Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren govt pays for sins of BJP regimes as courts pass strictures against past orders

Jharkhand High Court and National Green Tribunal have passed adverse verdicts against decisions taken by former BJP CMs that have put the present JMM-Congress-RJD govt in a spot

Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren govt pays for sins of BJP regimes as courts pass strictures against past orders

VP Sharan

Judicial scrutiny of decisions taken by the previous NDA governments led by Chief Ministers Raghubar Das and Arjun Munda has landed the present Hemant Soren-led JMM-Congress-RJD government in Jharkhand in trouble.

Besides the Jharkhand High Court’s judgment on Monday scrapping the employment policy of the previous regime, by declaring it ultra vires of the provisions of fundamental rights, which renders thousands of people jobless, at least two earlier decisions of the High Court and the National Green Tribunal have imposed heavy fines on the state government for no fault of the Hemant Soren government.

On Monday, Jharkhand High Court declared the employment policy decided by the Raghubar Das government null and void, saying 100 per cent reservation of jobs violated the key principles of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution. Its immediate consequence is that more than 8000 trained school teachers appointed by the previous government would be rendered jobless.

The judgment was pronounced on Monday by a three member bench of the court comprising Justice H.C.Mishra, Justice Chndrasekhar and Justice Deepak Roshan after hearing petitioners who challenged the former Raghubar Das government’s vacancy notice for 17,572 posts for Trained Graduate Teachers in Grade III and Grade IV payscales and reserved them for candidates hailing from Scheduled Districts, barring candidates from non-Scheduled Districts. The government conducted the process for appointment through Jharkhand Public Service Commission and around 9,000 teachers were appointed during a two year period from 2017 to 2019.

The decision of the government was challenged by a host of petitioners who remained deprived of the opportunity to be part of the appointment process as they were residents of non-Scheduled districts which were the areas which did not form part of Ranchi, Khunti, Gumla, Simdega, Lohardaga, West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Seraikela-Kharsawan, Latehar, Dumka , Pakur, Jamtara and Sahebganj. The Scheduled Districts are those areas where tribal population is dominant.

The High Court observed that the Constitution of India offered equality of opportunity in matters of employment under the state and thereby, people could not be treated unequally. The petitioners had challenged the government order in 2017 and the HC had completed the hearing in the case in August this year, reserving the judgment, which was pronounced on Monday.

Last month, the National Green Tribunal had imposed a fine of Rs 130 crore on Jharkhand Government for violating environmental rules while constructing the Assembly and High Court buildings during the same NDA Government headed by Raghubar Das and inaugurated by no less a functionary than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. This led Soren’s JMM party to reportedly take the stand that since both the structures were built when the previous BJP government led by Raghubar Das was in power, the fine should be paid by auctioning the personal assets of the former Chief Minister, his ministerial colleagues and officials involved in the project.

In another judgment by Jharkhand High Court delivered on September 11, the court ordered the state government to pay Rs 50,000 to each petitioner in the case for causing harassment to them by non-compliance with the court’s order. Since the number of petitioners stood at 79, the government has to pay Rs 39.50 lakh to the petitioners which comprise teachers and non-teaching staff of state-aided minority colleges who retired before December 19, 2012 and have been fighting for the payment of pension benefits. This decision was taken by the NDA government led by Arjun Munda.

They were denied their due pension due to the fact that the state government issued a notification dated December 19, 2012 according to which only those teaching and non-teaching staff of government-aided minority colleges were entitled to pension benefits who were in service on the day of notification. The High Court observed that the notification created two classes among similarly situated persons, which is discriminatory and violative of Articles 14,15, 16, 21, 29, 30 and 300A of the Constitution of India.

However, the court’s order was not complied with, following which the petitioners filed a contempt petition. In the meantime, the state government moved the Supreme Court, which summarily dismissed its plea on March 6 this year. The Jharkhand High Court took a tough stand with respect to the contempt petition and imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on the government, to be paid individually to each of the petitioners/dependents of the deceased petitioner. Thus, the present government is saddled with having to pay Rs 39.50 lakh as well as pension benefits to the petitioners.

Even as the Hemant Soren-led JMM government is paying for the sins committed by earlier BJP Chief Ministers, its financial situation is precarious due to the Narendra Modi-led Central government’s failure to pay accumulating dues owed by it to the state in the form of GST, mineral cess etc.

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Published: 23 Sep 2020, 12:49 PM