The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar has dismissed the plea challenging the order of the Central as well as the Delhi Government to freeze the disbursement of enhanced Dearness Allowance to government employees and pensioners.
The Delhi HC noted that obligation in law upon the Central Government to disburse the increase in Dearness Allowance/ Dearness Relief within a time bound manner.
The Petitioner in this case was represented by Dr Pradeep Sharma and Mr Harsh
The order has come in a PIL seeking a direction to be issued to the Finance Ministry of both the Centre and the Delhi Government to withdraw the notifications regarding freezing of enhanced Dearness Allowance of government employees and release the same as per norms.
The disputed Office Memorandum of the Central Government notifies that the Dearness Allowance due to the Central Government Employees and Dearness Relief due to the Central Government Pensioners from 01.01.2020 shall not be paid.
It also states that additional installment of the Dearness Allowance and Dearness Relief due from 01.07.2020 and 01.01.2021 shall also not be paid.
The Petitioner had made the following arguments before the delhi high court:
- Central Government Employees and Central Government Pensioners have a vested right to receive the enhanced Dearness Allowance/ Dearness Relief under the All India Services (Dearness Allowance) Rules, 1972.
- Despite citing COVID19 pandemic as a reason for freezing the DA, the said order has not been passed by the competent authority under the Disaster Management Act
- It is only during financial emergency declared by the President under Article 360 of the Constitution, that by virtue of Sub-Article 4(a)(i) – a provision could be made requiring reduction of salaries and allowances of all or any class of persons serving in connection with the affairs of the State. Since no financial emergency has been declared, the Office Memorandum in question could not have been issued.
The court said:
‘So far as the submission with regard to increase of 4% Dearness Allowance or Dearness Relief with effect from 01.01.2020 is concerned, the impugned Office Memorandum does not seek to take it away. All that it does is to postpone its payment till after 01.07.2021.’
On the issue of authority to issue the said OM, the court noted that merely because the disputed OM makes reference to the COVID19 pandemic, it does not follow that the only provision which the respondents could have invoked are those contained in the Disaster Management Act.
Rejecting the argument of the Petitioner on Article 360 of the Constitution, the court reiterated that the OM does not tantamount to reduction of either salary, or allowances, of persons serving in connection with the affairs of the State.
The court observed that:
‘We have noticed Rule 3 of the All India Services (Dearness Allowance) Rules, 1972. The said Rule does not state that the Central Government can form, or communicate, its decision with regard to entitlement to draw Dearness Allowance, subject to conditions, only by framing another rule, or by a gazette notification. There is no such requirement in law.’
Read the order here: