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Tripura High Court Rules Gratuity Act Applies to Anganwadi Workers and Helpers

Tripura High Court Cites Supreme Court Precedent in Granting  Gratuity Act Applies to Anganwadi Workers and Helpers

The Tripura High Court, in a landmark decision, has ruled that the Payment of Gratuity Act is applicable to Anganwadi workers (AWWs) and Anganwadi helpers (AWHs) in the state.

Justice S Datta Purkayastha noted that the Supreme Court’s ruling on a similar issue must be equally applied to Tripura.

Background of the Case

The petitioners, who were engaged under the Intensive Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) as AWWs and AWHs, faced discontinuation upon reaching the retirement age of 60 between 2021 and 2023. Some were briefly re-engaged after turning 60 but were later terminated again. In July 2023, the petitioners submitted representations to the Director of Social Welfare & Social Education, Government of Tripura, seeking gratuity and other post-retirement benefits. However, their requests were denied on August 11, 2023, based on a 2015 rule that required choosing between a one-time financial benefit or a pension post-retirement.

Legal Plea and Arguments

Aggrieved by this decision, the petitioners filed a plea requesting the court to direct the state to provide gratuity and other post-retirement benefits upon their retirement. They also sought to quash the memorandum dated August 11, 2023, which had rejected their claim.

The petitioners relied heavily on the Supreme Court verdict in the case of Maniben Maganbhai Bhariya vs. District Development Officer Dahod and others, arguing that AWWs and AWHs are entitled to gratuity in addition to other benefits upon retirement. The Tripura government opposed this, arguing that the state was not a party in the Maniben case and that the judgment was not universally applicable.

Court’s Observations and Decision

The Tripura High Court observed that the Supreme Court’s broader interpretation of ‘establishment’ in the Maniben case is relevant to other states as well. The Court noted that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules (Tripura), 2011, framed by the state, did not include provisions for pre-school education by institutions other than Anganwadi centres. Therefore, the Anganwadi centres in Tripura fall under the definition of ‘establishment’ as per the Act.

Relying on the Supreme Court’s precedent, the  Tripura High Court allowed the plea, quashed the memorandum dated August 11, 2023, and directed the state to pay gratuity to the retired workers and helpers.

Representation

The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate P Roy Barman, along with advocates K Nath and A Debbarma. The state was represented by Government Advocate Kohinoor N Bhattacharjee, Deputy SGI B Majumder, and Advocate K Reang.

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