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Setback to Speaker, Govt as termination of Vidhan Sabha employees stayed by HC

By Arun Pratap Singh
Nainital/Dehradun, 15 Oct: In what can be described as a major setback for Speaker, Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, and even for the BJP Government, Uttarakhand High Court today stayed the decision of Speaker Bhushan of terminating the employees of the Assembly Secretariat, who had been given irregular appointments by two of her predecessor speakers namely, Prem Chand Aggarwal and Govind Singh Kunjwal. The High Court has issued notices to Speaker Khanduri and to the government. Next hearing in this case has been fixed on 19 December.
The Uttarakhand High Court today stayed the order of dismissal of more than a hundred employees of the Vidhan Sabha Secretariat. It may be recalled that Assembly Speaker Ritu Khanduri Bhushan had taken the decision to sack these employees, on the basis of the recommendations of the Kotia Committee. These were the employees who had been given irregular appointments without any competition and even the posts had not been advertised.
Yesterday the single bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari had expressed displeasure over not giving these employees an opportunity of being heard, and asked the assembly to clarify its position on this point.
The single bench of the High Court today stayed the orders of the Speaker issued between 27 and 29 September, terminating the services of more than a hundred employees in “greater public interest” over the allegations of backdoor appointments. The Court has sought answers from other parties including the government. After this ban, there is relief for these employees at present and the way to get back their jobs has been found. However, the court has given liberty to the government that if it wants, it can make all the appointments properly. However, it remains to be seen if the relief remains temporary or becomes permanent when a final judgement is made.
It may be recalled that recently, about 228 people had been terminated over allegations of being given backdoor appointments by Speakers of the Assembly.
The Termination orders had been challenged in the High Court by Bhupendra Singh Bisht and other employees. Their petition claims that ad-hoc appointments had been made to the posts of the Legislative Assembly continuously since the year 2000. However, while the appointments up to the year 2014 had been regularised, those who had been appointed in a similar manner in the year 2014 and after have been terminated. The petitioners had also contended that they were also working against regular posts and reminded the Court that there was a provision of regularisation after six months of service in the Assembly Manual, but it had been ignored in their case.
It may be recalled further that one weakness that perhaps led to stay of the termination order is failure to mention any ground for termination of services. The termination order says that the decision had been taken in public interest but had failed to mention specifically that termination was on grounds of irregular appointment.
However, it would perhaps be pertinent to point out here that following the history making judgement of the Supreme Court made in Uma Devi vs State of Karnataka case pertaining to the year 2013, doors for regularisation of irregularly appointed employees or those who had been appointed on ad-hoc basis have been virtually shut across the country. Whether the precedence of this case is taken into consideration by the Uttarakhand High Court will have to be seen. So far there is no judgement and only notices have been issued while staying the orders of termination. It will also be interesting to note what will be the response of Speaker Ritu Khanduri and the government of Uttarakhand who had been issued notices by the Court.