Read Judgment: Union of India vs. Manoj Kumar & Ors

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, September 1,2021: While examining the claims made by Private Secretaries (Grade-II) employed in the Eastern Central Railways (Field Office/Zonal Railways),for parity in pay with their counterparts working in the Central Secretariat Stenographers Service & Railway Board Secretariat Stenographers Service, the Supreme Court has ruled that absolute equality ought not to be given simply because the basic nature of work carried out by the two were same.

The disparity between the Secretariat and field offices has canvassed a case for parity between similarly placed persons employed in field offices and the Secretariat, in view of the field offices being at the cutting edge of administration, added the Court.

However, the Division Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that it may not be possible or even justified to grant complete parity because the hierarchy and career progression will need to be different taking in view the functional considerations and relativities across the board.

Opining that the benefit of equal pay cannot accrue to the respondents, the Apex Court refused to accept the plea that as a result of parity being given up to the level of Assistant, the respondents, being one post higher, would automatically have to get one higher grade.

The Division Bench further noted that this Court in Union of India v. Tarit Ranjan Das opined that the principle of equal pay for equal work cannot be applied merely on basis of designation, and it was held that there was no question of any equivalence on that basis while dealing with the 5th Pay Commission recommendations with respect to functional requirements.

The aspect of disparity between the Secretariat and the field offices was a matter taken note of by the Commission itself while making the recommendations. Yet to some extent, a separate recommendation was made qua Secretariat Organizations and non-Secretariat Organizations. Once these recommendations are separately made, to direct absolute parity would be to make the separate recommendations qua non-Secretariat Organizations otiose. If one may say, there would have been no requirement to make these separate recommendations if everyone was to be treated on parity on every aspect”, observed the Bench.

The Top Court accepted that once the regional offices of the Railways are to be treated as non-Secretariat Organizations, then the specific recommendations of Pay Commission relating to such non-Secretariat Organizations will apply.

However, giving parity between the Private Secretary/equivalent to a Section Officer cannot be said to be mutatis mutandis applicable even to non-Secretariat Organizations, added the Court.

If we were to opine otherwise and equate everybody there would have been no purpose in the 6th CPC making separate recommendations for non-SecretariatOrganizations in their wisdom. It is not as if the Commission was unaware of the plea of disparity between the Secretariat and field offices as that was dealt with, but despite having taken note of the same some difference was sought to be made between Secretariat and non-Secretariat offices”, observed the Top Court.

The Apex Court went on to reiterate that Pay Commission is a specialized body set up with the objective of resolving anomalies and the anomaly in question was referred to the Pay Commission at the request of candidates similarly situated to the respondents and thus, the 6th CPC was aware of the claim for parity and the requirement of making a recommendation in that regard.

Therefore, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and added that the Pay Commission in its wisdom while giving better scales, has still sought to maintain a separate recommendation for non-Secretariat Organizations.

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