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Employees cannot be discriminated in the grant of the benefit extended: SC

KANDLA PORT WORKERS UNION V. FCL AND OTHERS CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9217-9218 OF 2019 on 06 December 2019.

The Civil appeal case was bought in the SC under the bench comprising of Justice L.Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta.

The SC dismissed the appeal made by the appellant as the court felt that they are not entitled to claim the relief which was granted by the High Court in the case Kandla Port Workers Union v. FCL and Others

The Central Government transferred 15 employees who were working in the Vacuvator Division of the Kandla Port Trust to the Food Corporation of India with effect from 01.01.1973. Aggrieved by the benefit not being extended to the remaining 306 employees of the Kandla Port Trust who were transferred to the Food Corporation of India. The Appellant-Union filed Special Civil Application in the High Court of Gujarat. The application made by the appellant was granted by the HC. The respondent in whose favor the judgment was not ordered by the HC went to the appeal in Division bench of High court. The judgment which was given by the HC was set aside by the Division Bench. Now the appellant challenged the order of the Division under the Supreme Court.

The question of law is that the benefit given to the 15(regular employees) employees could also be given to the remaining 306 employees(work charge employees).

The industrial tribunal was raised when there was a conflict between Kandla Port Union and the Food Corporation of India. The following were used by both the counsel as the grounds for contention.

“1. Whether the action of the management of FCT, Adipur in not extending the Option to elect revised pay scales to 15 workmen of Vacuvator Division Switched over from Kandla port Trust to FCT, Adipur with effect from 1.1.1973 or from the subsequent date after [4] drawing increments, etc., is justified? If not, to what relief these workmen are entitled to and from what date?

2. Whether the action of the management of Food Corporation of India Adipur in not regularizing the CPF/ GRP subscription and contribution from 1965 to March 1973 in respect of the workmen switched over from Kandla Port Trust to Food Corporation of India, Adipur from CPF to CPP scheme is justified if not, to what relief the concerned workmen are entitled and from which date?”

The counsel appearing on the behalf of the appellant union is Mr. Nikhil Goel. He made a contention based on the agreement between the Kandla Port Trust and the Central Government. The Government shall take over the staff engaged by the KPT on the conclusion of the Agreement.

“He contended that though demand No.1 pertains to the 15 workmen, demand No.2 relates to the work charge employees as well, and this demand was allowed by the Industrial Tribunal. He took us through the award to submit that the Tribunal held that Section 12A of the FCI Act is applicable to the work charge employees.”

He further argued that the order which was given by the HC of Gujarat is accurate as they cannot discriminate other 306 employees by giving benefits only to the 15 employees. The counsel for the appellant also argued against the judgment pronounced by the Division Bench.

The learned senior counsel appearing on the behalf of the respondents is Mr. N.K. Kaul. He said that no other employees ie., the other 306 employees, were employed by the Food Corporation of India and they were governed by the same. He praised the division bench for their order.

“They agreed to be bound by the FCI Regulations and all of them have retired from the FCI after working continuously from 01.01.1973. The Office Order dated 18.09.1973 clearly mentions that the employees would be governed by the FCI CPF Regulations.”

The eventual relief brought by the tribunal was also discriminatory which was restricted to the 15 employees.

The relief given by the tribunal was,

“ The first question before the Tribunal pertained to the dispute regarding the pay scales of 15 workmen of Vacuvator Division who were switched over from KPT to FCI w.e.f. 01.01.1973”

“While answering question No.2, the Tribunal held that the pensionary liability and CPF liability of the staff taken over by the FCI would commence from 01.03.1965 and the service of the members of the staff shall be treated as continuous from 01.03.1965. The Tribunal held that the members of the staff had subscribed to the GRP scheme and they were entitled to the pensionary benefits. The unilateral action on the part of the FCI in shifting them from GPF to CPF was found fault with by the Tribunal. Admittedly, the work charge employees were governed by the GPF scheme prior to their joining the FCI and they were switched over to the CPF scheme, which was held to be arbitrary by the Tribunal. The Tribunal further held that the transfer must necessarily be governed by Section 12A of the FCI Act.”

The distinction between both the employees cannot be passed over. It can be clearly shown from the order of the Office, by which all the employees who were working in the Vacuvator Division of the Kandla Port Trust were employed in the Food Commission of India.

The same office order also says that even if we assume that the work charge employees can be appointed the regular employees, they are not capable of claiming the same level of payment. The main aim of the appeal is only to grant the benefit which was given to the 15 employees.

The SC held that,

“It is not open to the Appellant-Union to take up the cause of the work charge employees and claim on their behalf benefits similar to those granted to the regular employees.”

With the answers detailed above the SC, dismissed the appeal made by the appellant-union.

View/Download Judgment: KANDLA PORT TRUST V. FCL AND OTHERS.

Manusri

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