SC Holds Commission Vendors Of Northern Railway Entitled To Pensionary Benefits For Services Rendered Prior To Their Regularization
The Supreme Court has observed that Commission Vendors/Bearers of Northern Railways shall be entitled to have 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits like other office bearers/Vendors working under the Railway Board, working in different zones/divisions, namely, Western Railway, Eastern Railway, Southern Railway, and South-Eastern Railway.
The Bench consisting of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna held –
"In view of the above and for the reasons stated above and even applying the doctrine of stare decisis, on the aforesaid ground alone, the present appeals deserve to be dismissed and are accordingly dismissed, by holding that the respondents – Commission Vendors/bearers working in the Northern Railway are entitled to have 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization to be counted for pensionary benefits like other office bearers/Vendors working under the Railway Board, working in different zones/divisions, namely, Western Railway, Eastern Railway, Southern Railway and South-Eastern Railway."
Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan appeared on behalf of the appellants whereas, Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appeared for the respondents.
Facts of the case –
The catering service in Northern Railways before 1955 used to be managed through private contractors. The departmental catering and vending services were started afterward and the former staff of the private contractors was taken as Commission Vendors. All such vendors were paid commission on sales turnover achieved by them instead of regular salaries.
Thereafter, a memorandum was issued in the year 1976 by the Railway Board suggesting that the Commission Vendors may be absorbed as Railway Employees. It stated that action would be taken to progressively absorb such vendors in regular vacancies. A series of litigations were there on the issue of such absorption of vendors in Railways.
A further direction was issued regarding the progressive absorption of all such vendors belonging to the Central and South-Central Railway in terms of the same memorandum. It stated that Railways would first absorb all the Bearers registered in accordance with the memorandum and then the Vendors who are registered and until all the Bearers and Vendors are accordingly absorbed, the Railway Administration shall not recruit or appoint any person either as a Bearer or Vendor on a permanent basis in the Railway Catering Service from any other source.
The vendors after being aggrieved with the order of Single Judge approached the Central Administrative Tribunal praying for further consequential relief of grant of pensionary benefits and the total service of each of the applicants rendered prior to their absorption should be counted towards "qualifying service."
CAT i.e., the Tribunal dismissed the application stating that since the earlier judgment of the learned Single Judge declined the prayer of regularization, it was not possible to entertain the plea for counting the past service without questioning the absorption orders, even for pensionary benefits.
The respondent being aggrieved with the decision of the Tribunal filed the Writ Petition before the High Court. The Court allowed such a petition and dismissed the writ petition preferred by the Northern Railways. Hence, the Union of India (Northern Railways) filed the appeals before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court therefore noted –
"The Railways/UOI/Railway Board cannot be permitted to repeat the same arguments which were raised before different Tribunals, High Courts and also before this Court. Under the circumstances, the respondents – Commission Vendors/bearers working in the Northern Railway shall also be entitled to the same benefits which the other Commission Vendors/bearers working in different Zones/Divisions are held to be entitled to. There cannot be discrimination among the similarly situated Commission Vendors/bearers. To deny similar benefits would tantamount to discrimination and in violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India."
The Apex Court further held –
"Once it is found that the respondents – Commission Vendors/bearers working in the Northern Railway are also entitled to similar benefits which are given to the similarly situated Commission Vendors/bearers working in different zones/divisions and since they are already being paid the pensionary benefits by counting the benefit of 50% of their services rendered prior to their regularization, there is no reason to deny the similar benefits to the respondents – Commission Vendors/bearers working in the Northern Railway being similarly situated."
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeals.
Cause Title – Union of India and others v. Munshi Ram