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Court: why delay in deciding on deputation to Prasar Bharati?

Legal Correspondent

Take firm decision within six months, Bench asks Centre

Prasar Bharati can transfer employees drawn from governmentProblems a creation of Centre and appellants

New Delhi: The Supreme Court, while upholding Prasar Bharati's right to transfer employees drawn from the Union Government, asked the Centre to decide the question of their deputation within six months.

Though the Prasar Bharati Act came into force on September 15, 1997, no order of deputation in respect of employees or officers of Doordarshan or Akashvani was passed. They continued to work with the Prasar Bharati Corporation, drawing their salaries and other remunerations. The same terms and conditions of service were applied to them as if they were Central Government employees.

Tribunal order

Even without formal orders of deputation, the Corporation was transferring the employees. When Amarjeet Singh and others challenged this action, the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench, quashed the transfer orders.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed an appeal from the Centre and others against the tribunal's order.

Allowing an appeal against this order, a Bench consisting of Justices S.B. Sinha and Markandey Katju said: "This case raises practical problems which are the creation of the Union of India and the appellants. It is difficult for us to comprehend why the Union of India did not exercise its statutory functions for such a long time [nine years]. It was obliged to take a decision one way or the other. It was for the Union of India to transfer officers or employees of Doordarshan and Akashvani to the Corporation. In such an event, the employees could have exercised their option as envisaged in the [Prasar Bharati] Act."

Deemed deputation

Writing the judgment, Justice Sinha said: "The situation in the present case would amount to deemed deputation. It is true that no order has been passed by the Central Government in this behalf, but the respondents [employees] acted in a manner as if such an order had been passed. The respondents have been working with the Corporation for a long time without demur.

They are undoubtedly under the control of the Corporation and the Corporation would have the power of transfer."

The Bench criticised the Government for not taking any decision for nine long years.

Despite the observations made by this court, the Centre failed and/or neglected to take a decision.

"Ordinarily, this court would not have issued a direction but the present state of affairs cannot be permitted to continue. The rights of the respondents cannot be allowed to remain uncertain for a long time," the Bench said and directed the Government to take a firm decision on the employees in terms of the Prasar Bharati Act within six months and file a compliance report.