Courts Update Supreme Court permits govt to appeal against casual laborers...

Supreme Court permits govt to appeal against casual laborers working in sheep breeding farms

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New Delhi Aug 13(ILNS): The Supreme Court, today, upheld the order passed by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court which had allowed the Government’s appeal to disengage need base laborers from performing duties in different Sheep Breeding Farms, for being temporary in nature, initial engagement order was passed for a period of 89 days at the starting (Waheed Ahmed Bhat Vs The State of Jammu & Kashmir). 

A bench comprised by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul & Justice Hrishikesh Roy has observed that in light of the plight of the casual laborers in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, who were engaged on a need basis and disengaged subsequently, the government should consider providing similar employment. 

The Top Court noted that the courts can’t impose on the government to employ people or take out schemes and that there was no right or claim for employment in this case. The petitioners, in this case, were sheepherders who were employed on a need basis in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Mustaq Ahmed pressed before the Court that the disengagement orders were not speaking orders and therefore violative of Article 14 as it was arbitrary. 

The Court observed that the submissions of the petitioner were generalized. The employment can be terminated at any time when the services are not required according to the facts of the present case. 

Background

The present SLP challenges the final order and judgment dated January 29, 2021, passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in LPA no. 269 of 2019 and connected matters whereby the High Court while deciding an intra court appeal in a batch of matters considered the issue of writ petitioners who were engaged on a need basis in various farms of the department of Sheep Husbandry, Kashmir in 2014. In 2015 the government had withdrawn the authorization given to various departments to engage casual/seasonal labor. Apprehensive of disengagement, the petitioners had approached the Hon’ble High Court seeking directions not to disengage them and for release of unpaid wages. 

The government had submitted that the engagement of the petitioners was an interim arrangement and did not confer any right to lay claim on the posts and that the service could cease based on the performance or need of the department. The High Court in the writ petitions concluded that the government order to withdraw authorization of departments was prospective and therefore not applicable to engagements made prior to its issuance in 2015. Hence, it quashed the orders of disengaging the writ petitioners and further directed the release of unpaid wages. Therefore, the State of J& K availed the Letters Patent jurisdiction of the High Court. 

Vide the passed order, the High Court observed that the engagement of the writ petitioners was temporary and not on any substantive post carrying a regular pay scale and hence temporary. It observed that the services were not terminated not because they were not required, but because of the application of the Government order withdrawing authorization to the departments to engage the petitioners. Therefore, there was no authority to extend the engagement of the labor. Further, that the engagement was on a need basis and without following any due process of selection, would justify their disengagement. Hence, it was held that there was no right vested in the writ petitioners to continue in the department indefinitely. The High Court, therefore, allowed the appeal of the State and set aside the judgment of the Writ Court./ILNS/SC/KR/SNG

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