the grievances and consider representations of the employees.
The employees challenged the state government’s order dated 26-02-2011 through various writ petitions, which were dismissed by a Single Judge Bench of Madras High Court. The Single Judge had also directed the government to re-constitute PGRC. This decision was challenged again by way of Writ Appeal and the Division Bench of the High Court.
The Division Bench of the High Court said: "As we found illegality in not following the principles of natural justice, before reducing the scales of pay, it is necessary that the matter is to be considered afresh by the Government after giving opportunity to all concerned especially, for reducing the scale of pay/grade pay. It is not in dispute that if really, there is any pay anomaly, the government is entitled to remove the same by following the due procedures." It also set terms for the resolution of the issue by setting PGRC. However, the Division Bench’s decision was challenged in the Supreme Court.
The Government Employees and their Associations submitted before the apex court that the "exercise undertaken by the One Man Commission was a proper exercise and its recommendations were accepted by the State Government after considering the matter carefully and thus there was no occasion for the State Government to take any different view in the matter." The state government, however, opposed this contention and the HC decision.
What SC said
Citing previous cases, the apex court said it has always accepted that " prescription of payscales and the assessment in that behalf is a complex matter which requires expertise."
The apex court noted that The One Man Commission had recommended something which was "far in excess of" what the Government accepted in its previous order, which was in tune with the recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission. It further said that even as the Government had accepted the recommendations of the One Man Commission, it was not "at fault" in carrying out an exercise to reconsider the matter after noticing anomalies. Also, there was nothing "illegal" or "invalid" in the constitution of PGRC by the state government.
"It is true that the Government had accepted the recommendations of the One Man Commission but if further anomalies were found which called for action on part of the Government, any exercise to reconsider the matter by the State Government could not be faulted nor could the constitution of the PGRC be said to be invalid or illegal," said SC.
However, noting that the PGRC could not be set up even five years since directions were issued by HC, the apex court issued new directions for setting up the PGRC immediately with Justice D. Murugesan, formerly Chief Justice, High Court of Delhi, as its Chairman.
No paid money to be recovered
The Supreme Court also clarified that "regardless of the decision to be taken by the PGRC, any amount paid by way of financial benefit extended to and enjoyed by the concerned employees shall not be recovered"
The SC has requested the PGRC to conclude the entire exercise within four months from today, especially since the "recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission have since been made and the issue regarding implementation of such recommendations is presently under active consideration."
Hold 7th CPC benefit
The apex court said, "…affected categories shall not be permitted to migrate to 7th Central Pay Commission scales on the basis of the higher scales till such time as the final decision is taken."