AIL v. The Staff -A perfect case of tu quoque

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Seems like the current session has started off with a bang. The Respected Chairman this year, sold us the dream of 10-10-20 in addition to Vision 2020, not to forget the new marble flooring in the atrium but that’s not all. The authorities have been behaving something more than just dream sellers. It turns out they have much to hide from us than to show. Seems like innocent people who really help fulfilling our aspirations have been facing the burn, that too without any reasonable cause.

Facts:

  1. In 2015, the services of three officers from amongst the administrative staff of the college were terminated without any explanation by the college authorities.
  2. 90% of administrative staff works on Contractual basis while merely 10% is regular. While the difference in pay grades of the two categories is humungous. No one could explain why this parity, although most of the staff has been working since the college opened.
  3. However, the staff working on contractual basis did not have any problem in drawing a lesser pay in comparison to their colleagues as long as they got to work. The procedure followed was that the contract of each employee would be renewed after every year, so that none of them could become regular appointees. No one had any objections.
  4. Suddenly, the contract of three of the employees were not renewed and hence they stood terminated. The staff pleaded with the principal and registrar but to no avail.
  5. The college advertised the vacancies in those three positions and invited applications.

Hence a Writ petition was filed by the persons terminated against the college, in which they prayed for (i) Granting Minimum REGULAR wage scale (ii) Security of service to continue till they become regular appointees.

 Arguments:

  1. The petitioners loaded with an armada of precedents prayed for regular appointment and security of service. There were considerable judgements stating that contractual appointees are entitled to minimum daily wage of a regular appointee. Based on this the petitioners succeeded in getting a notice of motion against the respondent institute.
  2. After the commencement of arguments, the AWES impleaded itself as a respondent party and contended that the writ was not maintainable since the AWES was a private society registered under the Societies act as it generated all its funds from the fees of students and that there were no public expenditures involved. Hence, the society did not come under the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution by virtue of which the writ is not tenable.
  3. The Respondent argued that the appointments of the personnel on contractual basis were against AWES rules and could not have been considered.

Judgment:

  1. That the petitioners shall continue working as against regular posts and draw minimum daily wages as offered to a regular appointee.
  2. It must be noted that personnel working on contractual basis has been working since 2003 i.e the inception of the institute, the stand taken by the respondent that the initial appointment was not in accordance with the rules I cannot be entertained after 7-10 years of having made the appointment.
  3. Direction was given that all those petitioners who had completed 8 years of service shall be deemed regular appointees.
  4. The employees are entitled for payment of minimum regular pay scales for period of three years commencing prior to the institution of this Writ petition till date when services were terminated.
  5. The AWES is within the ambit of Article 12 of the Constitution as in accordance with “Unni Krishnan Vs. State of A.P” it delivers an important public function of Education. The court also observed that the Army Institute Of Law and the AWES are under the Garb of Article 12 of the Constitution as serving officers namely Maj. Gen JT Chacko and Lt. Gen. KJ Singh formed the management of the Army Institute of law.

The Blue Pencil Analysis:

The Judgement stands guard against arbitrary action of employers. It is also a reminder to the college authorities that they must perform and act reasonably while dispensing official functions. The observation by the Hon’ble court that the college and AWES are within the scope of Article 12 of the Constitution, it opens a Pandora’s box for us. The college could be held to be under the ambit of Right to Information Act, 2005, which of course would put an end to the arbitrary decision making and more accountability. But for that to happen, the remedy will have to be put to test. Now, how many of you are willing to file an RTI?

The college has a reputation to live up to, which in essence is earned by the performance of its students. Such capricious approach of the authorities has made us the butt of all jokes in legal circles. We have heard the chairman speak much about “AIL” being a BRAND lately. IF we really are a brand, which he claims so, do we really want to be seen in such bad light? Do we need to treat those who have put in their sweat and blood, since the foundation of this college was laid, with such utter disrespect and disregard? Rather than putting the BEAUTIFUL marble in the atrium, we could have rendered the petitioners in the above case as regular appointees and given them what they deserved. In addition to that we could have avoided paying extra back wages of three years, not to forget the legal expenses, had we acted honorably. The direct impact of this set of events is that the college will cry foul about unavailability of funds when there is a moot or debate or sports festival. Also, in case the authorities decide to go in appeal against this judgement. We are looking at an expenditure of at least 4-5 lakhs if the senior counsel who appeared for the college in the present case is retained.

The only thing that thrives here is HOPE, it keeps on increasing each day by leaps and bounds. Looking at the current set of events it has multiplied. So, let us all hope that one day better sense will prevail and that we will have room for reason in the corridor which houses the offices right beside the marble floor.

The write up was prepared by Sushant Kareer. 

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