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.

1

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

13

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