Govt can change policy to balance public interest: SC

Supreme Court in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court has said that the government enjoyed unfettered freedom to change its policy, even in breach of its promise, to balance the overriding public interest.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta set aside the Kerala High Court's directions to the state government to provide employment to a large number of displaced workers who lost their earnings due to ban on 'arrack' on April 1, 1996.

“We are not in agreement with the findings recorded by the High Court that a right of appointment accrued to the respondents and it matured into a Right to Life as provided in Article 21 of the Constitution. We disapprove the opinion of the High Court,” the bench said.

The high court had issued its directions in view of the promise by the state government to the workers of their re-employment after their agitation for rehabilitation.

“The promise held out by the government to provide employment to the displaced 'Abkari' workers had become an impossible task in view of the non-availability of vacancies. The decision taken in overriding public interest was a measure to strike a balance between the competing interest of the displaced workers and unemployed youth in Kerala,” the bench said.

The top court held that the change in policy cannot be said to be excessive or disproportionate. The expectation of the workers for consideration against the 25% of the future vacancies in the Kerala State Beverages Corporation was not legitimate, it said.

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