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Remarking that only a stone-hearted person would prefer such a challenge, the Delhi High Court today dismissed an appeal against an order refusing to interfere with the deduction of a day's salary of a Delhi University Professor towards contribution to the PM CARES Fund. (Prof Shreekant Gupta vs University of Delhi)
The Court has, however, granted liberty to the Professor to file a suit for recovery.
The order was passed by a Divison Bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula.
A Delhi University Professor (Appellant) had preferred a writ petition against the deduction of a day's salary i.e. Rs 7,500 towards the PM CARES Fund on the ground that the University did not give adequate notice of the deduction to their employees.
It was the Petitioner's grievance that the University proceeded to deduct one day’s salary even in respect of those employees who had expressed their desire not to make a contribution.
He emphasised that voluntary contributions could not be deducted without anyone’s consent.
The Petition was dismissed by a single Judge Bench and the Professor preferred an appeal before the Division Bench.
The Court observed that the Chairman, UGC, as well as Registrar of the University, had made appeals in the month of March 2020 to make voluntary contributions to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last date to raise objections was also set at April 2, 2020, it was noted.
Taking judicial notice of the fact that we live in the ‘internet age’ where everyone is active on social media, the Court prima facie opined that it was difficult to believe that the Appellant who lived in the University campus did not know, through any means, about the appeals issued by the Chairman, UGC or by the Registrar, Delhi University.
"At the highest, the issues of notice and consent are disputed questions of fact which cannot be adjudicated in a writ petition.", the Court added.
Keeping in view the severity and the spread of the pandemic, the Court further opined that the deduction of one day’s salary of the Appellant could not be said to be "contrary to public interest or harsh or inequitable".
The Court observed that a writ petition was not a statutory proceeding and a Court was not bound to entertain and allow the same if the cause espoused was not contrary to the public interest and/or inequitable.
The appeal was accordingly dismissed with liberty to the appellant to file a suit for recovery.
"..the observations in the writ petition and appeal are only for deciding the same and shall not come in the way of adjudication of the suit for recovery, if any filed by the appellant. The rights and contentions of all parties are left open.", the Court has clarified.
The Appellant was represented by Advocates Shikhar Khare, Srinivasan Ramaswamy.
Advocate Mohinder J.S. Rupal appeared for Delhi University.
Read the Order: