The Manipur High Court recently observed that the drawing of additional HRA by a Central Government employee is permissible if the employee keeps their family in the previous station on their own or rented house after vacating the Government quarters due to transfer to the North East region.
The bench comprising Justice M.V. Muralidaran clarified that the only rider would be that such family members of the employee must be residing with the employee at the last place of the transfer before being sent to the NE region.
The observation was made while hearing a catena of pleas in terms of which the petitioners working in CRPF at various levels and posted in the North East had challenged the stoppage of HRAs given to them.
The petitioners, on the completion of their tenure postings in New Delhi, had been transferred to Manipur. On reporting at the new station, the petitioners had requested the authority for sanction of HRA as was being given at the last place of posting which came to be returned stating that no such order had been received from the Government of India to grant HRA to the personnel posted in unit deployed in NE region and kept their family at last place of posting without linking his notional headquarter i.e. Group Centre. It was this order which was being challenged before the bench.
Counsel for one of the petitioners had argued that as per the Office Memorandum dated 22.1.2019, HRA is entitled to the CRPF personnel on their transfer to non-family location viz., North Eastern Region, Sikkim, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Lakshadweep island, J&K and left-wing extremist area and there cannot be a classification whether the headquarters are within the NE region or not.
Contesting the pleas Sr.PCCG submitted that HRA is a headquarter based allowance and that the petitioners are posted at the duty Bn. whose notional headquarters are situated outside the present place of posting and hence the petitioners are not entitled to HRA. Further, the HRA is given to an employee in case Government Provided Residential Accommodation is not available to him. Since the petitioners are given GPRA, they are not entitled to claim HRA in the present place of posting, he argued.
After considering the rival contentions the court observed that the drawing of two HRAs by a Central Government employee would be admissible even if the employee keeps their family in the previous station on their own or rented house after vacating the Government quarters due to transfer to NE region.
Relying on the various office memorandums issued on the subject by the Ministry of Home and Ministry of Defence the court explained that the rationale behind the grant of double HRA to employees, who are posted to the NE region or at Andaman and Nicobar Islands is that on their posting to those challenging stations, they are not expected to take their families along with them.
“That is the reason why posting to these places is called difficult posting, as it is not normally feasible to keep the families along while working at such stations. In order to ensure that such employees join these difficult stations, the benefit of HRA is extended to their families as well, who are allowed to remain at the last station of posting”, the court said.
Deliberating on the intent of double HRA the court said that the benefit of HRA is for the welfare of the families of the employees who on their transfer to difficult stations like North East keep their families at the previous place of posting in a rented or own accommodation after vacating the Government quarters which they were occupying and had to vacate after transfer.
“The purpose and object of granting the benefit of HRA is to reward the persons who are posted in the NE region. When the basis for granting HRA to the employees posted in NE region is provided, this Court fails to understand why the respondents are denying the benefit of HRA to the petitioners, who were posted in NE region”, the court added.
In view of the above discourse, the court set aside the orders issued by the respondent authorities prescribing stoppage of HRA to the petitioners and directed immediate release of the same in their favour.
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