No one above law: Telangana HC orders itself, Andhra Pradesh court to compensate petitioners

The petitioners had sought court directions for the purpose of continuing service with all consequential benefits.
Telangana High Court (File Photo | EPS)
Telangana High Court (File Photo | EPS)

HYDERABAD: In a rare but significant case, a division bench of the Telangana High Court (HC) found fault with a judgement of the erstwhile common HC at Hyderabad for the two Telugu States and imposed costs of Rs 3,000 on the TS and Andhra Pradesh HCs.

The amount is payable to the petitioners of the case. The petitioners had approached the Telangana HC against the common court’s judgement, which denied them their right to opt for the AP HC from the date it was constituted.

The bench of the Telangana HC found fault with the decision of the erstwhile common court in confining the operation of guidelines framed by it on November 1, 2018 only to those employees who were working in the court as on the date of issuance of guidelines. This was for the purpose of giving options to the employees to continue their service in the TS HC or shift to the AP HC at Amaravathi.

The division bench set aside the rejection orders passed by the TS and AP HCs on January 25 and April 29 last year, respectively, denying options to the petitioners to opt for the AP HC from the date of its constitution — January 1, 2019.

The petitioners had urged the court to declare the guidelines issued by the then common court on November 1, 2018 as illegal as it did not give the option to the officers and staff of continuing their service with the TS HC or be duly considered for induction and absorption into the AP HC upon its constitution. They had also objected to the then court denying the exercise of such option to those who retired before November 1, 2018.

Common HC’s ruling was illegal: Petitioners

The petitioners had sought court directions for the purpose of continuing service with all consequential benefits. The stand of both the HCs, represented by the Registrar General, is that the ‘appointed day’ is not June 2, 2014, but January 1, 2019 since that was when the AP and Telangana HCs were constituted. Both the courts contended that since the petitioners were not in service of the HC as on January 1, 2019, they are not entitled to grant of any benefits.

While allowing the writ petition filed by K Balarama Raju and nine other HC employees who retired on attaining the age of superannuation of 58 years, the bench, comprising Justices MS Ramachandra Rao and T Amarnath Goud, made it clear that there can be only one ‘appointed day’ i.e. June 2, 2014 for purposes of considering allocation of employees of the erstwhile common court.

January 1, 2019, the date when AP HC was constituted and started functioning, cannot be treated as an ‘appointed day’ under Section 77 of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 in relation to allocation of employees of the common HC.

All the employees of the composite HC at Hyderabad as on June 2, 2014 form a ‘single class’, and exclusion of persons who retired prior to November 1, 2018 without any valid differentia is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The relief sought by the petitioners cannot simply be dismissed on the ground that they had crossed the age of 60 by this time, the bench noted. The bench issued writ of mandamus directing that the petitioners shall be deemed to have been allotted by the Central government under sub-section 2 of Section 77 of the Act to AP high court at Amaravathi after June 2, 2014.

It also directed both the high courts to pay in 1:1 ratio to the petitioners within eight weeks the salary and other benefits they would have earned from Jan 1 last year till they reach the age of superannuation of 60 years, with six percent interest.

The bench directed the AP HC to take the notional services rendered by the petitioners in separate AP HC from Jan 1 last year into account for calculating their pensionary benefits to be payable within eight weeks.

The bench directed the Telangana high court to forward the service records of the petitioners to AP HC for necessary action. The bench rejected the contention of the senior counsel appearing for AP HC that this court has no jurisdiction to entertain the present case.

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