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Teacher who attains the age of superannuation mid-year has right to re-employment – Supreme Court

In the case of Navin Chandra Dhoundiyal Vs State of Uttarakhand And Ors [Civil Appeal No. 3493/2020] Supreme Court held that the very object and intent of the proviso to Statute No.16.24 is to avoid the disruption caused by discontinuity of service of a teaching staff employee or official mid-session.

Several appeals were combined to be heard together as the common question which arose for decision was the correct interpretation of a condition in the respondent-University’s statutes regarding the date of superannuation of its teachers.

All the appellants were working as Professors in various disciplines, in the respondent Kumaun University. They were aggrieved by an office order which set out their respective dates of retirement. The appellants relied on Statute of the University, applicable to them, contending that they were entitled to continue beyond the last date of the month in which each of them attained the age of superannuation. They argued that they were entitled to continue in service, on extension up to the end of June, 2021.

It was submitted by the Appellants that the purport of the proviso has to be gathered from the circumstance – that it caters to a specific eventuality, where the teacher/official superannuates on a particular day of any month, after June 30th, of an academic year. Superannuation would normally mean that the retirement date would be in accordance with the rules. In this particular case, since the provision applied only to teachers, the intention of the statute clearly was the continuance of status quo, to avoid disturbance, caused by the retirement, and the likely time to be taken by the University to make alternative arrangements to fill the vacancy.

The respondent university urged the court to not interfere. It was emphasized that according to a general order, whenever an employee attained the age of superannuation (regardless of the date), he/she was entitled to continue till the end of that particular month. It was submitted that the statute did not imply that the teacher, a superannuated employee has a right to insist that he should be reemployed till the end of June of the next year. Learned counsel underlined the intent of the main provision, which enacted the essential principle, which is that every teacher attains the age of superannuation when she turns 65; in these circumstances, he/she cannot claim entitlement to re-employment.

Court relied on the case of S.K. Rathi v Prem Hari Sharma [(2001) 9 SCC 377] where this court held that, “There is no doubt that the said decision would enable respondent No. 1 to continue as a teacher, which is his substantive appointment, up to 30th June, following the day when he attained the age of 60 years. In this court’s opinion, such a categorical expression about a pari materia norm was decisive enough for the court to have found itself compelled to follow.”

Court observed that, “If the view that found acceptance with the impugned judgment were to prevail, there would be avoidable disruption in teaching; the likely delay in filling vacancies caused mid-session cannot but be to the detriment of the students. That apart, this court is also of the opinion that if the state or the university wished to depart from the prevailing understanding, appropriate measures could have been taken, putting all the concerned parties to notice, through amendments. In the absence of any such move, the departure from the prevailing understanding through a discordant judgment, as the impugned judgment is, injects uncertainty. Long ago, this court had underlined this aspect while ruling that long standing or established status quo brought about by judgments interpreting local or state laws, should not be lightly departed from, even by this Court, in Raj Narain Pandey v Sant Prasad Tewari & Ors [1973 (2) SCR 835].”

Court held that, “The appellants are entitled, consequently, to continue till the end of the following June on re-employment. If any of them has been superannuated, he or she shall be issued with orders of reinstatement, with full salary for the period they were out of employment, and allowed to continue till the following June, on re-employment basis.”

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