Rourkela Shramik Sangh Vs. Steel Authority of
India Ltd. & Anr  Insc 37 (29 January 2003)
S.B. Sinha & A.R. Lakshmanan.
out of S.L.P. (Civil) No.14567 of 2000) S.B. SINHA, J:
of an order passed by this Court in R.K. Panda & Others. vs. Steel
Authority of India and Others [(1994) 5 SCC 304] is in question in this appeal
which arises out of the judgment and order dated 25th May, 2000 passed by the
High Court of Delhi in L.P.A. No.335 of 1998 whereby and whereunder an appeal
preferred by the appellant from the judgment and order dated 15th July, 1998
passed by a learned Single Judge of the said Court dismissing the writ petition
filed by the appellant was upheld.
basic fact of the matter is not in dispute. The workers of the Rourkela Steel
Plant filed a writ petition before this Court, inter alia, for a direction that
they be held to be entitled to be paid the same pay as is paid to the regular
employees and be treated as such on the premise that they had been employed by
various contractors and were doing jobs which are perennial in nature and
identical to what were being done by regular employees of the Plant. This Court
having regard to the various interim orders passed from time to time did not
relegate the workmen to avail the remedies under the Industrial Disputes Act,
1947 and, inter alia, directed :-
All labourers, who had been initially engaged through contractors but have been
continuously working with the respondent for the last ten years on different
jobs assigned to them in spite of the replacement and change of the
contractors, shall be absorbed by the respondent, as their regular employees
subject to being found medically fit and if they are below 58 years of age,
which is the age of superannuation under the respondent. xxx xxx xxx xxx
The respondent shall be at liberty to retrench workmen so absorbed, in
accordance with law.
order shall not be pleaded as a bar to such retrenchment.
If there is any dispute in respect of the identification of the contract labourers
to be absorbed as directed above, such dispute shall be decided by the Chief Labour
Commissioner (Central), on material produced before him by the parties
This direction shall be operative only in respect of 142 jobs out of 246 jobs,
in view of the fact that contract labour has already been abolished in 104
jobs." The appellants therein, however, filed interlocutory applications
for directions marked as I.A. Nos. 8 and 9 of 1991 before this Court wherein
the following prayers were made :-
That the respondents be directed to regularize the service of all the workmen
working in any of the 246 jobs at the time of filing of this petition and
continuously working since then;
Clarify that the standards of medical fitness to be applied in case of these
workmen should be the standards used for regular workmen for their
Clarify that this judgment dated 12.5.94 would also apply to those workmen who
had been retrenched in 1990 and 1992 and have not yet been taken back in
Direct the respondents to pay wages to those 292 workmen who were kept out of
employment for the period 22.5.89 to 30.11.89, contrary to the orders of this
(a) and (b) were not pressed and in relation to prayers (c) and (d), this Court
clarified that if any of the workmen is not absorbed/regularized despite this
Court's directions/orders, the workmen concerned would be at liberty to pursue
any other remedy or may approach any other authority prescribed under law.
to or in furtherance of the said directions of this Court (quoted supra), 5340
applications were received and out of said applicants 2677 applicants were
found eligible for absorption by the management.
of 2663 workmen were referred to the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) in
terms of the said judgment.
order dated 4th January, 1995, the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) New
Delhi put the workmen in eight different categories which are as under :-
1: Applicants otherwise eligible but above 58 years of age.
2: Applicants above 58 years of age and also otherwise not ineligible for not
completing ten years of continuous working.
(A) Not completed ten years of continuous working on the applicant's own
3: (B) Applicant admits gap in claim for continuous working for ten years.
4: Applicants claimed 10 years of continuous working in the jobs continuing to
exist but not established on the basis of records enclosed with the application
and those available with the Department including E.S.I. registration date.
5: Applicants claimed 10 years of continuous working had not substantiated only
due to short gap in finalization and award of the concerned contract.
6: Applicants claimed more than 10 years of continuous working admitting gap to
the period of 10 years which corresponds to the actual short gap in finalisation
and award of the contract.
7: Applicants claimed 10 years of continuous working or admitted that gap in
contract having short gap in finalisation and award of contract but claim not
established even otherwise on the basis of records enclosed with the
applications and those available within department including E.S.I.
8: Claim not entertained as names of claimants do not appear in the wage sheets
of covered jobs." The said authority further laid down a criteria that the
matter relating to identification of the concerned workmen and determination of
their period of work would be made on the basis of the Employees State
Insurance Card and Employees Provident Fund Card. Applying the said norm he
arrived at a finding that 360 workmen were eligible for absorption. The
appellant Association filed an application for review before the Chief Labour
Commissioner (Central) on 31st January, 1995 and upon consideration of the matter again he found that 523 workmen
were also eligible for absorption.
support of the said finding he assigned sufficient and cogent reasons. The said
order was implemented by the respondent herein.
appellants therein filed an interlocutory application marked as I.A. No.10 of
1995 on 24th July, 1995, praying for the following reliefs
direct the respondents to take back those 1800 and odd workmen who had been
illegally retrenched by the respondents on 10.4.95 and not to retrench them
until there is a need for retrenchment on the ground of surplusage of labour;
that all those workmen who had completed 10 years of service by 10.4.1995 would
be eligible for regularization."
when the matter came up for consideration before this Court on 16th October,
1995, they sought leave to withdraw the said petition whereupon, the following
order came to be passed :- "The applicant may, if so advised, seek a
reference of any fresh alleged dispute which has arisen between the workmen and
the management or approach the authority in accordance with law.
I.A. is dismissed as withdrawn." We may notice that in the said
application, the appellants therein made the aforementioned prayers, inter alia,
alleging :- "That thereafter, after various hearing and reports sought and
given by the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Dhanbad, the Chief Labour
Commissioner (Central) finally passed an order dated 1.5.95 by which he
directed another 522 workmen to be eligible; thus, still leaving out
approximately 1800 workmen out of those who had applied for regularization on
the basis that they had put in more than 10 years continuous service.
the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) while deciding the applications of the
workmen took cognizance of only the entry date in the Employees State Insurance
Registration Card and the Employees Provident Fund declaration forms. This was
despite the fact that the Employees State Insurance Registration Card of a
large number of workmen were not made till 1986 and despite the fact that the
Provident Fund declarations were also not done by the contractors in respect of
many workmen till 1986 when this petition was filed in this Court. In those
cases, the workmen were not given Employees State Insurance Registration cards
and Employees Provident Fund declarations prior to 1986. The workmen concerned,
therefore, produced various documentary evidences of their employment since
1984 such as wage sheets signed by the officers of the principal employer,
contractor and the workmen, Annual Provident Fund account slips, Service
Certificates issued by the Contractor/officers of the Respondent company,
tripartite agreements giving the names of the workmen, identity cards, wages
slips etc." It was further alleged :
fact is that the retrenchment of these 1800 workmen is not a planned one or
retrenchment forced due to surplusage of labour but merely an attempt to get
rid of these workmen who had the courage to approach this Hon'ble Court for relief. In fact, all these
workmen were, in fact and in law, employed through contractors.
were clearly covered by the principles laid down by this court in the recent
decision of Justice P.B. Sawant in Gujarat Electricity Board versus Hind Mazdoor
Sabha & Ors. JT 1995 (4) SC 264.
unfortunately, however, this Hon'ble Court
could not go into the question whether these workmen were in fact and in law
entitled to be considered to be employed by the Respondent company in this writ
petition. The petitioners now will have to approach the Industrial Tribunal for
this, which would take considerable time. In the meanwhile, these 1800 workmen
and their families are on the streets. It may also be pointed out that the
management of Rourkela Steel Plant have not yet complied even with the orders
of the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) dated 1.5.1995 in which he had held
another 523 workmen to be eligible for regularsation." It is, thus,
evident that the contentions raised herein and in the said interlocutory
application, are identical.
the aforementioned order dated 16th October, 1995, the writ petition was filed by the appellant herein which was marked
as C.W.P. No.2963 of 1995. By an order dated 15th July, 1998, the said writ petition was
dismissed. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed a L.P.A. which was also
dismissed by reason of the impugned order.
Bhushan, learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant, has
raised two contentions in support of this appeal. Firstly, it was submitted
that keeping in view the clear and unequivocal directions of this Court in the
aforementioned judgment, the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) could not have
directed that the identity of the concerned workmen would be established only
with reference to the E.S.I. Card or P.F. Card although several workmen had
various documents in their possession, e.g., identity card, service
certificate, wage-sheet etc. to prove their case. It was next submitted that
some workmen had even been retrenched during the earlier proceedings despite an
order of injunction having been passed in that behalf, and, thus, were entitled
to the benefit of the judgment of this Court.
learned counsel would submit that the approach of the High Court in passing the
impugned judgment must be held to be erroneous inasmuch the writ petition could
not be dismissed only because the appellant withdrew I.A. No.10 of 1995 wherein
the said order dated 16th
October, 1995 was
passed. It was submitted that the reliefs prayed for in the said interlocutory
application had nothing to do with the subject matter of the writ petition
which was disposed of by this Court.
Bhushan would further urge that as the High Court is also an authority, the
appellants herein could also file a writ petition pursuant to or in furtherance
of the observations made by this Court in its order dated 16th October, 1995.
C.S. Vaidyanathan, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the
respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the appellants having filed I.A.
No. 9 of 1991 and I.A. No. 10 of 1995 before this Court raising identical
questions could not raise the same again by filing an application under Article
226 of the Constitution of India and the remedy therefor available to them, if
any, was merely to approach the Industrial Court in terms of the provisions of
the Industrial Disputes Act.
would contend that at the later stage of the enquiry, the Chief Labour
Commissioner, Central, had also taken into consideration other documents
produced by the workmen and arrived at a finding that no reliance can be placed
question as to whether the concerned workmen had been continuously working for
a period of ten years so as to enable them to derive benefit of the judgment of
this Court in R.K. Panda's case was essentially a question of fact. The Chief Labour
Commissioner (Central) while determining the said question was not acting as a
statutory authority. He was merely acting pursuant to or in furtherance of the
directions of this Court.
appellants herein, as noticed hereinbefore, immediately after the pronouncement
of the judgment of this Court apprehended that a large number of workmen may be
retrenched. They, therefore, sought for clarification by filing the
aforementioned I.As. No. 8 and 9 of 1991, which as noticed hereinbefore, were
disposed of directing that in the event they are aggrieved by an order of the
Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), they may take recourse to such proceedings
as are available to them in law.
interesting to note that in the interlocutory application marked as I.A. No.10
of 1995, the appellants themselves stated:
petitioners now will have to approach the Industrial Tribunal for this, which
would take considerable time. In the meanwhile, these 1800 workmen and their
families are on the streets." There cannot, thus, be any doubt whatsoever
that the appellants were fully aware of the fact that they were required to
approach the Industrial Tribunal in terms of the provisions of the Industrial
Disputes Act for ventilating their grievances. The submission of Mr. Shanti Bhushan
to the effect that the High Court acts as an authority while exercising its
power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India cannot be countenanced.
The order of this Court dated 16th October, 1995, as quoted supra, is absolutely clear and unambiguous. The term
'authority' used in this Court's order dated 16th October, 1995 must be read in the context in which it was used.
appellant in terms thereof could seek a reference which would mean a reference
in terms of Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act. It could also approach
'the authority in accordance with law' which would mean authority under a
statute. The High Court, by no stretch of imagination, can be an authority
under a statute.
even otherwise, a disputed question of fact normally would not be entertained
in a writ proceeding. This aspect of the matter has also been considered by a
Constitution Bench of this Court in Steel Authority of India Ltd. and others
vs. National Union Waterfront Workers and others [(2001) 7 SCC 1]. In any
event, the orders of the Chief Labour Commissioner dated 4th January, 1995 also
shows that other documents which were placed on record by the workmen had also
been scrutinized and they had not been found reliable.
are, therefore, of the opinion that no case has been made out for interference
with the impugned judgment.
appeal is accordingly dismissed but in the facts and circumstances of the case,
there shall be no order as to costs.