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IA casual labourers lose case — Regularisation claim not tenable, says court

Our Legal Correspondent

CHENNAI, Dec. 19

THE Madras High Court has held that when a large number of people were employed as casual labourers on rotation basis and when they had accepted their position for quite some time, they could not claim that all of them should be regularised. If such a direction were issued, it would lead to an impossible state of affairs, when there were no permanent posts also.

Confirming the judgement of a single judge on a batch of writ petitions preferred by the casual labourers of the state-owned Indian Airlines Corporation, Chennai, praying for a direction that their services be regularised, a Division Bench comprising Mr Justice P. Shanmugam and Mr. Justice M. Chockalingam said that the single judge taking note of the Kelkar Committee's report which had recommended ban on recruitment and reduction in work force, observed that any regularisation should take note of these facts, and that regularisation would depend on vacancy position and qualification.

The present writ appellants were working with the respondent (Indian Airlines) as Class IV unskilled casual workers. They were being engaged casually for a maximum period of 90 days at a stretch in a year. According to the appellants, some of them had been working from 1977, and though there were regular recruitments, the appellants' claims were ignored. By an order dated June 4, 1997, IA called for applications from those who worked as casual/part-time/contract basis for a maximum period of 90 days during a period of 12 consecutive months in the last three years, for post of helpers.

As many of the appellants were not qualified either with regard to the age or educational qualifications, they claimed that under Section 25H of the Industrial Disputes Act read with Rule 78 of the Industrial Disputes Rules, they were entitled for re-employment, and on that basis, they had filed the writ petitions seeking to quash the order of IA calling for the applications for regular appointments and to direct the respondent to regularise their services.

Pending the writ petitions, this court by order dated December 23, 1997 directed the respondent to frame a scheme. In the final hearing, the single judge upheld the scheme and directed the appellants to work out their remedy under that scheme. Not being satisfied, the writ appeals had been preferred.

On behalf of the appellants, it was contended that Section 25H of the ID Act directly conferred right to them under law and therefore, they had got a legal right for absorption.

As their work was of a permanent nature, namely, handling of packages, and cleaning, subject to fluctuation in demand due to seasonal traffic, the appellants were entitled to be considered for regularisation.

It was submitted on behalf of the management, that IA was a commercial unit and it had to effectively compete with private airlines for its survival. The scheme for regularisation prepared by the IA was most beneficial to the appellants and no interference was called for with the order of the single judge. In the absence of regular posts, the appellants had no right. They had to consider the recommendation for redeployment of Class IV employees and rationalisation of workforce by the committees constituted for that purpose and the recommendations of the Pay Commission.

The Bench said that in its view, the single judge had taken into account both the factual and legal positions and taking a pragmatic approach, upheld the scheme formulated by the respondent. Hence, it did not find any grounds to interfere with the order of the single judge.

For the purpose of consideration about the preparation of the list of casual workers from the year 1991, a worker should have put in a minimum of 90 days of service in a year from 1991.

It was found that it was not practical or rational to include even those workers who had put in just a few days' work all these 10 years for the purpose of consideration. It was quite possible that many of such persons would have gone to different places or jobs and the unwieldy list would not be practicable for preparation and operation.

The Bench said that any advantage gained by the interim orders could not be taken into account. Excepting this direction, in all other respects, the scheme was upheld and the judgement of the single judge was confirmed.

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