New Delhi, September 5, 2023 - In a significant development, the Delhi High Court has issued a strict ultimatum, setting a seven-week deadline for the Central government to execute a judgment handed down last year. This judgment mandates the extension of House Rent Allowance (HRA) benefits to all personnel serving in paramilitary forces, regardless of their rank. The case in question, titled Aarif Hussain Versus Shri Ajay Kumar Bhalla And Ors, has been a subject of contention for several months.
Justice Jasmeet Singh delivered the ruling on August 29, expressing deep concern over repeated instances where the court's directives and timelines were disregarded by relevant authorities. The court had initially granted the Central government, including the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, a six-week period to comply with its directive. However, it was discovered that the order remained unimplemented for more than nine months, prompting the court to take action.
Justice Singh emphasized that the mere filing of an appeal before the Supreme Court should not be used as an excuse for non-compliance with the court's order. He underscored that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), as a security force, is not exempt from the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court. The court noted the complete lack of adherence to its directions and timelines and warned that if the orders were not executed as specified within seven weeks, the CRPF would be required to appear in court on the next hearing date.
Upon the request of the counsel representing the Union government, the court generously granted a seven-week window for compliance with its earlier judgment issued on December 15, 2022. This directive was issued in response to a contempt petition that alleged a failure to adhere to the December 2022 judgment.
The December 2022 judgment, delivered by a division bench comprising Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Saurabh Banerjee, declared that authorities cannot adopt a discriminatory approach when it comes to granting HRA benefits to personnel of different forces stationed in common areas. This judgment was rendered in response to a series of petitions filed by Group Officers in Grade-A in the Border Security Force (BSF) who were aggrieved by the denial of HRA benefits, which had been limited to Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR).
The court's observation in December was poignant, questioning why the Commission had only considered granting parity between PBORs of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and those of Defense Forces while neglecting the proposal to extend the same benefits to Coy Commanders, officers at the level of Assistant Commandants and Deputy Commandants. Consequently, the court directed the Central government to extend the HRA benefit to all personnel, irrespective of rank.
The contempt petition pertaining to this matter is scheduled to be heard on November 23, 2023, with Advocate Ankur Chhibber representing the petitioner who initiated the contempt proceedings. On the other side, Central Government Standing Counsel Harish Vaidyanathan and a team of advocates, including Srish Kumar Mishra, Sagar Mehlawat, Alexander Mathai Paikaday, M Sriram, and Krishnan V, represented the Union of India, with Government Pleader Ankit Verma also making an appearance in the case.