Bombay High Court says long term appointment of temporary employees does not lead to regularization of service

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In a recent decision, the Bombay High Court, in the case of The Chief Officer, Pen Municipal Council & Ors. v. Shekhar B. Abhang & Ors., held that regularization of services cannot be claimed solely based on long-term continuance of employment, as this does not create an inherent right to regularization.

Background of the Case

The Pen Municipal Council engaged Shekhar B. Abhang as a clerk on December 4, 1997, to address service exigencies. Subsequently, the respondent was appointed as a Tax Inspector on a temporary basis, effective from August 1, 2003. However, the Municipal Council argued that this appointment was invalid due to the respondent’s lack of qualifications and the bypassing of senior clerks. As a result, the respondent’s service was terminated on January 31, 2004. The respondent then filed a complaint in the Industrial Court, seeking continued employment and preference for a regular appointment as a Tax Inspector. The Industrial Court directed the Municipal Council to regularize the respondent as a Tax Inspector and provide him with all consequential benefits. The Municipal Council challenged this order by filing a writ petition.

Arguments Presented

The petitioner, Pen Municipal Council, contended that the respondent’s appointment as a Tax Inspector was invalid because he was not qualified for the position and did not go through a regular selection process. The petitioner argued that the respondent’s temporary appointment did not confer any right to seek regularization. Furthermore, the petitioner claimed that the post of Tax Inspector had been vacant and lapsed until revived by the Directorate of Municipal Administration, with a directive to follow due selection procedures. Therefore, the petitioner argued that the Industrial Court’s order should be set aside.

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On the other hand, the respondent argued that he was not a backdoor entrant and that his appointment followed due process. The respondent referred to a letter from the District Employment and Self-Employment Guidance Center, Alibag, which indicated that his name was sponsored by the Employment Exchange. The respondent also cited orders that confirmed the existence of the Tax Inspector post and the resolution adopted by the General Body of the Municipal Council. The respondent maintained that he had been working as a Tax Inspector for a considerable time and that it would be unjust to disturb his appointment now.

Court’s Decision

The Bombay High Court relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Secretary, State of Karnataka & Ors. v. Umadevi & Ors., which established that regularization can only be considered in cases of irregular (not illegal) appointments against duly sanctioned posts where the employees have worked for ten years or more without court orders. The court observed that the respondent’s appointment was made against a sanctioned vacant post, and he was eligible for the position. The court also noted that the respondent had been working as a Tax Inspector since 2012, which meant he had put in more than 10 years of service. However, the court emphasized that long-term continuance of employment does not create an inherent right to regularization. Therefore, the court dismissed the writ petition filed by the Pen Municipal Council.

Conclusion

In the case of The Chief Officer, Pen Municipal Council & Ors. v. Shekhar B. Abhang & Ors., the Bombay High Court held that regularization of services cannot be claimed solely based on long-term continuance of employment. While the respondent’s appointment as a Tax Inspector was found to be valid, the court emphasized that long-term employment does not automatically entitle an employee to regularization.

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