The Bombay High Court today set aside a Maharashtra government resolution asking the teaching and non-teaching staff of the government schools in Thane to shift their salary accounts to a particular cooperative bank.
A bench of justices BR Gavai and BP Colabawalla termed the resolution arbitrary and questioned the rationale behind the government’s decision to abruptly change a policy.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Thane Zilla Sikshan Vibhag, challenging the government circular.
As per the petitioners, they already had salary accounts in the Thane District Central Cooperative Bank, but the state wanted them to shift those accounts to the Thane Janata Sahakari Bank.
They said the government had threatened to stop the disbursement of their salaries until they shifted their bank accounts and termed the decision unreasonable and mala fide.
Earlier this month, the bench had also stayed a similar decision of the state government that made it mandatory for all the teaching and non-teaching staff to shift their salary accounts to a cooperative bank in the city.
The state government, however, denied that its decision on the shifting of salary accounts for the school staff in Thane was mala fide.
When the bench asked why it felt the need to shift the accounts from one cooperative bank to another, the state’s counsel, Ram Apte, said the government had merely changed its mind.
“The state has the power to change its mind,” he said.
The bench, however, said, “Yes, but such a power cannot be used arbitrarily. There must be a cogent reason behind such a change of mind.”
“There seems to be some ulterior motive behind shifting the accounts from the Thane District Central Cooperative Bank to the Thane Janata Sahakari Bank. The decision is not sustainable in law and the government resolution is set aside,” it added.
The court referred to the correspondence from the state finance department in this regard and pointed out that the department had continuously advised against it.
The finance department had said there was no rationale behind the move.
“Despite this, the school education department was determined to allot work to the Thane Janata Sahakari Bank. It is difficult to appreciate the reason behind this when the finance department had observed that there was no specific complaint with regard to the Thane District Central Cooperative Bank,” Justice Gavai said.
The decision to shift the bank accounts was taken by the education minister on October 5, 2016.
The court also recorded that several elected representatives had spoken against the move as the Thane Janata Sahakari Bank did not have an adequate reach in the rural areas.
Despite this, a government resolution was brought to initiate such a shift on June 14, 2017.
“The government resolution is not based on any rationale or sound reason. It is affected by only one factor of allotting work to the Thane Janata Sahakari Bank,” the court said.