The Himachal Pradesh High Court has strongly criticized the state government for its exploitative employment practices, asserting that the state must serve as a model employer and safeguard the rights of its citizens.

In a recent judgment, a bench comprising Justices Vivek Singh Thakur and Bipin Chander Negi expressed its disapproval of the government’s approach to offering contractual appointments at the outset, primarily to deny rightful benefits to employees. The court found such practices to be against the state’s role as a model employer and protector of citizens’ rights.

The case centered around petitioners who were initially appointed as Tehsil Welfare Officers on a contractual basis by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment of the Government of Himachal Pradesh in May 2010. Although they had followed the mandated recruitment rules, the state opted for providing only contractual appointments for an initial five-year period, depriving these employees of regular benefits and seniority.

Consequently, the petitioners approached the court, seeking various reliefs, including the inclusion of their contract service for annual increments, seniority, and pensionary benefits.

The court strongly condemned the state’s actions, emphasizing that it was unacceptable for the government to resort to contractual appointments solely to avoid providing rightful benefits to its employees. It also observed that there was no valid or logical explanation presented in the records for the decision to opt for contractual appointments initially instead of granting regular employment.

The court’s judgment stated, “It appears, in order to avoid its liability to pay salary attached to the post and to deprive the employees of lawful service benefits available to them, an exploitative policy of contract appointment for an initial five years has been and is being adopted and practiced.”

The bench highlighted that the state’s arbitrary omissions and commissions were in direct contradiction to the principles outlined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

As a result, the court ruled in favor of the petitioners, allowing them to consider their contract service from their initial appointment for seniority, annual increments, and all associated benefits. The court directed the respondents to complete this process by December 31, 2023, and disburse arrears following the Finance Department’s guidelines.

The court dismissed the argument for restricting monetary benefits to the three years before the petition was filed, as it found no delay in the petitioners’ approach to the court, given that they were regularized in May 2016 and approached the court in April 2017.

This judgment serves as a strong reminder that the government should uphold the highest standards as an employer and guardian of citizens’ rights, rather than resorting to exploitative employment practices. It highlights the importance of treating employees fairly and ensuring they receive the benefits they are entitled to as public servants.

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