Non-extension of service contract not same as terminating a service contract: High court of Calcutta

An employer is well within his rights to extend the service contract of a contractual employee as long as his services are required by the employer. Only because of the reason that the project in which they were engaged continued for several years, the petitioners cannot claim regularisation/absorption in regular service  This was decided in the case of Sudip Mitra vs. Gayeshpur Municipality & Ors.[WPA No. 6365 of 2020] by Hon’ble Judge Amrita Sinha in the High court of Calcutta.

The petitioners were appointed as Sub-Assistant Engineer (Civil) on 9th February, 2008 in the Gayeshpur Municipality on contractual basis. The engagement letter of the petitioners specifically mentions that they have been engaged on contract basis for the project duration period for execution of schemes under JNNURM in the Municipality on a consolidated remuneration of Rs.8,000/- per month. A formal agreement was entered into between the petitioners and the Gayeshpur Municipality. There were certain terms and conditions mentioned in the contractual agreement. The petitioners agreed that they will not claim regular appointment and/or absorption to the said engagement merely by the reason of the agreement. After the expiry of the aforesaid contractual period the Municipality did not extend their service contract. The petitioners are aggrieved by the same.

In the said advisory it was mentioned that the termination of employee from the job in such a scenario would deepen the crisis and will not only weaken the financial condition of the employee but also destroy their moral to combat with the pandemic. The petitioners submit that the Municipality ought to have acted in accordance with the advice given by the Central Government and ought to have permitted the petitioners to continue with their service.

It has been contended that terminating the service of the petitioners in the midst of a crisis caused by the pandemic is against public policy. . According to the petitioners the same is impermissible in view of the judgment delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Hargurpratap Singh –vs- State of Punjab & Ors. (2007) 3 SCC 292 where the court directed the ad hoc employees to continue in service till regular appointments are made on minimum of the pay scale.

The advocate representing the Municipality submits that the engagement of the petitioners was purely temporary and contractual. The engagement was project based.

The court was of the view that the service of the petitioners was never terminated. The Municipality is not bound to offer an explanation as to why the services of the petitioners have not been renewed further. The petitioners were all along contractual employees. They were all along aware that their service contract is valid so long as the project remains in operation. The moment the project came to an end the service contract of the petitioners automatically ended.

The court asserted that not extending a service contract is quite different from terminating a service contract and hence dismissed the petition

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