‘What has eventually been achieved by the State of Jharkhand is to short circuit the process of regular appointments and instead make appointments on an irregular basis. This is hardly good governance.’
This is hardly good governance, remarked a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur observing that the State of Jharkhand continued with the irregular appointments for almost a decade after Umadevi judgment.
The bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta directed the State to consider making regular appointments only, dropping the idea of making irregular appointments so as to short circuit the process of regular appointments.
Regularization Rules viz. Jharkhand Sarkar ke Adhinasth Aniyamit Rup se Niyukt Ewam Karyarat Karmiyo ki Sewa Niyamitikaran Niyamawali were brought in by the state in the year 2015. As some irregularly appointed employees of the state government were denied regularization, they approached the high court, holding that Secretary, State of Karnataka and Ors. v. Umadevi did not permit their regularisation since they had not worked for 10 years on the cut-off date of 10th April, 2006, when the constitution bench rendered its decision.
The contention of the employees was that the State was created only on 15 November, 2000, and, therefore, no one could have completed 10 years of service with the State of Jharkhand on the cut-off date of 10th April, 2006 and thus no one could get the benefit of the Regularisation Rules which made the entire legislative exercise totally meaningless. They also pointed out that the State had issued Resolutions permitting the regularisation of some employees of the State, who had obviously not put in 10 years of service with the State.
The bench observed that the purpose and intent of the decision in Umadevi was to prevent irregular or illegal appointments in the future and to confer a benefit on those who had been irregularly appointed in the past.
On Umadevi judgment, the bench also said: “The decision in Umadevi (3) was intended to put a full stop to the somewhat pernicious practice of irregularly or illegally appointing daily wage workers and continuing with them indefinitely. In fact, in paragraph 49 of the Report, it was pointed out that the rule of law requires appointments to be made in a constitutional manner and the State cannot be permitted to perpetuate an irregularity in the matter of public employment which would adversely affect those who could be employed in terms of the constitutional scheme. It is for this reason that the concept of a one-time measure and a cut-off date was introduced in the hope and expectation that the State would cease and desist from making irregular or illegal appointments and instead make appointments on a regular basis.”
The bench further observed: “The fact that the State of Jharkhand continued with the irregular appointments for almost a decade after the decision in Umadevi (3) is a clear indication that it believes that it was all right to continue with irregular appointments, and whenever required, terminate the services of the irregularly appointed employees on the ground that they were irregularly appointed. This is nothing but a form of exploitation of the employees by not giving them the benefits of regularisation and by placing the sword of Damocles over their head. This is precisely what Umadevi (3) and Kesari sought to avoid.”
Setting aside the high court order, the bench said: “The High Court as well as the State of Jharkhand ought to have considered the entire issue in a contextual perspective and not only from the point of view of the interest of the State, financial or otherwise – the interest of the employees is also required to be kept in mind. What has eventually been achieved by the State of Jharkhand is to short circuit the process of regular appointments and instead make appointments on an irregular basis. This is hardly good governance.”
The court then observed that the Regularisation Rules must be given a pragmatic interpretation and the employees, if they have completed 10 years of service on the date of promulgation of the Regularisation Rules, ought to be given the benefit of the service rendered by them. “If they have completed 10 years of service they should be regularised unless there is some valid objection to their regularisation like misconduct etc.,” the bench said directing the state to take decision within four months.