HC puts CAT's order against paying salary to FC H&ME on hold

High court of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar branch. [Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir]

The High Court (HC) Friday put on hold Central Administrative Tribunal’s order by virtue of which paying of salary to the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department was to be stopped till further orders.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Sindhu Sharma held that until further orders from the court, the direction for the stoppage of the salary of the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department would remain in abeyance.

Hearing a writ petition filed by the government against CAT, the bench said that no proceedings were initiated for contempt of any order and the order was not in any contempt petition.

“We find that such a direction is prima facie not warranted under the law,” the bench said.

Dr Arshad Bhat who was working as Consultant Radiology, SMGS, Jammu and was transferred on 30th December 2019 by way of deputation at GMC, Doda challenged his transfer order in a writ petition.

Before the HC in an interim order stayed the transfer and relieving order on 13 February 2020, the writ petition was transferred to CAT.

Dr Bhat filed an application for the implementation of the HC before the CAT and against the order passed on the said application and preferred a writ petition.

The writ petition said that an interim order was passed on 20 July 2020 staying the order of the tribunal dated 9 July 2020 and directing the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department to ensure that the petitioner performed his duties in SMGS Hospital, Jammu.

Subsequently, this writ petition was got dismissed as withdrawn with the result, the above interim order ceased to exist.

Dr Bhat filed some other applications before the CAT inter alia seeking implementation of the interim order of the High Court 13 February 2020 as also of the CAT.

In dealing with the said applications, there was a difference of opinion between two members of the CAT.

While one member was of the view that Dr Bhat was relieved on 1st January 2020 and there was no requirement of the implementation of the interim order of the High Court, the other member took a different view and the matter was referred to the third member.

The third member of the CAT vide order dated 17th February 2021 observed that the withdrawal of the subsequent writ petition on 15th October 2020 did not obliterate the effect of the interim order passed therein on 20th July 2020, which, he said was patently an illegal observation contrary to the settled law.

The said member thereafter observed that the petitioners had failed to establish that Dr Bhat was actually relieved on 1st January 2020 and accordingly directed for the implementation of the order of the HC dated 13the February 2020 agreeing with the opinion of the judicial member.

Later, the tribunal under order dated 8th March 2021 directed not to release the salary of the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir till next date of listing as the order of the HC was not implemented.

Aggrieved with the order dated 8th March 2021 and the order dated 17th February 2021 passed by the CAT, the J&K government preferred the instant writ petition.

“We are of the view that the entire controversy will have come to the rest if the tribunal had taken a little precaution to decide the main case rather than dealing with the miscellaneous applications time and again,” the bench said.

Regarding the submission that Dr Bhat was not being paid his salary, the bench said that it did not find that any order passed by the tribunal on any of his application asking for the payment of the salary.

The court asked Dr Bhat’s counsel, Abhimanyu Sharma to file counter affidavit in this petition within one month and allowed the petitioners to file rejoinder two weeks thereafter.

It listed the matter for admission and final disposal on 25the May 2021.

In the meantime, the court said it would be open for Dr Bhat to press for his application for the payment of the salary.

“We expect that the CAT will do its best to decide the main petition on merits most promptly, if possible on the next date itself which is fixed in the case, as we are told by the parties that they have exchanged their pleadings therein,” the bench said.