Period Of Engagement Spread Over Several Years Can't Be Accepted By Treating Gap In Service As Artificial Breaks For Temporary Status – Supreme Court
A two-judge Bench of Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has held that conferring temporary status on casual workers under the Casual Labourers (Grant of Temporary Status and Regularization) Scheme of the Department of Telecommunications, 1989 when the Respondent-Worker was made to work over a period from 1989-1999 and by treating the gap in service as 'artificial breaks', cannot be accepted.
The Court also held, "The period of engagement spreading across several calendar years (and not one year as mandated under the Scheme) could not have been accepted by treating the gaps in service over those years, as 'artificial breaks'."
Senior Counsel Mr. Dinesh Agnani appeared for the Appellant-BSNL while Counsel Mr. Surendra Patri appeared for the Respondent before the Supreme Court.
An appeal was preferred by Appellant-BSNL assailing the judgment of the Gauhati High Court which had upheld the order of the Tribunal and had directed conferment of temporary status to the Respondent under the 1989 Scheme.
Under the Scheme, casual workers who were working with Appellant-BSNL on the day of coming into the force of the Scheme and who had rendered continuous service of at least one year out of which at least for 240 days they were engaged were entitled to be conferred the temporary status.
The Committee in its findings had held that the Respondent did not fulfil the eligibility criteria as he did not complete 240 days in 12 calendar months.
The Appellant-BSNL has contended before the Committee that the Photostat copies of the certificates relied upon by the Respondent, were never issued by any officer of BSNL.
It was argued by the Appellant before the Supreme Court that the 1989 scheme was intended as a one-time measure specifying the eligibility criteria for conferment of temporary status on the casual workers and the Respondent did not fulfil the same and therefore was ineligible for any benefits under the Scheme.
Also, the Appellant contended that the documents produced by the Respondent did not correspond to the departmental records and therefore without recording any evidence to determine the authenticity of the Xerox copies neither the Tribunal nor High Court could conclude that the Respondent fulfilled the eligibility criteria under the Scheme.
The Apex Court noted, "To secure the benefit of the 1989 Scheme, it was necessary for the respondent to establish that he satisfied the eligibility criteria prescribed under the Scheme and had worked for at least 240 days in 12 months."
Further, the Bench observed, "By misreading the specific recording of the Committee and without any basis for a contrary view, the Tribunal cryptically observed that the applicant was made to work with artificial breaks during 1989 to 1998 and on that basis, relief was granted to the respondent."
The Court also held that the Tribunal never recorded any evidence to determine the factual controversy and instead Respondent's service during 10 years from 1989 to 1998 was erroneously taken into account to compute the requirement of 240 days service in 12 calendar months.
"Finding of the Committee was noted both by the Tribunal as also by the High Court, regularization was surprisingly ordered for the respondent. For the contrary finding, the Tribunal did not make any inquiry or record any evidence, in terms of the remand order dated 19.3.2013 of the High Court in the earlier round. It is therefore seen that the conclusion is drawn without any material foundation," the Court opined.
The Court held that the Respondent-Worker was not entitled to temporary status as he did not fulfil the eligibility criteria under the Scheme.
Accordingly, the Court set aside and quashed the impugned judgment of the High Court and allowed the appeal.