1. Petitioners when working as Managers in the respondent Bank in the year 2002 have filed this petition in the year 2002 seeking quashment of the communication Nos. PSF/JRB/2001-6398 dated 19.12.2001 addressed to the Sr. Manager B/O Baspur, PSF/JRB/2001-6398 dated 19.12.2001 addressed to the Sr. Manager B/O Kirpind and PSR/JRB/2000-5708 dated 08.11.2000 addressed to the Sr. Manager B/O Dayala Chak, pursuant to which recovery of the disbursed amount under the Head Special Area Allowance has been ordered. They have further prayed that the direction may be issued in the name of the respondents so as to command them to continue to pay the Special Area Allowance to the petitioners at their respective Branches.
2. For effectual adjudication it shall be advantageous to notice precisely the factual matrix of the case.
3. The Jammu Rural Bank(respondent) has been constituted under the Regional Rural Banks Act 1976. As a matter of policy in all the regions all over the country, the Rural Banks created under the said Act were to be sponsored by other Bank. In the same background the Jammu Rural Bank is sponsored by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd. The officers/employees of the Jammu Rural Bank claimed parity of service conditions with the officers/employees of the sponsoring Bank(JandK Bank Ltd.). In this connection, National Industrial Tribunal was constituted by the Government of India which gave its Award on 30.04.1990. Recommendations made thereby on 16.01.1991 were accepted by the Government of India.
4. Vide No. 11-3/90/RRB(1) dated 22.02.1991, Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs(Banking Division), New Delhi, had issued instructions to the respondents for implementing the National Industrial Tribunal Award and recommendations of the Equation Committee. Para-14 of the said letter envisages that the allowances/special allowances and other benefits, as are provided under Bipartite settlement and the service regulations of the concerned sponsoring Banks, be extended to the employees/officers of Regional Rural Banks(RRB).
5. The Committee had recommended that the special area allowance available under the Award to the staff and officers of the Commercial Banks in terms of the Bipartite settlement and Officer s Service Regulations respectively, be extended to the employees and officers of the RRB, as is clear from the letter no. 11-3/90/RRB(1) dated 22.02.1991.
6. Regulation No. 89 of the Bipartite Agreement provides for payment of Special Area Allowance to the officers and other staff posted at the places as mentioned therein which include location of other branches which may be within 8 kms. from the Line of Actual Control.
7. The Special Area Allowance was sanctioned in favour of the officers and staff posted at the branches of the respondent (Bank). Petitioners claim to have remained posted in the branches for which Special Area Allowance was allowable, so vide communication dated 18.12.1993, the Manager B/O Simbal Camp was informed that the competent authority has sanctioned Special Area Allowance to the officers and staff of the branch w.e.f. 01.04.1993; he had been advised to disburse the same at the rates indicated in the said communication. Similarly vide communications dated 29.12.1993, 04.12.1993, 29.12.1993 and 28.12.1993, the Managers B/O Baspur, Kirpind, Badyal Brahmana and Satrayan Camp respectively were informed about the sanction and disbursement of the special area allowance . Subsequently it had been noticed that the officers and staff of the said branches were not entitled to the special area allowance , as these branches are not situated within 8 kms from the line of actual control as is the requirement in terms of the Regulation No. 89. As a result whereof the respondent authorities, vide communication dated 12.02.1994, advised the Branch Managers either to deposit the entire allowance amount or to produce the certificate that the said branches are situated within 8 kms from the line of actual control. When it did not happen, the respondent authorities have issued letter dated 07.03.1995 directing that the payment of special area allowance shall be stopped w.e.f. 01.03.1995. In respect of recovery of the disbursed special area allowance separate letters shall be issued. As a result whereof the impugned letters dated 19.12.2001 and 08.11.2000 were issued for recovery of the disbursed special area allowance. Aggrieved thereof the instant writ petition has been filed.
8. The petitioners in Para-3 of the memo of the writ petition have specifically pleaded that the Jammu Rural Bank is an instrumentality of the State as having its own flesh and bones, therefore, for the purposes of Article 12 of the Constitution is a State . This position has not been controverted by the respondents in their reply as filed.
9. The Jammu Rural Bank admittedly is constituted under the Regional Rural Banks Act 1976. Whether it is an instrumentality of the State, as such, is State within the meaning and purposes of Article 12 of the Constitution, has been already set at rest by the Hon ble Apex Court in the judgment rendered in the case of M.K. Agarwal vs. Gurgaon Gramin Bank and ors., AIR 1988 SC 286. Following portion of Para-5 is relevant to be quoted:-
.The bank is constituted under the Regional Rural Banks Act 1976. Having regard to its constitution and nature of its legal entity and the measure of Statecontrol, it is an instrumentality of the State and is made of latter s own flesh and bones and is, accordingly, State within the meaning, and for purposes of Art. 12 of the Constitution .
10. Learned counsel for the respondents next contended that the subject matter of the writ petition has already been settled, therefore, there is no scope to re-determine the question of stoppage of the special area allowance ; buttressing the submissions has referred to the judgment dated 29.07.1999 rendered by this Court in SWP No.319/1995 captioned Bachan Lal Panjgotra and ors. Vs. Jammu Rural Bank and ors. In the referred judgment, seven petitioners therein including the Jammu Rural Bank Officer s Association had sought quashment of the order dated 07.03.1995, where-under grant of special area allowance was stopped, with a further prayer that the respondents therein(Jammu Rural Bank and ors.) shall be commanded to continue to pay the special area allowance to the petitioners therein. The operative portion of the judgment is relevant to be quoted:-
Petitioners have claimed that they are drawing Special Area Allowance as granted by the Chairman. While dealing with the item Special Area Allowance in the meeting held on 28.07.1994, the Chairman was asked in the meeting by the nominee of the Reserve Bank of India on the Board as how it has been allowed by him. Upon this the Chairman clarified that he has already issued instructions to the branches to stop the payments. Petitioners could not make out a case on the basis of the pleadings that they are entitled to Special Area Allowance. Petition fails and is dismissed. Interim directions, if any, shall stand vacated.
11.Once entitlement of the Special Area Allowance has been declined and the order providing for stoppage of the said allowance dated 07.03.1995 has not been interfered with, now same is not interferable. Even otherwise no ground whatsoever is made out for interference because the petitioners are claiming payment of special area allowance on the strength of Regulation No. 89 of the Bipartite agreement, applicable to the sponsoring Bank, but they have not been able to establish that the said branches fall within 8 kms from the line of actual control. On the other hand position has been cleared that these branches i.e. Branch offices Simbal Camp, Baspur, Kirpind, Badyal Brahmana and Satrayan Camp do not fall within 8 kms from the line of actual control. Even the sponsoring Bank (JandK Bank Ltd.) has made it clear that they are not paying rather disbursing special area allowance to the officers and staff working in the said branches, as these branches are not covered by Regulation No. 89.
12. Learned counsel for the respondents further projected that the petitioners have already availed efficacious remedy as they have taken up the dispute, relatable to the stoppage of the Special Area Allowance , with the Assistant Labour Commissioner (C), Jammu; in support of this submission has placed on record, along-with the objections, communication No. 7(7)/95-AJK dated 22.03.1995 addressed to the Chairman, Jammu Rural Bank, Town Hall Building, Jammu by the Assistant Labour Commissioner(C) Jammu. This position has remained to be controverted and the petitioners have concealed such an important fact; on this count also petition deserves dismissal.
13. When the petitioners, in principle, were not entitled to the Special Area Allowance while working in the branches which were not falling within the ambit of Regulation No. 89, therefore, any payment disbursed, has to be recovered. The respondents have shown grace as they have asked for recovery of the amount as drawn under the Head Special Area Allowance in installments, as is clear from the communication dated 26.02.2002 placed on the records.
14. In the stated facts and circumstances, the writ petition is found to be devoid of merits, as such, dismissed.