Employees of private-aided schools cannot seek gratuity from BMC, says Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently held that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has no direct control on the functioning of private-aided schools by merely performing certain duties and exercising powers over such schools in the city. The HC accordingly ruled that no employee of such schools can make any claims against the civic body for the payment of gratuity.

A single-judge bench of Justice Suresh Gupte said, “Merely because the BMC performs certain duties and exercises certain powers under a regulatory framework of law vis-a-vis private primary aided schools and provides grant in aid to such schools, it cannot be said that it has ultimate control over the affairs of these schools.”

“The civic body does not qualify as an employer vis-a-vis any employee of such school including both teaching and non-teaching staff. No employee of such schools may have a claim against the BMC, under the Payment of Gratuity Act,” Justice Gupte ruled. In other words, to have a successful claim against MCGM, the claimant teacher on the staff of a private primary aided school must show that the school, in which he or she was working, was under the ultimate control of MCGM over its affairs, the judge observed.

The bench further said that such an employee may have a claim only against the school, i.e. his or her employer and not the corporation. The significant ruling comes in response to an appeal filed by the BMC challenging the ex-parte orders of an Industrial Court asking the civic body to pay Rs 10 lakh to Vrunda Kulkarni, a retired teacher of a private primary aided school.

While quashing the orders of the Industrial court, Justice Gupte said, “Though these orders are set aside in the present order, it will have to be clarified that Kulkarni will be entitled to make a claim for payment of gratuity against the school, who was in real term her employer.”

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