J&K High Court Rejects Request for Service Extension by Contractual Doctors Post-Closure of COVID Hospitals

LI Network

Published on: December 20, 2023 at 13:07 IST

The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court dismissed a petition filed by 116 doctors and medical staff who sought an extension of their services at temporary Covid hospitals even after the closure of these facilities.

Justice MA Chowdhary, presiding over the case, asserted that contractual employment does not entail a vested right to continue, and the courts cannot mandate an employer to prolong a contract or alter its status once mutually accepted without objection from both parties.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir government, in collaboration with the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), established two temporary 500-bed Covid hospitals. To staff these facilities, 1366 contractual positions were created for a one-year term, with the possibility of extension based on the evolving situation.

The petitioners, part of this hiring, sought a three-year term as allegedly promised under clause XII of the government order establishing the hospitals.

The petitioners also claimed that their services were extended for six months in 2022 due to the ongoing pandemic. They urged the court to compel the government to fulfill the purported promise of a three-year term, release their Ayushman and Covid incentives, and maintain the weightage given to their experience in future recruitment notices.

Justice Chowdhary, in his ruling, acknowledged the vital role played by the petitioners during the pandemic but emphasized that their appointments were purely contractual and contingent on the specific need for temporary Covid hospitals.

Citing Yogesh Mahajan Vs. Professor R.C. Deka, 2018, the court highlighted that contractual or ad hoc appointments, without adhering to regular procedures, do not confer a right for regularization or continuation of services.

The theory of legitimate expectation cannot be successfully advanced by temporary, contractual, or casual employees. It cannot also be said that the State has held out any promise while engaging these persons either to continue them where they are, or to make them permanent, as the State cannot constitutionally make such a promise,” maintained the bench.

Regarding the plea for incentives, the court directed the government to consider it in light of the services rendered by the petitioners. Additionally, it recommended that the government incorporate the weightage given to their experience in future recruitment notices, recognizing their significant contribution during the pandemic.

Consequently, the petition was disposed of.

Case Title: Aabid Rashid Vs Union Territory of Jammu And Kashmir

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