STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: The Central Administration Tribunal (CAT) comprising Chairman Justice L Narasimha Reddy and Administrative Member Tarun Shridhar, in a hard heating judgment, castigated Higher officials of J&K administration who twist and bends rules, to benefit officers of their choice and remain stuck to rules in cases of other officers.The significant judgment has been passed in a petition filed by Joginder Lal Bhagat, who was initially appointed as an Accountant in Ravi Tawi Command Area Farmers Service Cooperative Society Limited (for short ‘Society’) between 1976 and 1984. Thereafter, he qualified Combined Competitive Examination held for Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) in 1984 and attained age of superannuation on March 31, 2010. At that stage, just before his retirement, he submitted a representation to Government, with a request to add the service rendered by him in Society, for purpose of pension. That request was rejected, through an order dated January 20, 2010 followed by another order dated February 19, 2010.The applicant contended that there are several instances of services rendered in Non-Government Organisations being counted in other Government service as and when persons were selected to KAS but in his case, the benefit was denied. He cited examples of Kuldeep Raj Sharma, Ram Paul Gupta and two other officers. The applicant contended that there was a clear case of discrimination on part of respondents.CAT, after hearing Adv Ashok Sharma for petitioner whereas Deputy AG Rajesh Thappa for the respondents observed that the facts, as presented in pleadings and annexures in this case, reflects lack of clarity and consistency on part of the Government. Orders were passed discriminately extending benefit of counting the past service of the officers selected to KAS, in certain cases, by relaxing rules and in other cases, by citing some other reasons. The applicant expected the same treatment, but respondents denied him such benefit. The whole episode reflected unsatisfactory way of functioning of the Government, in the context of treating officers of the level of KAS.CAT observed that it is not uncommon that whenever a person is selected and appointed in the Government service, the past service rendered by him earlier to that, is counted, subject to certain conditions. Much would depend upon the nature of employment, which the concerned official had before joining the Government service. Firstly, the earlier service must be in a Government Department or Government-undertaking or establishment, and secondly, there must be a parity of duties or even the pay structure. The applicant was in the service of a Society where the facility of pension was not available. Secondly, he received all terminal benefits from the Society, before joining the Government service. Such cases can no doubt, be rejected.The applicant, however, filed orders dated October 15, 2008 issued in favour of Kuldeep Raj Sharma, Member of J&K Secretariat (Gazetted) Service-I (under Secretaries cadre) and another order dated December 12, 2006, issued in favour of Ram Paul Gupta, KAS. In their cases, the sanction was accorded for relaxation of Rules, so much so, the terminal benefits, that were received by Kuldeep Raj Sharma from earlier employment, were required to be returned and service rendered therein was added to his Government service. In case of Ram Paul Gupta, a condition was imposed to the effect that he should not have availed the terminal benefits from the Bank, where he worked. Two other orders were also filed, which are on the same lines.CAT, after close scrutiny of the orders, revealed that the higher administration of J&K was twisting and bending Rules, to benefit the officers of their choice, whereas it stuck to the Rules in case of persons, like applicant. It is not as if there was a long time gap between dates, on which the orders were passed or that there was change in the law. It is a clear-cut case of discrimination in the context of granting relaxation. The applicant contended that he was discriminated simply because he belongs to scheduled caste community and one cannot ignore the plea, if one takes into account, the text and context of the orders passed in favour of other officers. CAT further said that Government is required to be consistent, particularly when it deals with services of its top and senior officers in the administration. Discrimination of such nature would send a wrong signal and in a way, reflect method of functioning of the Government. CAT said that best thing for the Government, even at this stage, is either to withdraw benefits, which were granted to the officers, contrary to law, in favour of officers, similarly situated as applicant, or to grant the same benefits to applicant.With these observations, CAT allowed the petition and set aside the impugned order and directed the Chief Secretary to take into account, all the cases in which the past service of KAS officers in other organisations were added and that of applicant; and to pass a consistent order, strictly in accordance with law, if it is proposed to withdraw benefit granted to any officer, notice shall be issued. An exercise in this behalf shall be completed within a period of three months from date of receipt of this order, it directed.
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