HC quashes SRTC’s order on ‘golden handshake’

HC quashes SRTC’s order on ‘golden handshake’
High court of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar branch. [Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir]

The High Court quashed J&K SRTC's 'golden handshake' scheme regarding a number of aggrieved employees who had approached it to challenge an order which the corporation had issued on 21 October 2008.

Through this order, the corporation had shown the door to the aggrieved employees without their consent.

A bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey while deciding a batch of three petitions also directed the authorities to reinstate in service those petitioners who had not reached the age of superannuation or provide post-retirement service benefits to others who surpassed the age of retirement.

While quashing the order dated 21 October 2008 of the corporation, the court directed the authorities concerned to forthwith process the case of these aggrieved employees for the release of service benefits – reinstatement in service or post-retirement service benefits – whichever was applicable as per the status they were having in the corporation.

However, the court made it clear that these aggrieved employees would be entitled to all the service emoluments and benefits under rules notionally as if they had continued in service without any interruption and monetarily from the date they were taken back in service by the corporation. 

The court issued these directions after observing that before offering a 'golden handshake' scheme to its employees, the corporation had to identify the surplus staff with pre-determined timeframe and offer them the scheme, thereby indicating the target date for availing the same, failing which they could be liable to be disengaged after following the procedure prescribed by the law.

"On the other hand, those eligible employees who desired to seek voluntary retirement had to apply to the competent authority through his or her head of the wing in the prescribed format and the decision of the competent authority regarding the acceptance and rejection of voluntary retirement application had to be communicated to the employee concerned within 30 days of the submission of the application," the court said.

In this context, the court held that the corporation had not produced any record which would show that the procedure prescribed in the scheme itself was followed.

"It is not forthcoming from any document placed on record by the corporation before offering any 'golden handshake' scheme that has in fact identified the closed units or totally unviable units as was mandated by the government order dated 16 July 2007, meaning thereby that the entire process has been initiated without determining the eligibility as provided in Clause 3 of the government order and without following the procedure prescribed in Clause 5 of the said government order," the court said.

Regarding the contention by the corporation on applicability of the Doctrine of Estoppel to the case after the petitioners having accepted the ex-gratia amount, the court said that it was well settled legal position that any action which was without jurisdiction or nullity or in violation of the procedure in vogue could not be brought into effect for invoking the principle.

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