SC dismisses South East Central Railway plea

NAGPUR: In a jolt to South East Central Railway (SECR), the Supreme Court has refused to entertain its special leave petition (SLP) against non-payment of wages to over 150 parcel porters who were recruited by the SECR in 1994.

Hearing a contempt petition on November 6, 2012, filed by the Parcel Porters Sanghatana (PPS) Justice P B Varale at the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court had expressed displeasure over the dilly-dallying tactics of the SECR in not paying wages to the beleaguered porters.

The high court had asked the railways to deposit Rs10 lakh towards payment of minimum wages from March 6, 2012, onwards but instead the SECR moved a SLP with the Supreme Court in February 2013.

However, on April 18, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Altamas Kabir, Justices Aftab Alam and Vikramjit Sen did not entertain the SLP filed by SECR and dismissed it at the admission level.

In November last, the high court had directed SECR to follow orders issued on April 10, 2012, by Justice M N Gilani providing relief to the porters by paying wages under Section 17-B of the Industrial Dispute Act (IDA) 1947, till the pendency of the matter.

IDA’s section 17-B states “where in any case, a labour court or tribunal directs reinstatement of any workman and employer prefers any proceedings against such award in a high court or Supreme Court, the employer shall be liable to pay full wages last drawn by the workman during the pendency of such proceedings in the courts”.

A contempt petition filed against general manager Arunendra Kumar, Bilaspur, and senior divisional commercial manager (SrDCM) Pradeep Kumar is already pending in the high court. Besides, the sanghatana is also fighting a case to regularize the porters.

Counsel for the railways, Nitin Lambat, said the SLP dismissed by the Supreme Court specifically pertains to payment of wages. “The railways will fight out case regarding regularization of porters in the court of law,” Lambat added.

Around 203 porters were recruited by the SECR in 1994 but were not regularized forcing them to move the court. Their services were terminated in 2005. However, in 2010, the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT) has twice ordered to regularize service of these parcel porters but SECR is not ready.

Rajesh Supatkar, general secretary of the PPS, said as per the Minimum Wages Act, the pending wages to 152 porters for the past one year amounts to roughly Rs10 lakh.

“The SECR is not only violating court orders but also flouting Railway Board directives issued in 1983, which state that railways should take immediate steps to ensure that retrenchment provisions of Industrial Dispute Act are strictly complied with and unnecessary litigation is avoided,” he stressed.