Understanding Umadevi Judgment on Temporary Public Employment

Introduction

Public employment i.e. jobs controlled by the government sector in a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic has to be as set down by the Constitution and the laws made thereunder. Our constitutional scheme envisages employment by the Government and its instrumentalities on the basis of a procedure established in that behalf. Equality of opportunity is the hallmark, and the Constitution has provided also for affirmative action to ensure that unequal are not treated equals. Thus, any public employment has to be in terms of the constitutional scheme. Umadevi judgment is a hallmark on the subject and the article discusses its takeaways in details.

A. Definitions

(a) Irregular Appointments: The Union, the States, their departments and instrumentalities have resorted to irregular appointments, especially in the lower rungs of the service, without reference to the duty to ensure a proper appointment procedure through the Public Service Commission or otherwise as per the rules adopted and to permit these irregular appointees or those appointed on contract or on daily wages, to continue year after year, thus, keeping out those who are qualified to apply for the post concerned and depriving them of an opportunity to compete for the post.

B. Take Aways of Uma Devi Judgment

1. Regularisation cannot be a mode of recruitment. To accede to such a proposition would mean the introduction of the new head off appointment in defiance of rules or it might have an effect of setting nought the rules.

2. Regularisation vs. Permanence: Something that is irregular for want of compliance with one of the element in the process of selection which does not go at the root of the process can be regularised and that it alone can be regularised and granting permanence of employment is a totally different concept and cannot be equated with regularisation.

3. Right of Regularization with Court and Executive: Executive and the court in appropriate cases would have right to regularise an appointment made after following the due procedure in a scheme of public employment even though the non-fundamental process or procedure is not followed.

4. Continued Adhoc Appointment: Where a temporary or Adhoc appointment is continued for long the court presumes that there are a need and warrant for regular post.

5Adhoc Appointment only in Contingency: The regular recruitment should be insisted upon, only in a contingency, an Adhoc appointment can be made in a permanent vacancy, but the same should soon be followed by a regular recruitment and that appointment to non-available posts should not be taken note of for regularisation. The cases directing regularisation have mainly proceeded on the basis that having permitted the employee to work for some period, he should be absorbed, without really laying down any law to that effect, after discussing the constitutional scheme for public employment.

6. Adherence to the rule of equality in public employment is a basic feature of our Constitution: Since the rule of law is the core of our Constitution, a Court would certainly be disabled from passing an order upholding a violation of Article 14 or in ordering the overlooking of the need to comply with the requirements of Article 14 read with Article 16 of the Constitution. If it is a contractual appointment, the appointment comes to an end at the end of the contract, if it were an engagement or appointment on daily wages or casual basis, the same would come to an end when it is discontinued. Similarly, a temporary employee could not claim to be made permanent on the expiry of his term of appointment.

7. No automatic absorption for Temporary Employment: It has also to be clarified that merely because a temporary employee or a casual wage worker is continued for a time beyond the term of his appointment, he would not be entitled to be absorbed in regular service or made permanent, merely on the strength of such continuance, if the original appointment was not made by following a due process of selection as envisaged by the relevant rules.

8. The power of the High Court under Article 226 on an issue of Temporary Employment: It is not open to the court to prevent regular recruitment at the instance of temporary employees whose period of employment has come to an end or of ad hoc employees who by the very nature of their appointment do not acquire any right. High Courts acting under article 226 of the Constitution of India, should not ordinarily issue directions for absorption, regularisation, or permanent continuance unless the recruitment itself was made regularly and in terms of the constitutional scheme.

9.  No Fundamental Right to those Employed under Daily Wages: There is no fundamental right in those who have been employed on daily wages or temporarily or on a contractual basis, to claim that they have a right to be absorbed in service. As has been held by this Court, they cannot be said to be holders of a post, since, a regular appointment could be made only by making appointments consistent with the requirements of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. The right to be treated equally with the other employees employed on daily wages cannot be extended to a claim for equal treatment with those who were regularly employed. That would be treating unequal’s as equals. It cannot also be relied on to claim a right to be absorbed in service even though they have never been selected in terms of the relevant recruitment rules. The arguments based on Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution are therefore overruled. When the court is approached for relief by way of a writ, the court has necessarily to ask itself whether the person before it had any legal right to be enforced. Considered in the light of the very clear constitutional scheme, it cannot be said that the employees have been able to establish a legal right to be made permanent even though they have never been appointed in terms of the relevant rules or in adherence of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

10. One-Time Measure and Cut-off Date: There may be cases where irregular appointments (not illegal appointments) of duly qualified persons in duly sanctioned vacant posts might have been made and the employees have continued to work for ten years or more but without the intervention of orders of courts or of tribunals. The question of regularisation of the services of such employees may have to be considered on merits in the light of the principles settled by this Court in the cases above referred to and in the light of this judgment. In that context, the Union of India, the State Governments and their instrumentalities should take steps to regularize as a one-time measure, the services of such irregularly appointed, who have worked for ten years or more in duly sanctioned posts but not under cover of orders of courts or of tribunals and should further ensure that regular recruitments are undertaken to fill those vacant sanctioned posts that require being filled up, in cases where temporary employees or daily wagers are being now employed. The process must be set in motion within six months from this date. We also clarify that regularisation, if any already made, but not sub-judice, need not be reopened based on this judgment, but there should be no further bypassing of the constitutional requirement and regularising or making permanent, those not duly appointed as per the constitutional scheme.

C. Judgments Relied

1. State of Haryana Vs. Piara Singh and Others [1992) 3 SCR 826]. There the apex court in para 45 of this judgment laid

The normal rule, of course, is regular recruitment through the prescribed agency but exigencies of administration may sometimes call for an Adhoc or temporary appointment to be made. In such a situation, effort should always be to replace such an Adhoc/temporary employee by a regularly selected employee as early as possible. Such a temporary employee may also compete along with others for such regular selection/appointment. If he gets selected, well and good, but if he does not, he must give way to the regularly selected candidate. The appointment of the regularly selected candidate cannot be withheld or kept in abeyance for the sake of such an ad hoc/temporary employee.

Secondly, another ad hoc or temporary employee should not replace an ad hoc or temporary employee; only a regularly selected employee must replace him. This is necessary to avoid arbitrary action on the part of the appointing authority.

 Thirdly, even where an ad hoc or temporary employment is necessitated on account of the exigencies of administration, he should ordinarily be drawn from the employment exchange unless it cannot brook delay in which case the pressing cause must be stated on the file. If no candidate is available or is not sponsored by the employment exchange, some appropriate method consistent with the requirements of Article 16 should be followed. In other words, there must be a notice published in the appropriate manner calling for applications and all those who apply in response thereto should be considered fairly. An unqualified person ought to be appointed only when qualified persons are not available through the above processes. If for any reason, an Adhoc or temporary employee is continued for a fairly long spell, the authorities must consider his case for regularization provided he is eligible and qualified according to the rules and his service record is satisfactory and his appointment does not run counter to the reservation policy of the State. 

With respect, why should the State be allowed to depart from the normal rule and indulge in temporary employment in permanent posts? This Court, in our view, is bound to insist on the State making regular and proper recruitments and is bound not to encourage or shut its eyes to the persistent transgression of the rules of regular recruitment. The direction to make permanent — the distinction between regularisation and making permanent, was not emphasised here — can only encourage the State, the model employer, to flout its own rules and would confer undue benefits on a few at the cost of many waiting to compete. With respect, the direction made in paragraph 50 of Piara Singh (supra) is to some extent inconsistent with the conclusion in paragraph 45 therein. With great respect, it appears to us that the last of the directions clearly runs counter to the constitutional scheme of employment recognised in the earlier part of the decision. Really, it cannot be said that this decision has laid down the law that all Adhoc, temporary or casual employees engaged without following the regular recruitment procedure should be made permanent.”

2. In Director, Institute of Management Development, U.P. Vs. Pushpa Srivastava (Smt.) (1992 (3) SCR 712), the apex Court held that since the appointment was on purely contractual and Adhoc basis on consolidated pay for a fixed period and terminable without notice, when the appointment came to an end by efflux of time, the appointee had no right to continue in the post and to claim regularization in service in the absence of any rule providing for regularization after the period of service. This Court noticed that when the appointment was purely on ad hoc and contractual basis for a limited period, on the expiry of the period, the right to remain in the post came to an end. This Court stated that the view they were taking was the only view possible and set aside the judgment of the High Court, which had given relief to the appointee.

3. In Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, U.P. Vs. Anil Kumar Mishra and Others [AIR 1994 SC 1638], a three-judge bench of this Court held that ad hoc appointees/temporary employees engaged on ad hoc basis and paid on piece-rate basis for certain clerical work and discontinued on completion of their task, were not entitled to reinstatement or regularization of their services even if their working period ranged from one to two years. This decision indicates that if the engagement was made in a particular work or in connection with particular project, on completion of that work or of that project, those who were temporarily engaged or employed in that work or project could not claim any right to continue in service and the High Court cannot direct that they be continued or absorbed elsewhere.

4. In State of Himachal Pradesh Vs. Suresh Kumar Verma (1996 (1) SCR 972), a three-Judge Bench of this Court held that a person appointed on daily wage basis was not an appointee to a post according to Rules. On his termination, on the project employing him coming to an end, the Court could not issue a direction to re-engage him in any other work or appoint him against existing vacancies. This Court said: “It is settled law that having made rules of recruitment to various services under the State or to a class of posts under the State, the State is bound to follow the same and to have the selection of the candidates made as per recruitment rules and appointments shall be made accordingly. From the date of discharging the duties attached to the post, the incumbent becomes a member of the services. Appointment on daily wage basis is not an appointment to a post according to the Rules.” Their Lordships cautioned that if directions are given to re-engage such persons in any other work or appoint them against existing vacancies, “the judicial process would become another mode of recruitment dehors the rules.”

5. In Umarani vs. Registrar, Cooperative Societies and Others (2004 (7) SCC 112), a three-judge bench held that the State could not invoke its power under Article 162 of the Constitution to regularise such appointments. This Court also held that regularisation is not and cannot be a mode of recruitment by any State within the meaning of Article 12of the Constitution of India or any body or authority governed by a statutory Act or the Rules framed thereunder. Regularisation furthermore cannot give permanence to an employee whose services are ad hoc in nature. It was also held that the fact that some persons had been working for a long time would not mean that they had acquired a right for regularization.

This decision kept in mind the distinction between ‘regularisation’ and ‘permanency’ and laid down that regularisation is not and cannot be the mode of recruitment by any State. It also held that regularisation couldn’t give permanence to an employee whose services are ad hoc in nature.

D. Other Connected Judgments

This Court  in State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Daya Lal & Ors.,  AIR  2011 SC 1193,  has considered the scope of regularisation of  irregular or part-time appointments in all possible eventualities and  laid down well-settled principles relating to regularisation and parity  in  pay relevant in the context of the issues involved therein. The same are as under: 

“The High Courts, in exercising power under Article 226 of the Constitution will not issue directions for regularisation, absorption  or  permanent  continuance,  unless the employees claiming regularisation had been appointed  in  pursuance  of  a regular recruitment in accordance with relevant rules in an open  competitive  process,  against  sanctioned  vacant  posts.   The equality clause contained in Articles 14 and 16 should be scrupulously followed and Courts should not issue a direction for regularisation of services of an employee, which would be violative of the constitutional scheme. While something that is irregular for want of compliance with one of the elements in the process of selection which do not go to the root of the process, can be regularised, back door entries, appointments contrary to the constitutional scheme and/or appointment of ineligible candidates cannot be regularised.

 Mere continuation of service by a temporary or ad hoc or daily-wage employee, under cover of some interim orders of the court, would not confer upon him any right to be absorbed into service, as such service would be “litigious  employment”.  Even temporary, ad hoc or daily-wage service for a long number of years, let alone service for one or two years, will not entitle such employee to claim regularisation if he is not working against a sanctioned post.  Sympathy and sentiment cannot be grounds for passing any order of regularisation in the absence of a legal right.

“Even where a scheme is formulated for regularisation with a cut-off date (that is a scheme providing that persons who had put in a specified number of years of service and continuing in employment as on the cut-off date), it is not possible to others who were appointed subsequent to the cut-off date, to claim or contend that the scheme should be applied to them by extending the cut-off date or seek a direction for framing of fresh schemes providing for successive cut-off dates.

Part-time employees are not entitled to seek regularisation, as they are not working against any sanctioned posts.  There cannot be a direction for absorption, regularisation   or permanent continuance of part-time temporary employees.

Part-time temporary employees in government-run institutions cannot claim parity in salary with regular employees of the Government on the principle of equal pay for equal work. Nor can employees in private employment, even if serving full time, seek parity in salary with government employees. The right to claim a particular salary against the State must arise under a contract or under a statute.” (Emphasis added)

In B.N. Nagarajan & Ors. Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors. [(1979) 3 SCR 937], the apex court clearly held that the words “regular” or “regularisation” do not connote permanence and cannot be construed so as to convey an idea of the nature of tenure of appointments. They are terms calculated to condone any procedural irregularities and are meant to cure only such defects as are attributable to methodology followed in making the appointments. This court emphasised that when rules framed under Article 309 of the Constitution of India are in force, no regularisation is permissible in exercise of the executive powers of the Government under Article 162 of the Constitution in contravention of the rules. These decisions and the principles recognised therein have not been dissented to by the apex Court and on principle and there is no reason not to accept the proposition as enunciated in the above decisions.

State of Karnataka vs. M.L.Kesari [SLP (C) No. 15774 of 2006]: The one-time exercise should consider all daily-wage/ad-hoc/those employees who had put in 10 years of continuous service as on 10.4.2006 without availing the protection of any interim orders of courts or tribunals. If any employer had held the one-time exercise in terms of para 53 of Umadevi but did not consider the cases of some employees who were entitled to the benefit of para 53 of Umadevi, the employer concerned should consider their cases also, as a continuation of the one-time exercise. The one time exercise will be concluded only when all the employees who are entitled to be considered in terms of Para 53 of Umadevi, are so considered.

The object behind the said direction in para 53 of Umadevi is two- fold.

First is to ensure that those who have put in more than ten years of continuous service without the protection of any interim orders of courts or tribunals, before the date of decision in Umadevi was rendered, are considered for regularisation in view of their long service.

Second is to ensure that the departments/instrumentalities do not perpetuate the practice of employing persons on daily-wage/ad-hoc/casual for long periods and then periodically regularise them on the ground that they have served for more than ten years, thereby defeating the constitutional or statutory provisions relating to recruitment and appointment. The true effect of the direction is that all persons who have worked for more than ten years as on 10.4.2006 (the date of decision in Umadevi) without the protection of any interim order of any court or tribunal, in vacant posts, possessing the requisite qualification, are entitled to be considered for regularisation. The fact that the employer has not undertaken such exercise of regularisation within six months of the decision in Umadevi or that such exercise was undertaken only in regard to a limited few, will not disentitle such employees, the right to be considered for regularisation in terms of the above directions in Umadevi as a one-time measure.

Conclusions

Uma Devi’s Case: The question of regularisation of the services of such employees may have to be considered on merits in the light of the principles settled by this Court in the cases above referred to and in the light of this judgment. In that context, the Union of India, the State Governments and their instrumentalities should take steps to regularize as a one-time measure, the services of such irregularly appointed, who have worked for ten years or more in duly sanctioned posts but not under cover of orders of courts or of tribunals and should further ensure that regular recruitments are undertaken to fill those vacant sanctioned posts that require being filled up, in cases where temporary employees or daily wagers are being now employed. The process must be set in motion within six months from this date. We also clarify that regularisation, if any already made, but not sub-judice, need not be reopened based on this judgment, but there should be no further bypassing of the constitutional requirement and regularising or making permanent, those not duly appointed as per the constitutional scheme.The guidelines laid down in various judgments  are:

  • Regularisation cannot be a mode of recruitment.
  • The concept of regularisation and permanent employment is different.The Supreme Court held to keep this distinction in mind and proceed on the basis that only something that is irregular for want of compliance with one of the elements in the process of selection can be regularised but a grant of the permanence of employment is a totally different concept and cannot be equated with regularisation.
  • Right of Regularization vests with Court and Executive.
  • Where a temporary or ad-hoc appointment is continued for long period, the court presumes that there are a need and warrant for regular post.
  • If a temporary employee gets selected, well and good, but if he does not, he must give way to the regularly selected candidate. The appointment of the regularly selected candidate cannot be withheld or kept in abeyance for the sake of such an ad hoc/temporary employee.
  • Another ad hoc or temporary employee should not replace an ad hoc or temporary employee;
  • If for any reason, an ad hoc or temporary employee is continued for a fairly long spell, the authorities must consider his case for regularisation provided he is eligible and qualified according to the rules and his service record is satisfactory and his appointment does not run counter to the reservation policy of the State.
  • Since the appointment was on purely contractual and ad hoc basis on consolidated pay for a fixed period and terminable without notice, when the appointment came to an end by efflux of time, the appointee had no right to continue in the post and to claim regularization in service in the absence of any rule providing for regularization after the period of service.
  • If the engagement was made in a particular work or in connection with particular project, on completion of that work or of that project, those who were temporarily engaged or employed in that work or project could not claim any right to continue in service and the High Court cannot direct that they be continued or absorbed elsewhere.
  • Rules of recruitment to various services under the State or to a class of posts under the State, the State is bound to follow the same and to have the selection of the candidates made as per recruitment rules and appointments shall be made accordingly.
  • If it is a contractual appointment, the appointment comes to an end at the end of the contract, if it were an engagement or appointment on daily wages or casual basis, the same would come to an end when it is discontinued. Similarly, a temporary employee could not claim to be made permanent on the expiry of his term of appointment.
  • High Courts acting under article 226 of the Constitution of India, should not ordinarily issue directions for absorption, regularisation, or permanent continuance unless the recruitment itself was made regularly and in terms of the constitutional scheme.
  • Illegal appointments are a nullity in law only irregular appointments can be regularised.

The following conclusions flow from M.L.Kesari Judgment (SupraThe fact that the employer has not undertaken such exercise of regularisation within six months of the decision in Umadevi or that such exercise was undertaken only in regard to a limited few, will not disentitle such employees, the right to be considered for regularisation in terms of the above directions in Umadevi as a one-time measure.

Published :
October 28, 2016
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