A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices UU Lalit, and Ajay Rastogi held that an employee is not estopped from challenging the terms and conditions of his employment if he finds himself to be aggrieved by them.
This dispute relates to the teachers of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at HNB Gharwal University. These teachers had been appointed after going through a regular selection process as per the Uttar Pradesh State Universities Act, 1973.
The Appellants had discovered that the letter of appointment issued to them was arbitrary as it restricted their employment to be on a contractual basis for a limited period of three years, which was in contravention to the statutory scheme of the Act.
The Appellants contended that they were not made aware of these arbitrary conditions at any stage during the appointment. Hence, they filed a writ petition in the Uttar Pradesh High Court whereby they prayed to be treated to be substantively appointed teachers. However, the High Court dismissed this writ petition.
When the matter was taken up by the Supreme Court, the Respondent argued, "The appellants have accepted the terms and conditions contained in the letter of appointment deserves rejection for the reason that it is not open for a person appointed in public employment to ordinary choose the terms and conditions of which he is required to serve."
However, the Court rejected this contention and stated, "It goes without saying that employer is always in a dominating position and it is open to the employer to dictate the terms of employment. The employee who is at the receiving end can hardly complain of arbitrariness in the terms and conditions of employment. This Court can take judicial notice of the fact that if an employee takes initiation in questioning the terms and conditions of employment, that would cost his/her job itself."
In this regard, the Court held, "The bargaining power is vested with the employer itself and the employee is left with no option but to accept the conditions dictated by the authority. If that being the reason, it is open for the employee to challenge the conditions if it is not being in conformity with the statutory requirement under the law and he is not estopped from questioning at a stage where he finds himself aggrieved."
"In our considered view, once the appellants have gone through the process of selection provided under the scheme of the Act 1973 regardless of the fact whether the post is temporary or permanent in nature, at least their appointment is substantive in character and could be made permanent as and when the post is permanently sanctioned by the competent authority," the Court observed.
Thus, the Court concluded that the Appellants can claim their posts to be in substantive capacity against the permanent sanctioned post and become a member of the teaching faculty.
Moreover, the Court opined that since the Appellants are to be treated as substantively appointed teachers, they are entitled to a pay scale and notional consequential benefits admissible to a regularly appointed teacher in the service of the University and set aside the Judgment of the High Court.