On 01-06-2020, the Divisional Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Vipin Sanghi and Hon’ble Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar heard the case of Hitesh Bhardwaj vs Ministry of Finance, Union of India and Anr, via video-conferencing. Delhi High Court rejected a PIL seeking withdrawal of the notifications on freezing of enhanced Dearness Allowance of government employees
The petitioner, Hitesh Bhardwaj, put forward that Central Government Employees and Central Government Pensioners have a right to receive an increase in Dearness Allowance. The said increase was declared at 4% and the competent authority under the Disaster Management Act has not issued the impugned Office Memorandum. However, the Central Government in the impugned Office Memorandum cited COVID-19 as a reason for its decision.
Whereas the impugned Office Memorandum issued by the Central Government is in violation of Article 360 (4) (a) (i) of the Constitution of India. According to the Article 360 (4) (a) (i), it is only during the financial emergency, President of India can make a provision reducing the salaries and allowances of people connected with the affairs of the State. Since there is no financial emergency declared, the Office Memorandum could not have been issued. Such issuance of office Memorandum should have been either framed as a statutory rule or by issuing a gazette notification. Thus, it could not have been issued by a mere office order.
In the belief of the above stated argument the petitioner prayed the following:
• Issue a writ Mandamus or any other appropriate writ directing the withdrawal of the notifications issued by the Ministries of Finance of Central Government and Delhi Government.
• Issue a writ Mandamus or any other appropriate writ directing to defreeze and release the enhanced Dearness Allowance to the Government Servants and pensioners as per norms.
The Court observed that there is no statutory rule that requires the Central Government to enhance Dearness Allowance at regular intervals. The Central Government Employees or Central Government Pensioners have no such right vested to receive higher Dearness. Moreover, the 4% increase in Dearness Allowance is only postponed till 01-07-2021. Therefore, the Office Memorandum does not seek to take it away and to which the Central Government stated COVID-19 as the only justification for its postponement of Dearness Allowance contained in the Office Memorandum. Hence rendering the submission of the petitioner about the same is meritless.
The above stated beside the central government clarification for the delay in Dearness allowance is clearly stated in Subsection (1) of Section 3 of All India Services Act, 1952 and Rule 3 of the Rule which reads as follows:
“3. Regulation of dearness allowance:
Every member of the Service and every officer, who’s initial pay is fixed in accordance with sub-rule (5) or sub-rule (6A) of rule 4 of the Indian Administrative Service (Pay) Rules, 1954 or sub-rule (5) of rule 4 of the Indian Police Service (Pay) Rules, 1954 or sub-rule (6) of rule 4 of the Indian Forest Service (Pay) Rules, 1968, shall be entitled to draw dearness allowance at such rates, and subject to such conditions, as may be specified by the Central Government, from time to time, in respect of the officers of Central Civil Services, Class I. ”
The court cited that from the above-stated section it is clear that the Central Government servants shall be entitled to draw Dearness Allowance “at such rates, and subject to such conditions, as may be specified by the Central Government, from time to time, in respect of officers of the Central Civil Service, Class I”.
The court further noticed that there is no other rule or regulation that is brought to their notice relating to payment of Dearness Allowance or Dearness Relief and that the Rule governs the payment of Dearness Allowance and Dearness Relief to Government servants and Government Pensioners of the Union in respect of all the classes of employees and the Central Government.
The court also observed that the petitioner’s submission about the violation of Article 360(4) (a) (i) is misplaced and the Office Memorandum only freezes the payment of Dearness Allowance at the pre-existing level. It does not in any way reduces the salaries or allowances and there is no such law that requires the Central Government to communicate about Dearness Allowance only via framing another rule, or by a gazette notification. Thus, this submission had no merit.
On the basis of the court observations and the arguments put forward by the petitioner, the court decided that there is no law that obliges the Central Government to disburse the increase in Dearness Allowance within a specific time and Rule 3 of All India Services (Dearness Allowance) Rules only empowers the Central Government to lay down the conditions subject to which Dearness Allowance may be given to Government employees. Therefore, the Court dismisses this petition as it does not find any merit in it.