Monday, 2 February 2015

HC seeks Punjab reply on ‘pick and choose’ in service extension

The Punjab and Haryana high court has issued a notice to the Punjab government and allowed continuation of service of a superintending engineer of the public works department whom the government had denied extension of services after superannuation.

NK Dhir was to retire on December 31 and had applied for the extension as per a government scheme three months prior to that. However, his case was rejected by the government stating that an order had been passed in October 2014 whereby those against whom some departmental proceedings were underway were not to get extension.
The petitioner’s counsel Girish Agnihotri submitted before the court that government was resorting to a “pick and choose” policy and also that the petitioner had applied for extension prior to the relevant government notification.

The HC observed that the petitioner’s argument was that government instructions indicated towards grant of extension as a norm and denial an exception. “He would stretch his argument to say… that the employer would possibly have no choice to retain him in service after superannuation even if departmental proceedings are pending. If that be so, then the instructions and the rules would necessarily require an interpretation,” the HC observed, seeking the state’s reply.
The court also stated that a debatable point had come up about the government’s discretion and the parameters for it. “If a denial has to be accorded to an employee, then would it be clarified by sufficient reasons? The settled law relating to the issue of every executive action being supported by reasons, which can withstand judicial scrutiny, would obviously be the correct answer to the aforesaid question,” the HC said, also observing that in practice it had been seen that grant and denial of extension beyond the age of superannuation were “more often than not, never supported by a justification”. This, as per the court, had increasingly lent a “tinge of arbitrariness” to the exercise.
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