New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that a retired government employee who is a Kashmiri migrant would not be entitled to retain government accommodation for a period exceeding three years, in Delhi or in the National Capital Region or anywhere in the country.
The top court said the three-year period can also be considered as a cooling-off period for the officers who were in active intelligence work so that they can resume normal life but the excuse of once working for an intelligence agency is not a valid ground to occupy the government accommodation for an indefinite period.
It noted the Centre's submission that with the abrogation of Article 370 from the Constitution of India, the Kashmiri migrants have started moving back to the Kashmir Valley and nearly 2000 of them are likely to return in the year 2021.
It noted 80 Kashmiri migrants who are retired employees are in possession of government accommodation in Delhi and three in Faridabad of Haryana.
A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna dismissed three applications filed by retired government employees who are occupants of the government accommodation in Delhi and in the National Capital Region on the strength of an order passed by the Delhi High Court and said that “The compassion could not be extended in perpetuity and has to end”.
The top court also gave liberty to the Centre to file an application for modification of the order in respect of the 31 retirees as well who are covered by the 2009 verdict in the case of JL Koul and others versus Jammu and Kashmir and allotted government houses.
The bench said that the court found it reasonable if Kashmiri migrants are allowed government accommodation for a period of three years from the date of retirement, so as to make alternative arrangements within such period.
“If the alternative accommodation is not available for them at their instance, they are at liberty to move to the transit accommodation or to avail cash amount in lieu of transit accommodation. Thus, a retired government employee who is a Kashmiri migrant would not be entitled to retain Government accommodation for a period exceeding three years, may be in Delhi or in the National Capital Region or for that matter anywhere in the country,” it said.
The bench referred to the rehabilitation scheme issued by Centre on March 28, 2017, as an office memorandum pursuant to the direction of the High Court and said that Kashmiri Pandits were to be accommodated in Delhi for the first five years starting from the date of their retirement and thereafter be shifted to National Capital Region.
“To say that they would return to the Valley when the situation will improve is an open-ended statement capable of being interpreted in different ways. The satisfaction of improvement of situation would be widely different by the erstwhile Government employees and the State. But in no case it can be countenanced that the former Government employee may be a Kashmiri migrant, is entitled to stay in a government accommodation for an indefinite period. Thus, we are unable to uphold the Office Memorandum and strike it down as being totally arbitrary and discriminatory,” it said.
The bench said that the Office Memorandum allowing government accommodation to the retired government employees who are Kashmiri migrants cannot meet the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution.
It said that the government houses/flats are meant for serving government employees and post-retirement, the government employees including Kashmiri migrants are granted pensionary benefits including monthly pension.
“The classification made in favour of Government employees who were Kashmiri migrants stands on the same footing as that of other Government employees or public figures. There cannot be any justification on the basis of social or economic criteria to allow the Kashmiri Migrants to stay in government accommodation for an indefinite long period,” it held.
It said that the Office Memorandum issued on March 28, 2017, was in terms of the directions of the Delhi High Court and that order has not been approved by this Court on August 5, 2021.