Employees are not barred from challenging their employer’s terms and conditions if they violate a statutory requirement: Supreme Court

An employee is not estopped from contesting employment terms and conditions if he feels he has been wronged. The teachers in the case of  Somesh Thapliyal Vs. Vice-Chancellor, H.N.B. Garhwal University L.L. 2021 SC 414 had challenged the arbitrary conditions of the letter of appointment restricting it to be on contract basis limited for three years in contravention of the statutory scheme of the Act, which had been substantively appointed after going through the process of selection provided under the Uttar Pradesh State Universities Act. They filed a writ petition seeking a declaration that, for all practical purposes, they are substantively appointed teachers and members of the Central University H.N.B. Garhwal University’s service, entitled to the same pay scale and notional consequential benefits as a regularly appointed teacher in the Central University’s service.

The University argued in front of the Supreme Court that these lecturers could not now contest the terms and circumstances of their letter of appointment because they had accepted them. The bench rejected this argument, stating that it is not open to a person appointed to public service to pick the terms and conditions under which he must serve.

“The submissions of the learned counsel for the respondents that 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. 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.”

The court stated that because these teachers went through the selection process provided under the Act’s scheme, regardless of whether the position is temporary or permanent, their appointment is substantive in nature and could be made permanent as soon as the post is permanently sanctioned by the competent authority. According to the court, they were entitled to claim their appointment as a member of the Central University’s teaching faculty in a substantive capacity against the permanent sanctioned job under the Act 2009.

Click here to read the Judgement

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