Supreme Court: The Bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Indu Malhotra, JJ has held that pendency of any writ petition by itself does not affect the constitutionality of a Statute. It said:
“It is only when the Court declares a Statute as being ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution then the question may arise to consider its effect on the rights of the parties and that would always depend upon the declaration rendered by the Court and the directions given in that case.”
Background of the case:
- The Court was deciding an issue relating to Payment of Gratuity to a teacher of Birla Institute of Technology.
- The Court had, on 07.01.2019, ordered that the teacher was not entitled to claim gratuity as per the ruling in Ahmadabad Pvt. Primary Teachers Association vs. Administrative Officer, (2004) 1 SCC 755.
- However, it was later brought to Court’s notice that the definition of the word “employee” as defined in Section 2(e) of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 by Amending Act No. 47 of 2009 on 31.12.2009 with retrospective effect from 03.04.1997 and the teachers were brought within the purview of “employee”.
- On 09.01.2019, the Court, stayed the order dated 07.01.2019 and said:
“Keeping in view the amendment made in the definition of Section 2(e), which as stated above was not brought to the notice of the Bench, this issue was not considered though had relevance for deciding the question involved in the appeal. It is for this reason, we prima facie find error in the judgment and, therefore, are inclined to stay the operation of our judgment.”
What Court said in Ahmadabad Pvt. Primary Teachers Association verdict:
“The legislature was alive to various kinds of definitions of the word “employee” contained in various previous labour enactments when the Act was passed in 1972. If it intended to cover in the definition of “employee” all kinds of employees, it could have as well used such wide language as is contained in Section 2(f) of the Employees’ Provident Funds Act, 1952 which defines “employee” to mean “any person who is employed for wages in any kind of work, manual or otherwise, in or in connection with the work of an establishment …”. Non-use of such wide language in the definition of “employee” in Section 2(e) of the Act of 1972 reinforces our conclusion that teachers are clearly not covered in the definition.”
Hence, after noticing that though the definition was amended in 2009 by Act No.47 of 2009, yet the same was given retrospective effect from 03.04.1997 so as to bring the amended definition on Statute Book, from 03.04.1997, the Court held that the effect of the amendment made in the Payment of Gratuity Act vide Amending Act No. 47 of 2009 on 31.12.2009 was twofold.
- the law laid down by this Court in the case of Ahmadabad Pvt. Primary Teachers Association was no longer applicable against the teachers, as if not rendered, and
- the teachers were held entitled to claim the amount of gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act from their employer with effect from 03.04.1997.
When the counsel for the Institution argued that the constitutional validity of Amending Act No. 47 of 2009 was under challenge in this Court in a writ petition, which is pending, the Court rejected the argument and said that pendency of any writ petition by itself does not affect the constitutionality of a Statute.
[Birla Institute of Technology v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 340, decided on 07.03..2019]