Contractual employment has no vested right to continue: High Court

Srinagar, Dec 13: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has held that contractual employment has no vested right to continue and it is not open for the courts to direct an employer to continue the contract or to change the status of the contractual employment in any manner, once the same has been accepted by consent of both the sides without any demur.

A bench of Justice M A Chowdhary said while dismissing a petition by 116 candidates, who had sought the court’s intervention to allow them to complete three years of services to run two 500 bedded temporary COVID Hospitals in Jammu and Srinagar.

“This court is of the considered opinion that once the government has decided to close down the temporary hospitals, established given the emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic, where the petitioners were contractually employed, the respondents (authorities) cannot be asked to continue their services as contractual employees without any work or their need,” the court said. “In this view of the matter the petition to the extent of asking the relief to continue the petitioners for three years, given the Government order dated May 18, 2021, cannot be granted.”

The petitioners contended that they were appointed on a contractual basis for one year on the tenure-based posts of Physicians, Anesthetists, Pediatricians, Medical Officer, Nursing, Paramedical and Technical staff, in terms of a government order dated May 18, 2021, vide which two 500-bedded temporary Covid Hospitals, one each at Srinagar and Jammu were established.

As per the order, 1366 posts had been created (683 posts for each hospital), for making these two facilities operational, in collaboration with the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ministry of Defense, Government of India.

The petitioners pleaded that they came to be engaged in terms of the respective engagement orders. They submitted that when one year of their contractual engagement came to an end in the year 2022, in terms of communication dated August 8, 2022, addressed by the Health and Medical Education Department of J&K government, to the Principal Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar, on the approval of Administrative Department, providing for the grant of extension in the tenure of the engagement of the staff, actually on the rolls and working in the 500-bedded Covid Hospital at Khunmoh Srinagar was accorded upto December 31, 2022.

The petitioners had also sought direction from the court to release Ayushman incentives as well as Covid incentives in terms of Notification No 01-HME of 2019 dated January 19, 2019, in favour of them.

“So far as the other reliefs, the respondents are directed to release Ayushman as well as Covid incentives in terms of the Notification No 01-HME of 2019 dated January 19, 2019, in favour of the petitioners,” the court said.

The petitioners had also sought direction to incorporate the condition in the future advertisement notice about “5 numbers” as weightage, as has been done in the previous advertisement notices, where such weightage, had been given to the candidates, who were engaged for three months in the government institute under the Emergency Covid Response Programme (ECRP) on contractual basis.

The court said that the authorities could consider incorporating the condition in the future advertisement notice.

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