Reinstatement of workmen not possible where no vacancies, but court orders compensation...

Reinstatement of workmen not possible where no vacancies, but court orders compensation [read order]

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In a decision dated 21 November 2016, the Supreme Court declined to order reinstatement of 88 workmen who had worked as ‘Tyndals’ at the Kenduadih Colliery, but directed payment of compensation of ₹ 4 lakh each to them in full and final settlement of all their claims and outstandings, where these workers were found to be of skilled category of Tyndals which are comprised in category IV and the where the said colliery was a closed mine. This order was passed by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur,  Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao in the case of Rashtriya Colliery Mazdoor Sangh, Dhanbad vs. Employers In Relation To Management Of Kenduadih Colliery Of M/S Bccl & Ors [CIVIL APPEAL No. 11003 OF 2016].

The job description of Tyndals required these workmen to be engaged in moving engineering stores, drums of oil and grease and they were also responsible for setting up and dismantling of structures, as well as the installation and withdrawal of machinery. The Industrial Tribunal by its Award dated 16 July 1996 directed the management to form a panel of the concerned workmen in accordance with seniority and to absorb or regularize them either in the work of Tyndal or in any suitable category so that the list is exhausted within a period of one year. Backwages were denied.

However, in a writ petition challenging the said award, a Single Judge of the Jharkhand High Court modified the Award of the Industrial Tribunal and directed that as and when the management intends to employ regular workmen, it shall grant preference to the workmen governed by the Award if they are otherwise suitable by relaxing the requirements of age and academic qualifications. This order of the High Court attained finality.

In 2007 the Union representing the workmen filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking implementation of the order dated 18 May 2004. While disposing of the writ petition on 24 September 2010 the High Court recorded the statement of the management that no vacancy had occurred in the post of Tyndal since the judgment which was rendered on 18 May 2004. However, the High Court recorded the undertaking of the management that if any vacancy arises in future and the post is advertised for which the workmen apply, they would be considered for the post and that the management would also accommodate them if there was a vacancy under any other category. Thereafter, a Review Petition was also similarly disposed of by recording the statement of the management that if and when posts were advertised, the workmen would be entitled to apply and would be considered.

The Supreme Court noted that in the present case, the judgment of the High Court dated 18 May 2004 modifying the Award of the Industrial Tribunal had attained finality, and that, in fact, in their writ petition of 2007 the workmen sought implementation of the judgment rendered on 18 May 2004. The Supreme Court observed that the entitlement that the workmen claim must hence flow out of the judgment of the High Court by which the workmen were entitled to the grant of a preference in future employment by the management by relaxing conditions of age and educational qualifications.

The Supreme Court also noted the facts that a Committee was constituted by the first respondent which by its report dated 2 January 2016 had observed that there was no vacancy in the post of Tyndal, category IV (to which these 88 workmen belonged) either in respect of Kenduadih Colliery or the Pootkee Balihari area as a whole. Kenduadih Colliery was stated to be a closed mine, where they were working earlier.

The court noted that it was not practicable to grant reinstatement particularly since such relief was denied in the judgment of the High Court dated 18 May 2004, which had not been challenged. However, having due regard to this position, the Supreme Court held that it would be appropriate to direct that the first respondent shall in full and final settlement of all the claims and outstandings of the eighty eight workmen concerned in the reference pY an amount of Rupees four lakhs each per workman.

Read full order of the court:

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