Maharashtra: University staff move SC in Rs 200 crore 'Designation Scam' case

Maharashtra: University staff move SC in Rs 200 crore 'Designation Scam' case

Between 2010 and 2012, the state's Higher and Technical Education Department had issued eight government resolutions (GR) that changed the designations and pay scales of the non-teaching staff without the necessary approval from the Finance Department.

Musab QaziUpdated: Friday, March 17, 2023, 02:24 PM IST
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The 'scam' came to light after the government received a number of complaints from other employees at the universities. | File (Representative Image)

Mumbai: Over a month after the Bombay High Court (HC) approved the withdrawal of 'illegal' salary hikes given to around 1,400 non-teaching staff at six universities more than a decade ago, the employees have moved the Supreme Court (SC).

In its January 31 order, the HC bench of Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice RN Laddha rejected the employees' plea to restore their new designations and salaries and prevent the state from retrieving the surplus payments.

Following the verdict, staffers from Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (BAMU) Aurangabad and Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) earlier this month filed Special Leave Petitions in SC challenging the HC judgement.

The state has filed a caveat in response to the pleas, which will together be heard today, on March 17, by the SC bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli.

AC Operator to Junior Engineer, 'illegal' pay hikes brew on

Between 2010 and 2012, the state's Higher and Technical Education Department had issued eight government resolutions (GR) that changed the designations and pay scales of the non-teaching staff without the necessary approval from the Finance Department. After it learned about the irregularity in 2018, the government cancelled the GRs and restored the old designation.

According to the findings of a probe committee appointed by the state in 2020, the revisions resulted in undue benefits to as many as 1,564 employees at all levels across six public universities namely SPPU, BAMU, Shivaji University Kolhapur, Kaviyatri Bahinabai Chaudhari North Maharashtra University Jalgaon, Sant Gadgebaba Amravati University and Gondwana University Gadchiroli.

In one instance, an 'AC Operator' became 'Junior Engineer' with an additional monthly salary of Rs 7,950, while in another, a 'Lab and General Assistant' was converted to a 'Research Associate' making him eligible for an additional payment of Rs 13,040 per month.

Over the years, the state exchequer lost an estimated lost Rs 200 crore in excess payments to employees, revealed a government official.

200 crore scam comes to light

The 'scam' came to light after the government received a number of complaints from other employees at the universities.

"After the implementation of 6th pay commission in the state in 2006, designations of various non-teaching posts at the universities were changed. However, while doing so the corresponding salaries for the posts were also increased, even though the duties of employees remained the same. The irregularity was committed by some government employees in collusion with the universities," said another official.

The state told HC that the process of framing a charge sheet against the erring officials is in progress.

However, the staffers have argued that changing the nomenclature of their posts did increase their workload. They believe that they are being punished for no fault of theirs.

"It's not of our concern if the Finance Department's approval wasn't sought before issuing the GRs. We will be in trouble if we are made to pay the money back. From marrying our children to building homes, many of us have plans underway," said Milind Bhosle, President of Shivaji Vidyapeeth Sevak Sangh, an association of Shivaji University employees and one of the petitioners against the government in HC.

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