Issues that affect the livelihood of workers cannot be left pending for long periods of time: Delhi High Court

When the livelihood of a daily wage worker is in question in a particular petition, it must be dealt with utmost importance and urgency. Delaying such petitions for an excessively long periods of time like a period of 15 years is inexplicable. This was held by the Hon’ble Justice Pratibha M. Singh in the case of Director General Of Works CPWD & Anr. Vs. Ramraj Singh & Ors. [W.P.(C) 5815/2021 & CM APPL. 18215/2021] before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi at New Delhi on the 04th of August 2021.

The brief facts of the case are, the services of the respondents were terminated by the petitioners since the contractor was changed. Workmen have rendered services to the CPWD for more than 20 years as contractual employees. This long period of service led to the filing of the Industrial Dispute being ID No. 03/2004, wherein they sought regularization in the CPWD. On 4th July, 2000 an order was passed by the Delhi high court which clearly states that, “It is made clear that the Respondent will not replace the services of the Petitioners with another contract labor”. However, the petitioners did not pay heed to this and terminated the services. aggrieved by this, they filed a petition before the CGIT. The present petition challenges the impugned order dated 14th December, 2018 passed by the Presiding Officer, CGIT cum Labour Courts- II, Dwarka District Courts, in ID No. 03/2004. As per the impugned order, the CGIT has directed reinstatement of three workmen with immediate effect, along with back wages and other directions.

The counsel for the petitioner submits that, in order for Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, to be invoked, the first pre-condition would be that an employer-employee relationship has to be established. The said employees, who are Respondents in the present petition had filed a petition for regularization which is ID No. 3/2004, which continues to remain pending before the CGIT, and in the meantime, the contractor has been changed by the CPWD leading to the termination of the said employees. without the pre-condition of there being an employer-employee relationship having been satisfied, the Application of

the Workmen under Section 33 of the ID Act could not have been adjudicated by the CGIT. She submits that the CGIT ought to have first decided the petition relating to regularization, and only then proceeded to examine the issue under Section 33 of the ID Act. The counsel for the respondent however submitted that, CPWD would not replace the services of the very same Workmen in this petition, with another contract labour. Accordingly, he submits that the termination of the Workmen on 1st February, 2018 in this case by the Petitioner, when a new contractor was engaged, is in the teeth of the order passed by the ld. Single Judge in respect of the very same Workmen on 4th July, 2000. He, therefore, submits that the order passed by the CGIT is valid and ought to be upheld by this Court.

The learned judge heard the submissions by both the parties and observed that “It is inexplicable as to why the said petition for regularization has been pending for more than 15 years before the CGIT, which has led to so many complications for both the CPWD and these Workmen. The CGIT ought to have ideally heard and disposed of the Industrial Dispute which is already pending, before considering the Application of the Workmen under Section 33. Even if the legal position had changed, the CPWD, being a Government Agency, could not have acted in a manner which is contrary to the said order. The correct way of proceeding for the CPWD would have been to approach the Court seeking a clarification/modification of the said order, which they clearly did not do. Despite the change in the legal position, the CPWD did not take any steps to seek modification or an appeal against the said order. Accordingly, in the opinion of this court, the said order squarely applies qua the employees concerned and, therefore, they could not have been terminated in this manner by the new contractor, and the Petitioner in this petition- CPWD could not have permitted the same, having been a party to the order dated 4th July 2000.”

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