Mumbai: 'University’s Functioning Cannot Be At The Cost Of Welfare Of Employees', Says Bombay High Court

Mumbai: 'University’s Functioning Cannot Be At The Cost Of Welfare Of Employees', Says Bombay High Court

The court also took exception to the University’s stand that it shall generate sufficient corpus by June 2025 after which it will start paying these employees, who were non-teaching staff.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 12:06 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | File pic

Mumbai: Observing that University’s functioning cannot be at the cost of the employees’ welfare, the Bombay High Court has directed the Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) university to pay the retirement benefits to over employees as per the 7th Pay Commission within three months, in three instalments.

The court also took exception to the University’s stand that it shall generate sufficient corpus by June 2025 after which it will start paying these employees, who were non-teaching staff.

“When 7th pay commission was made applicable, the University ought to have started on the path of securing funds and creating of corpus. It is not to be created and efforts are not to be made, only after a petition is filed in this Court,” a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Sathaye said.

The bench remarked that when it had asked the University to submit a time limit, the University, in its affidavit did not state efforts made by it to raise the funds.

“That leaves us no option but to set a time limit for the payment. It cannot be that there is absolute refusal even to consider paying any amount till after one year i.e. till June 2025. Such a stand on the part of a Statutory University in respect of its own employees, cannot be accepted,” the bench added. It added that if such a conduct of the University is accepted, the colleges affiliated to it “will be emboldened to disregard dues of its own teaching and non teaching staff."

The HC was hearing a batch of petitions, filed between 2022 and 2024, seeking directions to the University to release their pensionary benefits as per the 7th Pay Commision. Some of the petitioners, who were senior citizens, expired and their petitions are being pursued by their legal heir. University contended that it will pay the pension as per 7th pay commission after sufficient corpus is generated which the University expects from June 2025.

The bench noted that it had asked the University to “take a reasonable stand” regarding payment by instalment, however, “unfortunately” there was no positive response. Also, this is not the first time that the University’s employees have to “struggle to get their pensionary benefits”, and this University has a history of not paying its employees in time, the bench underlined.

SNDT University is a statutory body governed under the Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016. “The Act of 2016 is brought about for strengthening and regulating the public universities regarding standard of education and academic excellence. This cannot be achieved without the participation of the teaching and non teaching staff of the University. The functioning of the University cannot be at the cost of the welfare of its employees,” the bench emphasised.

The judges have directed the University to commence payment of pensionary benefits, including dearness allowance, to the Petitioners as per 7th pay commission from 1 July 2024 onwards. “33% of the arrears as on date, shall be paid to the Petitioners within three months from today. Next 33% of the arrears shall be paid within three months thereafter and the remaining 34% of the arrears shall be paid within three months further thereafter,” it said.

The court has clarified that if the University fails to pay the first instalment in three months, “the facility of next two instalments would be withdrawn and entire pending arrears will become payable within six months.”

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