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Monday, February 12, 2018

service laws = “Sail Scheme for Leasing of Houses to Employees, 2002”The said Scheme of 2002 was challenged = Ex-employees like the respondents–writ petitioners were excluded from the purview of the scheme. = “Sail Scheme for Leasing of Houses to Employees, 2002” was introduced in the year 2002. Considerable time has elapsed in the meantime. The Scheme of 2002 was applicable only to regular/serving employees and not to ex-employees.= no legal right can be understood to have been vested in the respondents – writ petitioners under the Scheme of 2002- how the appellant can be compelled to grant any long-term lease of the official quarters in the RSP to the respondents – writ petitioners who are its ex-employees. Such subsequent facts and developments that have taken place during the interregnum would certainly be material in moulding the relief(s) and answering the issues arising before this Court.

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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1834 OF 2018
[ARISING OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION
(CIVIL) NO.34336 OF 2009]
STEEL AUTHORITY OF INDIA
LTD. ...APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
CHOUDHARY TILOTAMA DAS
& ORS. ...RESPONDENT(S)
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1835 OF 2018
[ARISING OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION
(CIVIL) NO.2564 OF 2010]
JUDGMENT
RANJAN GOGOI, J.
SLP(C) NO.34336 OF 2009
1. Leave granted.
2. In the year 1999, to be precise on 12th
February, 1999, the Rourkela Steel Plant
(hereinafter referred to as “RSP”)
introduced a Voluntary Retirement Scheme,
1999 covering employees who had served for
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a minimum of 15 years or who are above 40
years of age. Thereafter by Circular
dated 9th August, 1999 the RSP floated
another scheme called “Scheme for
Allotment of Quarters to Ex-employees
Separating under the SAIL VRS Scheme,
1999”. Under the said Scheme of 1999,
employees of the RSP who were allotted
official quarters were allowed to occupy
such quarters on licence basis for a
period of 22 (twenty two) months following
their leaving the RSP/Company on the basis
of voluntary retirement.
3. The respondents, 53 (fifty three) in
number, were allotted quarters by the RSP
and had opted for voluntary retirement
under the Scheme. Accordingly, they were
allowed to retain the official quarters
for a period of 22 (twenty two) months
which period was extended. Thereafter, the
RSP came up with another Scheme called
“Sail Scheme for Leasing of Houses to
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Employees, 2002”. This was on 22nd July,
2002. The said Scheme of 2002
contemplated allotment of houses/flats on
long term lease basis (33 years) to
serving employees. Ex-employees like the
respondents–writ petitioners were excluded
from the purview of the scheme.
4. The said Scheme of 2002 was challenged
in a writ petition before the High Court
of Orissa which was instituted way back in
the year 2002. As it would appear from
the pleadings of the parties before the
High Court, while the appellant – Steel
Authority of India Limited, at that point
of time, had pressed for the inclusion of
the ex-employees within the framework of
the said Scheme of 2002, the State
Government took the stand that such an
action may invite public criticism. No
affidavit was, however, filed by the State
Government. By the impugned judgment and
order dated 7th September, 2009 the writ
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petition in question was closed/disposed
of by the following operative direction:
“In view of such, we dispose
of this writ petition with a
direction to the O.P. - SAIL
Authorities to consider the case
of the petitioners for allotment
of quarters, which are in their
occupation, on long term
sub-lease basis, in terms of the
Circular dated 22.7.2002 in
Annexure-5. We further direct
that in the event the quarters
are allotted to the petitioners
on long term sub-lease basis, the
cost of such quarters shall be
computed at the rate at which it
was prevalent at the time when
the Scheme came into force, along
with interest thereon @ 9% per
annum and the same shall be paid
by the petitioners. Apart from
that the petitioners are also
liable to pay the unpaid house
rent, electricity duty, water
charges, if any, along with the
aforesaid cost. However, there
shall be no charge of penal rent
from the petitioners.
We make it clear that this
order only relates to those
petitioners, who are presently in
occupation of the quarters.
The writ petition as well as
Misc. Case Nos. 842/2002,
3924/2003 & 354/2006 is also
disposed of accordingly.”
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5. Aggrieved, the Steel Authority of
India Limited has filed the present appeal
before this Court.
6. We have heard Shri Ranjit Kumar,
learned Senior Counsel appearing for the
appellant – Steel Authority of India Ltd.,
Shri Ratnakar Dash, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the respondents–writ
petitioners and Shri Shibashish Misra,
learned counsel for the State of Odisha.
7. Though several grounds including the
authority of SAIL to grant a sub lease as
directed by the High Court has been urged,
the case of the appellant in the appeal
before us is primarily based on subsequent
facts which have been brought on record by
means of an additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018. In the aforesaid additional
affidavit dated 22nd January, 2018 it has
been stated that the RSP, a unit of Steel
Authority of India Limited (SAIL), had an
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initial production capacity of 2 (two)
million tons per annum which was expanded
and the plant modernized to reach a target
production of 4.2 million tons per annum.
This was at an overall cost of Rs.13684
crores and was completed in the year 2013.
In the said additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018 it has been further stated
that the SAIL is now engaged in the
process of enhancing the annual capacity
of the RSP to 7.5 million tons per annum
for which a huge infrastructural
investment will have to be made running
into almost Rs. 2.6 million crores. It is
further stated by the appellant in the
said additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018 that keeping in mind that
the optimum number of employees per
million ton of production should be 3200,
once the production capacity is raised to
7.5 million tons the RSP will have about
24000 employees. It is contended that the
entire township of Rourkela is established
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and maintained by the RSP itself which is,
therefore, required to provide additional
accommodation to various Government
Agencies like Police, Revenue Officers,
Government employees, employees of
Government School/Colleges, Banks, Public
Sector Undertakings (PSUs), etc. In the
said additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018, the appellant has further
stated that as per the directive received
from the Union Cabinet Secretariat
long-term lease is presently prohibited.
It is further stated that presently the
available quarters are about 19916 of
which about 18300 quarters are already
occupied by the employees/ex-employees and
various other employees of the State
Government, PSUs, etc. It is further
stated that about 250-300 quarters are in
a dilapidated condition. The remaining/
vacant quarters would be required not only
to house the in-coming employees but also
various Agencies that would be working at
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the site in connection with the
expansion/modernization plans. On the
strength of the aforesaid statements and
the official correspondences/decisions
enclosed in this regard to the additional
affidavit dated 22nd January, 2018 the
appellant submits that the order of the
High Court should be appropriately
interfered with.
8. Shri Ratnakar Dash, learned Senior
Counsel appearing for the respondents –
writ petitioners has disputed the
statements made by the appellant in the
additional affidavit dated 22nd January,
2018 and has drawn the attention of the
Court to the reply of the respondent to
the said additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018 filed by the appellant. The
learned counsel for the respondents–writ
petitioners, apart from contesting the
various statements made in the additional
affidavit dated 22nd January, 2018 filed by
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the appellant, has submitted that the RSP
is a loss making concern and admittedly is
reducing its workforce. It is claimed that
huge number of vacant quarters are
available and even if the production
capacity of the RSP is enhanced to 7.5
million tons there would still be surplus
of accommodation/quarters.
9. The respondents-writ petitioners have
brought on record a Circular dated 23rd
August, 2017 by which applications have
been invited for allotment of one room/1
BR(L.T) quarters on licence basis for a
period of 33 (thirty three) months. Such
applications have been invited from
employees, ex-employees of the RSP who
would be separating from the RSP/Company.
The said fact, according to the
respondents – writ petitioners, has belied
the claim made by the appellant – Steel
Authority of India Limited.
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10. Insofar as the State of Odisha is
concerned, Shri Shibashish Misra, learned
counsel appearing for the State of Odisha
has taken a stand that the appellant –
Steel Authority of India Limited is free
to take its decision in the matter subject
to the conditions of lease under which the
land has been allotted to the Steel
Authority of India Limited.
11. We have considered the matter.
12. “Sail Scheme for Leasing of Houses to
Employees, 2002” was valid for a period of
three months. The operation of it had not
been extended. Under the said Scheme of
2002, ex-employees, to which category the
respondents–writ petitioners belong, were
not vested with any right for
consideration of their cases for allotment
on long-term lease. In fact, the lease
deed between the State of Orissa and Steel
Authority of India Limited makes it very
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clear that the lands can be used only for
the Steel plant and for the purposes
ancillary thereto and that the Steel
Authority of India Limited shall not use
the land for any other purpose except with
the previous sanction of the Government.
13. “Sail Scheme for Leasing of Houses to
Employees, 2002” was introduced in the
year 2002. Considerable time has elapsed
in the meantime. The Scheme of 2002 was
applicable only to regular/serving
employees and not to ex-employees. In the
long period of interval that has been
occasioned by the pendency of the present
litigation the very basis for introduction
of the Scheme of 2002 has changed and the
facts now stated in the additional
affidavit dated 22nd January, 2018 of the
appellant – Steel Authority of India
Limited would indicate that today any
long-term lease of quarters
built/maintained by the RSP is not
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feasible. In fact, according to the
appellant – Steel Authority of India
Limited, there would be a shortage of
accommodation/quarters in the immediate
future and, perhaps, new constructions
will have to be raised to meet the
increasing demand for accommodation on
account of increase of production levels
of the RSP.
14. In a situation where no legal right
can be understood to have been vested in
the respondents – writ petitioners under
the Scheme of 2002 and operation of the
said Scheme of 2002 today is not
considered feasible or necessary by the
appellant on account of the reasons stated
in the additional affidavit dated 22nd
January, 2018, as noticed herein above, we
do not see how the appellant can be
compelled to grant any long-term lease of
the official quarters in the RSP to the
respondents – writ petitioners who are its
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ex-employees. Such subsequent facts and
developments that have taken place during
the interregnum would certainly be
material in moulding the relief(s) and
answering the issues arising before this
Court.
15. Consequently and in the light of the
above we are of the view that no relief
can be afforded to the respondents–writ
petitioners, at this point of time.
Consequently, we allow this appeal; set
aside the order of the High Court but at
the same time we direct that the
respondents–writ petitioners (53 in
number) or their legal heirs, as may be,
be allowed to remain in occupation of the
quarters for a period of 33 (thirty three)
months with effect from today, on the
expiry of which they will handover vacant
and peaceful possession of the said
accommodation/quarter to the competent
authority of the RSP.
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16. The appeal, consequently, is disposed
of in the above terms.
S.L.P.(C) NO.2564 OF 2010
17. Leave granted.
18. The appeal is disposed of in terms of
the judgment/order passed in Civil appeal
arising out of Special Leave Petition
(Civil) No.34336 of 2009.
.................,J.
 (RANJAN GOGOI)
.................,J.
 (R. BANUMATHI)
NEW DELHI
FEBRUARY 12, 2018

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