New Delhi, March 27, 2011
Court: Keeping workers permanently temporary ill behoves government
The Supreme Court has deprecated the Union of India engaging casual workers and keeping them in temporary service for long without making them permanent employees, thereby denying the benefits due to them.
Expressing its displeasure and anguish at the manner in which the Border Roads Organisation treated its casual workers, a Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and H.L. Dattu said engaging casual workers for less than six months and giving them artificial breaks so that they would not become eligible for permanent status ill behoved the Union of India and its instrumentalities, “which are supposed to be model employers.”
Justice Jain, writing the judgment, quoted an earlier ruling said: “It is a fact that a large number of casual labourers have worked with Project Vartak for a number of years but their period of engagement at no stage is more than six months at a time. Their services are terminated before the completion of six months and they are recruited afresh and they do not get the status of permanent employee. As per the regulations, casual personnel are not eligible for any other privileges for continued employment under the government.”
In the instant case, the Union of India appealed against a Gauhati High Court judgment directing the government to regularise the services of members of Vartak Labour Union, some of whom had been working with the BRO for 30 years. Formulation of any scheme for regularisation being a matter of policy, it was not within the High Court's domain to direct regularisation of the services of temporary appointees, the Centre said.The Bench agreed with its contention and said the union's claim for regularisation of its members merely because they had been working for BRO for a considerable period could not be granted in the light of several decisions of this court. The Bench, quoting these judgments, said: “Casual employment terminates when the same is discontinued and merely because a temporary or casual worker has been engaged beyond the period of his employment, he would not be entitled to be absorbed in regular service or made permanent, if the original appointment was not in terms of the process envisaged by the relevant rules.”
However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, where the union members had been employed in terms of the regulations and had been consistently engaged for the last 30 to 40 years, of course with short breaks, “We feel the Union of India would consider enacting an appropriate regulation/scheme for absorption and regularisation of the services of casual workers engaged by the BRO for execution of its on-going projects,” the Bench said.