Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 – Section 15(1) – Kerala Administrative Tribunal – All service matters relating to any person who is doing any service to the government in connection with the affairs of the State will have to be dealt with by the State Tribunal constituted under the Administrative Tribunals Act.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM
S. SIRI JAGAN, J.
ZWP(C) Nos.229 & 231 of 2012
Dated this the 31st day of May, 2012
FOR PETITIONERS : BY ADVS.SRI.M.R.SABU, SMT.ANU SIVARAMAN, SMT.S.SHEEJA KUMARY (AYOOR); FOR RESPONDENTS : BY GOVERNMENT PLEADER SRI.M.A.FAYAZ
J U D G M E N T
These writ petitions come up before me for deciding the question as to whether these writ petitions should be entertained by this Court or should the petitioners be relegated to the jurisdiction of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal. In the first writ petition, the petitioners are HR/CLR workers under the Department of Irrigation of the Government of Kerala. In the other writ petition, the petitioners are part time sweepers in the Department of Sports and Youth affairs and the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs. The Registry noted a defect that the petitioners being employees of the Government of Kerala working under departments of the State Government, the jurisdiction lies with the Kerala Administrative Tribunal under
Section 15 of the Administrative Tribunals Act.
The learned counsel for the petitioners contend that they are not regular employees in the State or Subordinate service of the Government of Kerala and, therefore, the jurisdiction vests with this Court. According to them, under Section 15(1)(b) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, only service matters of parsons appointed to any civil service of the State or any civil post under the State can be entertained by the Administrative Tribunal. They submit that the word, “Services” is defined in the
Kerala Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1960
as a group of persons classified by the State Government as a State or Subordinate Service, as the case may be. Going by that definition, insofar as the petitioners are not classified by the State Government as State or subordinate service members, the Tribunal does not have jurisdiction and jurisdiction rests with this Court. They also rely on the decision of the Supreme Court in
Phool Badan Tiwari v. Union of India, (2003) 9 SCC 304
2. I have heard the learned Government Pleader also on the question as to whether this Court should entertain these writ petitions or the petitioners should be relegated to the Administrative Tribunal. According to the learned Government Pleader, the jurisdiction vests with the Kerala Administrative Tribunal in view of the definition of “service matters’ in the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. The matter has to be considered in the light of Section 15 (1) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. The same reads thus:
15. Jurisdiction, powers and authority of State Administrative Tribunals
(1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act , the Administrative Tribunal for a State shall exercise, on and from the appointed day, all the jurisdiction, powers and authority exercisable immediately before that day by all courts (except the Supreme Court) in relation to-
(a) recruitment, and matters concerning recruitment, to any civil service of the State or to any civil post under the State;
(b) all service matters concerning a person not being a person referred to in clause (c) of this sub-section or a member, person or civilian referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 14 appointed to any civil service of the State or any civil post under the State and pertaining to the service of such person in connection with the affairs of the State or of any local or other authority under the control of the State Government or of any corporation or society owned or controlled by the State Government;
(c) all service matters pertaining to service in connection with the affairs of the State concerning a person appointed to any service or post referred to in clause (b), being a person whose services have been placed by any such local or other authority or corporation or society or other body as is controlled or owned by the State Government, at the disposal of the State Government for such appointment.”
According to me, the said Section is couched in very wide terms, which would rope in all the employees of the State Government/ local authority/corporation/society etc. and the employees of the authorities notified by the Government under sub section (2) of Section 15. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘civil service’ as the administrative branches of the government and the group of people employed by these branches. Again the same Dictionary gives the meaning of ‘service’ as, “the act of doing something useful for a person or company for a fee” and “a person or company whose business is to do useful things for others” and “an intelligible commodity in the form of human effort, such as labour, skill or advice.”
In this connection, it must be noted that as per Section 4 of the Kerala Public Services Act, even if a person employed to any public service or post in connection with the affairs of the State of Kerala, answers the definition of ‘workman’ under the Industrial Disputes Act, his services conditions shall be governed by the Kerala Public Services Act and the Rules made thereunder. Reading all these provisions together, a conclusion that all service matters relating to any person who is doing any service to the government in connection with the affairs of the State will have to be dealt with by the State Tribunal constituted under the Administrative Tribunals Act.
I do not think that for deciding that issue, the definition given in KCS (CC&A) Rules can be imported. The word, “Services” is defined in Rule 2(f) of the KCS(CC&A) Rules. Section 2 starts with the phrase “In these rules”. Therefore, I am of opinion that the definition given therein is only for the purpose of those Rules and the same cannot be relied upon for the purpose of deciding the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal under Section 15 of the Administrative Tribunals Act. In the decision Phoon Badan Tiwari’s case (supra), the Supreme Court held that certain persons employed as supervisors in handcraft centres under a beneficial scheme of the Railway Department intended to help wives and daughters are not employees of the Railway. I am of opinion that the ratio of that decision will not apply this case. In that case, the employees were employed in handcraft centres for helping the wives and daughters of railway servants, unconnected with the work of the Railway Department and that is why, the Supreme Court held that they are not Railway employees. Under Section 15(1)(b), service matters pertaining to the service of such person in connection with the affairs of the State etc. lie within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, which stipulation was not satisfied in that case. But here the petitioners are directly employed in a department of the Government of Kerala in connection with the affairs of the State. They are paid from the funds of the Department, which is provided by the State Government. The words, “service matters” of the employees have been defined in the Act. Section 2(q) defines “service matters” thus:
‘(q) “service matters”, in relation to a person, means all mattes relating to the conditions of his service in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State or of any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India, or, as the case may be, of any corporation or society owned or controlled by the Government, as respects –
(i) remuneration (including allowances), pension and other retirement benefits;
(ii) tenure including confirmation, seniority, promotion, reversion, premature retirement and superannuation;
(iii) leave of any kind;
(iv) disciplinary matters; or
(v) any other matter whatsoever;”
That definition is also couched in very wide terms to rope in all persons who are employed by the Government of India or State Government or any local or other authority under the control of the Government of India or any corporation or society owned or controlled by the Government when their service pertains to the affairs of the State etc. The very object of establishing an Administrative Tribunal is to vest the Tribunal with all powers to decide questions relating to service matters of the employees of the State Government and other government entities mentioned in Section 15(1) and notified under Section 15(2). I am of opinion that the same has to be construed liberally so as to bring service matters of all employees in government service, who are working in connection with the affairs of the State or other entities mentioned in Section 15, within the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal as far as possible, failing which, the very object of enacting the Act will be defeated. Here the petitioners are paid from the coffers of the State. They are working for the benefit of the Government in connection with the affairs of the State. They are engaged in the work of Government departments directly. Their service conditions are regulated by orders issued by the Government from time to time. Therefore, I am of opinion that the subject matters of these writ petitions would squarely come within the purview Section 15(1) of the Administrative Tribunals Act. Consequently, these writ petitions are not maintainable before this Court. Accordingly, the Registry shall return the writ petitions without prejudice to the right of the petitioners to approach the Kerala Administrative Tribunal for the reliefs prayed for in these writ petitions.