Dehradun, July 24, 2021: The Uttarakhand High Court recently told the State government and the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation that depriving the Corporation’s workers of their monthly salaries violates their rights under Articles 21, 23 and 300-A of the Constitution of India.
Emphasizing that neither the Transport Corporation nor the State Government are permitted to deprive employees of their rightful salaries month after month, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma observed that the callous attitude of the State government cannot be appreciated.
“Considering the fact that these employees do not belong to the upper echelon of the Corporation, and are mere workers, as most of them happen to be drivers, conductors, and other employees, it is surprising that both the Corporation, and the State Government have abandoned them out in the cold,” observed the Court.
The Bench added that even the Supreme Court had held that the State cannot be permitted to violate the fundamental rights and the human rights of its employees. As such, the High Court emphasized that the State government cannot evade its responsibility in the issue.
Reiterating that the Corporation cannot be permitted to “hide behind the fig leaf”, the High Court highlighted that the responsibility of paying the salaries of their employees is that of the Corporation, and not of the state Government.
The dispute arose after the employees of the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation were not paid arrears of their salaries from February 2021 till June 2021.
Noting that in its order dated February 24, 2020, the issue with regard to the payment of salaries by the Government of U.P. to the Government of Uttarakhand has been hanging fire for the last sixteen years, the Bench questioned as to why the State of Uttarakhand had not begun negotiations with the Uttar Pradesh Government regarding the repayment of about Rs. 220 crores owed to the Uttarakhand government.
“Under Section 59 of the U.P. Reorganization Act, 2000, the Union of India is expected to play a proactive role, to call both the States on the negotiating table, and to resolve the difficulties being faced by the State of Uttarakhand. Due to the silence of the Union of India, and the Government of U.P., it is the State of Uttarakhand and its people that continue to suffer,” explained the High Court.
The High Court said it expects the Union of India to play a proactive role in resolving the lingering issues between the two States with regard to the payment of monies by the State of U.P. to the State of Uttarakhand.
Pursuant to the Court’s earlier directions, an affidavit was filed on the issue by Dr. Ranjit Kumar Sinha, the then Transport Secretary. As per the same, Rs. 23 crores were released to the Transport Corporation so that salaries may be paid to regular employees for the month of February and so the salaries payable to contractual employees for March were disbursed.
Further, the High Court was informed that the Chief Minister also approved the release of Rs. 34 crores to the Transport Corporation from the contingency fund.
However, expressing concern over the decision taken to defer the payment of 50% of the employee’s salaries in the coming months, the High Court proceeded to question the State about the legality of such a move.
Quoting the decision of Supreme Court in Kapila Hingorani vs. State of Bihar and others, the High Court said that “it does not lie in the mouth of the State to claim that it will not rush to the rescue of the employees of the Corporation”.