An appeal (P. Gopinathan Pillai v. the University of Kerala and Ors) was filed as to whether the Appellant working as Assistant Director in CACEE was entitled to continue till 60 years of age which was the age of retirement of Teacher of the Kerala University or he was to retire at the age of 56 years.
Briefs facts of the case
The Appellant was appointed as Project Officer in the Centre for Adult Continuing Education and Extension (hereinafter referred to as “CACEE”). The Appellant joined at the CACEE with effect from 26.12.1989. By letter dated 01.02.1990 of the Deputy Registrar of the University of Kerala, University accorded sanction to the appointment of the Appellant as Project Officer against the post at the CACEE.
The University of Kerala has also implemented the University Grants Commission (UGC) scale of pay to the CACEE staff. The Appellant was also given the UGC pay scale. The Centre has issued various certificates to the Appellant that he has been teaching various courses like the Post Graduate Diploma etc. On 07.12.2012, the Appellant was promoted as Assistant Director in the CACEE. The University Grants Commission revised the scale of pay of the CACEE at par to the pay scale of Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Reader, and Lecturer.
This petition was filed by the Appellant before the High Court of Kerala seeking a declaration that the Appellant is a Teacher of the University of Kerala and entitled to continue in service up to the age of 60 years and that he cannot be retired at the age of 56 years. The Division Bench proceeded to consider the merits of the controversy and held that the Appellant is not a Teacher of the University and is not entitled to continue till the age of 60 years and dismissed the petition. Aggrieved by the judgment, this appeal has filed by the Appellant.
Arguments in the court
Learned Counsel for the Appellant submitted that the Appellant is working as Assistant Director in CACEE, a Teacher defined in Section 2(27) and 2(28) of the Kerala University Act, 1974, hence, he is entitled to all the benefits of a Teacher of the University including the age of retirement being 60 years. It is submitted that the University of Kerala itself placed the Appellant in the senior scale for lecturer under the UGC Scheme. Further, it was contended that the UGC way back in 1993 directed that the staff working in CACEE be treated at par with other Teaching staff working in other faculties of the Universities.
It is submitted that the High Court of Kerala has delivered several judgments declaring that the staff of CACEE particularly posts of Project Director, Assistant Director etc. are ‘Teachers’ and entitled to continue till the age of 60 years. Learned Counsel for the appellant referring to various certificates issued by CACEE submits that the Appellant has been recognized as being engaged in teaching and research work. The counsel submitted that the High Court erred in dismissing the writ petition of the Appellant by holding that the Appellant is not the Teacher of the University as defined in Section 2(28) of the Kerala University Act.
Learned Counsel for the University refuting the submissions of the learned Counsel for the Appellant contended that CACEE in which the Appellant was employed, is not a Statutory University Department of study and research as defined in the statutes of the University. CACEE is not affiliated to the University. CACEE is one of the many Schemes sponsored by outside funding agencies like UGC. Initially, CACEE was started temporarily as a planned Scheme established by the Government of India to eradicate illiteracy in the society and was operative till 31.03.1997.
No agency has come forward to sponsor the Scheme, The Syndicate of the University taking into account the despair of the staff took a view and resolved to restructure CACEE as a Self-Supporting Centre. The normal date of the retirement of the employees of CACEE is 56 years, some of the employees of CACEE who were allowed to continue up to the age of 60 years wherever there was the direction of the High Court in respective cases. The Appellant was never appointed on a teaching post rather he was appointed on an administrative post which was a temporary post.
Supreme Court’s View
The Supreme examined the details of the establishment, nature and organization of the Centre i.e. CACEE. The Centre came to be established temporarily as planned Scheme established by the Government of India to eradicate illiteracy. The University Grants Commission also funded the Centre, as pleaded in the counter-affidavit filed by the University, after 31.03.1997. No agency has come forward to sponsor the Scheme, the Syndicate of the University resolved to restructure CACEE as a Self-Supporting Centre. The University has undertaken to render all the administrative work of CACEE.
The Schedule to the First Ordinances, 1978 of the Kerala University contains designations of all posts of University including teaching and non-teaching posts in various Departments and Centres but posts in CACEE are not included in the Schedule of the Ordinances which indicates that posts in Centre are no posts in the University. Had all the posts in the Centre have been instituted by Senate, they ought to have been included in the University, the posts of the Centre are not the posts instituted by the Syndicate and not the posts of the University.
The Court after examining the definitions of college, institution, teacher and teacher of university, stated that the Centre is not a College within the meaning of Section 2(7) since as per the pleadings of the University, Centre is neither maintained nor affiliated to the University. There are no materials on record also to indicate that the Centre is an institution recognized by the University within the meaning of Section 2(19). The Centre is indeed being run as a Centre under the administrative control of the University. The definition of Teacher of University in Section 2(28) also refers to a person employed as a Teacher in any institution maintained by the University.
The High Court in the impugned judgment has held that the Appellant was never employed as Teacher hence he is not covered by Section 2(28). From the pleadings on the record and the materials which are brought on the record, it is apparent that the Appellant is not covered by the definition of Teacher or the Teacher of the University Under Section 2(27) and 2(28) of the Kerala University Act, 1974. When the Appellant does not fulfil the requirement of the definition of Teacher or Teacher of University, he cannot claim applicability of Statute 10 of Chapter 3 of the Statutes.
Even if it is assumed that the Appellant is imparting instruction in different courses in the Centre that itself cannot make the Appellant Teacher within the meaning of Section 2(27) and 2(28). The Appellant having never been appointed as Teacher he is not covered by the definition of Teacher of the University.
The Court held that the judgments relied on by the Appellant are distinguishable and they were delivered in the light of the facts of each case.
The court also noticed one of the letters dated 31.10.2014 brought on record to the petition. As per the Government letter, Centre has been merged with Institute of Distance Education. The Appellant has not explained the consequences of merger of Centre with Institute of Distance Education nor was there is any material to conclude that by such merger the Centre shall become Centre maintained by the University.
The court added that the above letter of the Government supports the conclusion that Centre is not maintained by the University and is a Self-Financing Centre. The said letter in no manner supports the case of the Appellant and thus dismissed the appeal having no merits.
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