The Himachal Pradesh High Court in a writ petition filed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Non-Gazetted Employees/Official Employees Association has recently held that under Article 229(2) of the Constitution, the State Government should not raise any objection to such recommendations of the Chief Justice on the service conditions of the High Court’s staff unless very good reasons exist.

The Court said that the power of the Chief Justice under Article 229 is paramount in nature.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chouhan and Justice Sandeep Sharma observed, “… we are clearly of the view that the proposal sent by the High Court could not have been rejected by the State Government and due deference had to be accorded to the same. Once, Hon’ble the Chief Justice in the interest of High Court Administration had taken a progressive step specially to ameliorate the service conditions of the Officers and staff working under him, the State Government should not and ought not to have raised any objection to such recommendations unless there were very good reasons for not granting the approval which do not exist in the instant case.”

The Bench further noted that the Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh ought to have placed the recommendations of the CJ before the Governor of Himachal Pradesh for approval on the principle of comity.

Senior Advocate Sanjeev Bhushan appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Advocate General Anup Rattan appeared for the respondents.

Facts of the Case –

The petitioner, in this case, prayed to issue the necessary notification bringing parity in the pay scales of employees of the High Court registry with their counterparts in Punjab and Haryana High Court, by further directing the respondents to grant a 20% hike in the pay scales (grade pay) of the employees of the registry with all consequential benefits of pay, arrears, etc., in the interest of law and justice.

The State Authorities despite the matter having been discussed at the highest level still kept on lingering the matter on one pretext or the other and ultimately vide communication rejected the proposal submitted by the High Court mainly on the ground that the employees of the High Court had already been granted enhanced pay scales (Pay-Band and Grade Pay) at par with the pay scales of other State Government employees which is higher and equal to the pay scales granted to the six categories on the recommendations of Shetty Pay Commission.

The High Court after considering all the facts and circumstances of this matter noted, “… not only the employees of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana High Courts alone, but even the employees working in Gujarat, Karnataka and Madras High Courts where the employees are getting a hike pursuant to the judicial pronouncements.”

It was further noted by the Court that the State did not give any reasons as to why the High Court employees cannot be granted upgraded pay scales at par with the P&H High Court.

“The State has clearly misdirected themselves on a point of law, more particularly, being completely oblivious to the provisions contained in Article 229 of the Constitution of India”, the Court observed.

The Court also said that even a letter, memorandum, or circular issued on behalf of the CJ to the State Government is essentially required to be treated as the one issued in the exercise of the powers under Article 229.

“… there is nothing on record to suggest that the recommendations made by Hon’ble the Chief Justice were in any way arbitrary or that the relevant factors have not been considered”, the Court further said.

It was also observed by the Court that the services of the High Court’s staff and servants are quite different from the services rendered by the staff of the Secretariat and that the power to pay pension, allowance, and leave is vested with the CJ for the staff and servants.

The Court further asserted, “Unlike, the State Secretariat, the staff of the High Court have to strive hard to accomplish the given task as is other contended by the learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner. This submission needs to be considered and analyzed to arrive at an appropriate decision. The duty hours of the staff of the High Court normally and invariably get stretched and extended to odd hours and they are more often than not required to work till late in the night.”

The Court, therefore, directed that its judgment be placed before the Chief Justice to constitute a committee to go into the details regarding the grant of hike keeping in view the duties and responsibilities discharged by the staff working under various cadres in the adjoining High Courts of P&H and Delhi before recommending the pay pattern.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the writ petition and set aside the decision of the State Government.

Cause Title- Himachal Pradesh High Court, Non-Gazetted Employees/Official Employees Association v. State of Himachal Pradesh and others

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