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Supreme Court Directs the High Court to Re-examine Employee Regularization Dispute: Requested the High Court to Expedite the Prolonged Litigation

Case Title – Solapur Municipal Corporation Vs. Shankarrao Govindrao Patil & Ors. Etc. 2024 INSC 423

Case Number – Civil Appeal No. 9127-9132/2018 with Civil Appeal No. 9133/2018

Dated on – 15th May, 2024

Quorum – Justice Sanjay Kumar

FACTS OF THE CASE
In the case of Solapur Municipal Corporation Vs. Shankarrao Govindrao Patil & Ors. Etc. 2024 INSC 423, the Solapur Municipal Corporation, herein the Appellant, instituted six appeals against a judgment dated 31st of July, 2013, passed by a Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, which allowed the Writ Petition Nos. 197/2012, 2011/2003 and 2432/2003. The decision of the High Court recognized the Respondents, former employees of Majarewadi Gram Panchayat (merged with the Solapur Municipal Corporation), as having been absorbed by the corporation from the 5th of May, 1992 and entitled to regular service benefits. A subsequent order dated 8th of August, 1992 dismissed the review petitions filed by the Corporation. Another writ petition, W.P. No. 2463/2010, followed the same judgment, and the Corporation instituted a Civil Appeal No. 9133/2018 against this decision.

ISSUES
The main issue of the case whirled around whether the Respondents, employees of Majarewadi Gram Panchayat, were regular employees entitled to absorption by Solapur Municipal Corporation from the date of the merger on the 5th of August, 1992?

Whether the services of the Respondents from the dated 5th of May, 1992 to 1st of February,2003 should be treated as a regular service with the Corporation?
Whether the Respondents were entitled to service and retirement benefits based on the claim that their service should be deemed regular from the merger date?

LEGAL PROVISIONS
Section 493(5)(C) of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949 stated that all officers and servants in the employ of the said municipality or local authority immediately before the appointed day shall be officers and servants employed by the Corporation under this Act and shall, until other provision is made in accordance with the provisions of this Act, receive salaries and allowances and be subject to the conditions of service to which they were entitled or subject on such date

Section 493 of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949 prescribes the Continuation of appointments, taxes, budget estimates, assessments, etc.
Article 136 of the Constitution of India prescribes the Special Leave to appeal by the Supreme Court

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT
The Appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the Respondents were daily wage workers until the 1st of February, 2003 and not regular employees from the 5th of May, 1992.

The Appellant referred to a corporation resolution dated 31st of August, 2002, which made the 300 employees permanent only from the date of government approval i.e., the 25th of March, 2003 and clarified that the arrears for earlier periods were not permissible.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT
The Respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that they were regular employees of Majarewadi Gram Panchayat before the merger, thereby entitling them to regularization from the 5th of May, 1992 under Section 493(5)(C) of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949.

A resolution was produced by the Respondents from the Majarewadi Gram Panchayat dated 20th of March, 1992, indicating the permanent appointments of employees from the 31st of March, 1992 and individual appointment orders as proof of their regular employment status.
It was asserted that their service from the merger date till their regularization in 2003 should be considered continuous and regular, thus entitling them to full-service benefits.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT
The court in the case of Solapur Municipal Corporation Vs. Shankarrao Govindrao Patil & Ors. Etc. 2024 INSC 423, examined the Section 493 of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, especially the clause 5(C) in Appendix IV, which addresses the continuation of appointments and conditions of service for employees of merged municipalities. The court observed the new documentary evidences furnished by the Respondents, inclusive of the resolutions and appointment orders, which were not previously considered by the High Court. The court observed that the High Court had based its judgment on an affidavit and the sanction of 300 posts but did not have the opportunity to scrutinize the new judgments. The Supreme Court allowed the appeals, set aside the judgment of the High Court dated 31st of July, 2013 and the 8th of August, 2014 and remanded the matter to the High Court for reconsideration of the new documents. The court permitted both the parties to submit further documentary evidence. The High Court was requested to prioritize and expedite the case, taking into consideration the prolonged nature of the litigation. Each party was to bear its own cost and all pending applications were disposed of.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana
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