Read Judgment: State of Uttarakhand v. Sudhir Budakoti & Ors 

Tulip Kanth

New Delhi, April 8, 2022: In a case where the pay scale of Lecturers was revised by a notification of the Central Government, the Supreme Court has affirmed the proposition that the Registrar of a State University could not seek pay parity with the Lecturers of a Central University as the appellant-State University was not bound by any direction issued by the Central Government. Such directions would be mandatory to the Central Universities and the Central Government Colleges receiving funds, held the Court.

The Division Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.M.Sundresh remarked that a mere differential treatment on its own cannot be termed as an anathema to Article 14 of the Constitution. When there is a reasonable basis for a classification adopted by taking note of the exigencies and diverse situations, the Court is not expected to insist on absolute equality by taking a rigid and pedantic view as against a pragmatic one.

The factual background of this case pertains to the Uttarakhand State University (Centralized Services) Rules, 2006 prescribing essential qualifications, procedure for recruitment and pay scale etc. for the post of Registrars in the State Universities. The 2006 Rules also provide the qualification for a Lecturer, which is different to that of a Registrar.

The State of Uttarakhand, on June 16, 2008, sent a requisition to the State Public Service Commission for the appointment of Registrars in the State Universities, clearly indicating the essential qualifications along with the pay scale. On December 31,2008, the Central Government of India published two separate communications addressed to the Secretary, UGC on the revision of the pay scale of the Lecturers on one side and the Administrative Staff starting from the Registrar on the other. 

Both these circulars issued separately were obviously meant to be implemented by the Central Government Universities and the Central Government Colleges duly funded by it.The State of Uttarakhand thought it fit to accept the recommended revised pay scale of the Government of India meant to be applied for the Central Universities and Colleges, to its teaching faculties alone.

The first respondent was selected and given the appointment to the post of Registrar but after taking charge as an Assistant Registrar in Kumaon University, he filed a Writ Petition before the High Court seeking the pay scale meant to be applied for his counterparts in the Central Universities. Later, the pay scale of the first Respondent was also revised on the recommendation of the Sixth Pay Commission but he got his prayer duly amended seeking to question it as unconstitutional.

Then, the High Court issued a direction to the Pay Anomaly Committee to look into the matter afresh, which was accordingly complied with, by not accepting the respondet’s case when there was a distinct difference in the qualification as prescribed by the UGC and the State Government for the aforesaid post. The High Court allowed the writ petition on a factual error by misconstruing the decision made in favor of the teaching faculty to that of the Registrar and other administrative staff. The Appellant sought to set aside the said decision before this Court.

The  State vehemently contended that the High Court completely misunderstood the admitted facts as there were two circulars dealing with the Lecturers and the Registrars. A decision was made to revise the pay scales of the UGC for the Lecturers and not for the Registrars.So, the first respondent neither had any accrued nor vested right to seek pay parity. It was contended that such a parity could not be sought by comparing the Lecturers and the other Registrars working in the Central Universities.

The Bench said, “Law has become quite settled that the Appellant is not bound by any direction issued by the Central Government which would at worst be mandatory to the Central Universities and the Central Government Colleges receiving funds. Thus, any such decision would obviously be directory to State Government Colleges and Universities, being in the nature of a mere recommendation”.

According  to the Top Court, the High Court had completely misconstrued the facts as the Appellant nowhere made a decision to accept and adopt the circular of the Central Government pertaining to the Registrars working in the Universities coming under its purview. In the absence of any legal right with the corresponding duty, such a relief could never be asked for, particularly when there were clear and specific rules provided for the pay scale of Registrars by the Appellant itself, the Bench added. 

One of the judgments among many cited by the Court was of Kalyani Mathivanan v. K.V. Jeyaraj wherein it was held that the UGC Regulations, 2010 are directory for the universities, colleges and other higher educational institutions under the purview of the State legislation as the matter had been left to the State Government to adopt and implement the Scheme. It was also noted therein that the UGC Regulations, 2010 are partly mandatory and partly directory.

It was also clarified by the Top Court that the decision of the Appellant qua the Lecturers who form a distinct group as against the first Respondent who holds a higher position in the administration had been lost sight of. 

The Bench went on to state that when the classification is distinct and clear having adequate rationale with due relation to the objective, there is no reason to hold otherwise by treating a Registrar at par with the Lecturers. One is meant for administration and the other teaching. 

“Merely because Respondent No. 1 was made to fill the gap by temporarily taking up the job of a Lecturer, he would never become one and so also a Lecturer, who might undertake the job of a Registrar. This is nothing but an administrative convenience borne out of a contingency,” the Bench held.

Saying that the High Court had also not considered the financial implications as any decision would not only rest with the first Respondent, but the entirety of the administrative staff, the Apex Court set aside the High Court’s order and allowed the Civil Appeal.

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