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After 22 years Supreme court gives relief to public sector firm driver

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(G.N.S) Dt. 26
New Delhi
After losing job as a driver in a public sector company in 1994, an employee’s desperate wait to get a hearing on his appeal got over recently with the Supreme Court directing an Industrial Tribunal in Kolkata to decide the dispute within three months.
It is shocking that for two decades the case was not taken up for the reason that one court after the other had not decided whether the company which dismissed the employee was a Central Government organisation. Much turned on this question as the State Government had referred the dispute of the driver to a State Industrial Tribunal to which the company objected claiming that being a Central Government administered company, only Centre had authority to refer the dispute. Finally, when the issue came to Supreme Court in 2012, it took another five years till a Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi on December 8, 2017 worked out a middle path. The Bench directed the matter to be taken by the Central Government Industrial Tribunal at Kolkata on an expeditious basis and directed an order to be passed within three months.The dispute arose between the company Garden Reach Shipbuilders Engineers Limited (GRSE) and its workman Pradip Kumar Ganguly who was dismissed on April 4, 1994. Soon, the West Bengal Government referred the dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act to the Second Industrial Tribunal on February 7, 1995.
The company challenged this reference on the question that the “appropriate Government” capable to refer the dispute was Centre. On October 20, 2000, the Tribunal upheld the company’s stand. A series of petitions came to be filed later by the employee (Ganguly) and the company before the Calcutta High Court till a single judge finally held on September 18, 2007 upholding the State’s right to refer the dispute. This order was later approved by a Division Bench on March 28, 2012, following which the company approached the apex court. The Bench said, “About 22 years have gone by during which the matter has travelled from one court to another on the question whether the petitioner company is a Central Government organisation and therefore, the appropriate Government to refer the dispute to the Industrial Tribunal/Forum would be the Central Government and not the State Government. Naturally, the litigation having gone on the said issue for the last two decades the adjudication of the validity of the dismissal of the respondent- workman (Ganguly) is yet to see the light of the day.” Seeking a way out, the apex court was faced with hard positions taken by the company on one hand and both the State Government and the workman on the other hand. Advocate Dushyant Parashar who appeared for Ganguly submitted that he had no difficulty to submit to either the Central or State Tribunal, provided there is early adjudication of his claims. There was a sense of urgency in his plea as being out of job since 1994, the fate of his appeal will determine whether he is entitled to back wages and compensation, if any. The court further directed the company to pay its former employee Rs 2 lakh to cover his litigation expenses.

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