SC upholds raise for staff who upgrade qualifications

Landmark verdict

The Supreme Court has held that giving in-service employees incentives for acquiring additional qualifications would in no way be discriminatory to the new recruits who are appointed with similar higher degrees.

A bench of Justices D K Jain and A R Dave said that such a measure was beneficial for the organization as well as for the personal growth of the staff.

The bench also said that it would not be in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution if the move did not affect the seniority or promotion.

“In our opinion, grant of the incentive in relation to the in-service employees, in no way amounts to discrimination between the in-service employees and the employees recruited with higher qualification, offending either Articles 14 or 16 of the Constitution, particularly when the incentive is in the form of a special increment as ‘personal pay’ to be merged in pay at the time of promotion to the next higher grade and thus, having no bearing on the inter-se seniority and/or to the future promotion to the next higher grade,” the court said.

The apex court allowed a civil appeal filed by Food Corporation of India against an order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court of May 2002 holding a circular giving benefits to the employees for obtaining higher qualification during their service as discriminatory and in violation of Articles 14 (equality) and 16 (equality of opportunity in matter of public
employment) of the Constitution.

The FCI had, through a 1985 circular, introduced a scheme providing incentives to its employees on acquiring additional qualifications during their service.

In its verdict, the bench referred to a previous decision of the apex court whereby it has been held: “Article 14 of the Constitution permits reasonable classification based on qualities or characteristics of persons recruited and grouped together, as against those who are left out. Courts should interfere with the administrative decisions pertaining to pay fixation and pay parity only when they find such a decision to be unreasonable, unjust and prejudicial to a section of employees and taken in ignorance of material and relevant factors.”

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