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Educational Attainment is a Valid Criterion for Differentiating an Employee’s Pay Scale.

Brief facts of this case:

The Union of India filed this Civil Appeal because it was dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court of Guwahati, which determined that the original writ petitioners were entitled to Nursing Allowance.

The respondents in the appeal were Nursing Assistants in various hospitals under the Border Security Force’s establishment. They were all receiving the ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’. As claimed by the original writ petitioners, they were entitled to the same Nursing Allowance as the Staff Nurse. As a result, a writ petition was filed with the High Court. The original writ petitioners’ claim for Nursing Allowance on par with Nursing Staff was opposed by the appellants, who claimed that they were paid the special allowance known as ‘Hospital Patient Care Allowance’ and thus were not entitled to Nursing Allowance on par with Staff Nurses because
they were not qualified as Staff Nurses.

 

Contentions of the Appellants :

“It is submitted that so far as the qualification of the Staff Nurses is concerned, it is a 4 years course and so far as the Nursing Assistants are considered, they have completed only one year course which is required for the post of Nursing Assistants,” Ms. Madhavi Divan, ASG, who was appearing for the Appellant submitted. As a result, they will not be able to claim the Nursing Allowance at the same rate as Staff Nurses.” Ms. Divan went on to say that “as observed and held by this Court in a slew of decisions, classification of the various pay scales is permissible based on educational qualifications, experience, and nature of duties.”

 

Contentions of the Respondents :

The Respondents contended that “Nursing Assistants are an integral part of the nursing service, and when both Nursing Assistants and Staff Nurses are an integral part of the nursing service and perform similar duties, the High Court has not committed any error in directing that Nursing Allowance be paid to Nursing Assistants on par with Staff Nurses.”

 

Finding and Observations of the Court :

Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices MR Shah and Justice CT Ravi Kumar, have held that educational attainment is a valid criterion for differentiating an employee’s pay scale, even if the type of work performed by the employees is more or less the same.

 

Opinion:

In my opinion High Court has committed a serious error. It is important to note that in the cases taken into account in this case, the Supreme Court upheld different pay scales/pay structures based on different educational qualifications and reiterated that different educational qualifications and experience prescribed for appointment can be grounds for having different pay scales/pay structures. “The High Court’s view is contrary to this Court’s decisions in the cases of Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited and Others versus Balbir Kumar Walia and Others, (2021) 8 SCC 784; Director of Elementary Education, Odisha and Others versus Pramod Kumar Sahoo, (2019) 10 SCC 674; and Secretary Department of Personnel Public Grievances & Pension & Ar. versus T.V.L.N. Mallikarjuna Rao. “Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions to the facts of the case at hand, the High Court’s view that educational qualification cannot be a ground for denial of Nursing Allowance to Nursing Assistants is unsustainable,” the court concluded. Nursing Assistants in the BSF do not have the necessary experience or educational qualifications to be appointed as Staff
Nurses. As a result, the case of Nursing Assistants cannot be compared to that of Staff Nurses because they have different educational qualifications. Therefore according to me educational qualification is a valid criteria.

Judgment Name: The Union of India V/s Rajib Khan
Judgment Date: January 16, 2023
Bench: Mr. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar
Name of the writer: Divyanjali B Rathore
College: Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law , Punjab

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