Salary, pension fundamental right of staff; HC dismisses NrMCD plea to extend time to clear arrears

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New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) Getting salaries and pension is a fundamental right of employees or retirees, said the Delhi High Court on Monday while dismissing a plea by North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NrDMC) to extend the time for clearing arrears of staff, which expires today.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli rejected an application by the corporation seeking extension of time to clear arrears of salaries and pension of serving and retired employees of all categories from April 5 to April 30.

“The right of employees to get salaries and pension is a fundamental right. The right to get salaries and pension is a part of right to life and liberty under the Constitution. Therefore, we are not inclined to pass any order which will infringe upon the rights of employees,” the bench said.

The high court said non availability of funds is no ground to not pay salaries and pension on time.

“NrDMC has employed the personnel to render their services. It is for the corporation to find ways and means to pay its employees,” it said.

The high court had on March 9, directed all the three municipal corporations of Delhi -- East, North and South -- to positively clear all the arrears of pension and salaries of all the ex-employees and serving staff of all categories on or before April 5.

It had said the commissioners of each MCD shall be personally responsible to ensure compliance of this direction.

On Monday, Advocate Divya Prakash Pande, representing NrDMC, sought extension of time to clear the arrears on the ground of non-receipt of basic tax assignment (BTA) from the Delhi government to the extent the same should have been paid.

The court said after considering the plea, it had on March 24 directed the Delhi government to make payment of the remaining amount due towards BTA to the three MCDs as per its revised estimate by the end of financial year 2020-21, that is, March 31, 2021.

According to NrDMC, the amount has been paid by the Delhi government but after making some deductions.

Its counsel said they have paid the pension and salaries of all employees till January 2021 and sanitation workers have been paid till February this year.

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing the Delhi government, said it was the only government which was not getting grants from the Centre to pay municipal corporations and that they have to manage their own affairs also.

To this, the bench said, “You cannot run away from your responsibilities. If you have a grievance about not receiving grants from the Central government, you file an application and we will deal with it. But this is not a time to make these adjustments and recover money from them. You can’t shrug off your liabilities. We are not living in ivory towers.” The bench also questioned the state government for raising the issue of shortage of funds and at the same time giving full page advertisements in newspapers with pictures of politicians daily.

“From where that money is coming. Spending money in these times on propaganda. Is this not criminal? You will gain more goodwill by ensuring payment of salaries to these employees,” it said.

Sethi said the corporations cannot be paid in excess of what they are entitled to get and added that South MCD is the most lucrative corporation and that the government was under severe pressure from all counts.

Advocate Manu Chaturvedi, representing EDMC, submitted that they have cleared all the dues, including salaries and pension, till March 31.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on April 27.

The court was earlier informed that as per the revised estimate of Delhi government, the amount payment by the state to EDMC, SDMC and NrDMC towards BTA is Rs 864.8 crore, Rs 405.2 crore and Rs 764.8 crore respectively in the financial year 2020-21.

The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it based on news reports that doctors of Kasturba Gandhi Hospital have threatened to resign as they have not been paid salaries since March last year.

Besides this, various other petitions relating to non-payment of salaries and pensions to teachers, hospital staff, sanitation workers, engineers are also pending in the court. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS