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The Delhi High Court has invalidated a 2019 Memorandum Order (M.O.) that de-recognized the Central PWD Engineers Association, emphasizing that government servants are entitled to fundamental rights protection. The court found that the decision lacked the approval of the Competent Authority, as required by the CCS (RSA) Rules, 1993, and was only made at the level of DG, CPWD.
Highlighting the importance of safeguarding government servants' rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the bench of Justice Kameswar Rao and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendirata stated that although public servants may face restrictions on their freedoms under Article 19, they cannot be excluded from constitutional protection. The right to form associations or unions, as per Article 19(1)(c), is a fundamental right, regardless of whether the government recognizes such associations.
The CCS (RSA) Rules, 1993 aim to grant recognition to Service Associations, promoting legitimate union activities and facilitating negotiations between the government and employees for a harmonious relationship, the court noted.
The case originated from a writ petition filed by the Central PWD Engineers Association challenging an order by the Central Administrative Tribunal in 2019. The order denied the continuation of recognition to the petitioner Association due to the alleged non-submission of required documents as per Rule 6(e) of the Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Associations) Rules, 1993.
The petitioner's counsel argued that only the "Government" (referring to the Central Government) could make orders for granting, continuing, or withdrawing recognition, according to Rule 2(a) of the CCS (RSA) Rules, 1993. The counsel further contended that the decision for "non-continuation of recognition" could not have been made by the DG, CPWD, as the Competent Authority remains the Central Government.
Upon considering the petitioner's argument, the court observed that the Office Memorandum (OM) in question was issued with the approval of the DG, CPWD, and not the Central Government. Therefore, the court set aside the OM, stating that it should have obtained the approval of the Competent Authority.
Addressing the petitioner's claim of intentional delay in the continuation of recognition, the court stressed that the rights and privileges of the petitioner Association and its office bearers should not be left unresolved. The court noted the steps taken by the petitioner Association for the continuation of recognition, albeit with a delay of approximately one year and eight months.
While the petitioner Association was eventually granted recognition in 2021 for a five-year period, the court highlighted the need for reconsideration by the Competent Authority regarding the period from 2009 to 2021, in light of setting aside the 2019 OM. The court directed the Competent Authority to make an appropriate decision in accordance with the law.
In conclusion, the court overturned the findings of the Tribunal, which had declined to quash the office memorandum dated January 09, 2019, concerning the petitioner Association. The court remanded the issue of the continuation of recognition for the period 2009-2021 to the Competent Authority for reconsideration in accordance with the law.