BPCL employee unions move court to quash ‘restrictive clause’ in stock purchase scheme

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on October 06, 2020

BPCL employees have been protesting against the planned privatisation of the PSU. This file photo shows a demonstration held lat month in Bhubaneswar

Four employees unions at the Mumbai refinery of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) have jointly filed a writ petition in the Mumbai High Court seeking a court order to quash the “restrictive clause” in the Employee Stock Purchase Scheme (ESPS) that excludes workers litigating against the planned privatisation of the state-run company from its ambit.

The condition is illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and ultra vires the Constitution, according to the Unions.

The Unions said their members are sought to be “penalised and punished for seeking to challenge the strategic disinvestment of BPCL”.


“The case is directly linked to the strategic disinvestment of BPCL, which is the subject matter of challenge in two writ petitions (filed earlier by the Unions). It is a fit case where the Court is required to set aside the said condition in the ESPS and also undertake strict judicial scrutiny of the entire decision-making process relating to the strategic disinvestment in BPCL and pass necessary orders as the Court may deem fit in the public interest,” the petition said.

BusinessLine has reviewed the petition filed by the Unions on Monday.

The extension of the deadline for submitting an expression of interest for BPCL sale to November 16 “appears to be granted to ensure that before it is received the Petitioner Unions are forced to abandon plea raised by them in the writ petitions by way of such pressure tactics and high handed action and coercive action taken by the BPCL management with full knowledge and approval of the Government of India (Respondent No 1) and to ensure that when the expression of interest are received on that date, there is no challenge to the entire process of strategic disinvestment,” the petition said.

The restrictive condition in the ESPS – rolled out on September 28- is a “direct and open pressure tactics adopted by the BPCL with the full knowledge and consent of Respondent No 1 (government) to pressurise the Petitioner Unions to withdraw the two Writ Petitions challenging the strategic disinvestment of BPCL”.

It is “effectively a direct attempt to pressurise and interfere in the due process of law and to prevent the Unions from presenting the matter of public importance, namely the strategic disinvestment, and the consequence of such action of government for scrutiny by the Court and it is a clear high handed action to prevent any person from challenging the strategic disinvestment and to avoid any scrutiny of the said action by the Court of law”.

“The said action is totally illegal on the part of the BPCL management which is using this method to break the unity of the Unions and preventing scrutiny of strategic disinvestment of BPCL by the Court,” the Unions alleged.

The restrictive condition imposed in the ESPS “would come in the way of the Petitioners effectively pursuing the two writ petitions which are now being converted into Public Interest Litigations by the Court”.

“The restrictive condition is arbitrary, high handed, discriminatory and violative of Articles 14, 16 and 19 of the Constitution of India and is required to be struck down”, the Unions said adding that they had the legal right under the Constitution to challenge the strategic disinvestment.

“BPCL has adopted this illegal method which would be effectively a fraud on the Constitution and trying to over-reach the High Court and putting pressure on the Petitioner Unions not to pursue the legal remedy which are available to them”.

“The entire action is with a purpose to ensure that no person challenges the strategic disinvestment of BPCL,” the Unions said.

The said action clearly indicates that the two Respondents (BPCL and Government) are “not averse to using strong-arm tactics/pressure tactics to force every person to give up the challenge in the Court of law without asking for judicial scrutiny of strategic disinvestment of BPCL,” they said.

Published on October 06, 2020

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