Morality of the workers in India

By Parmanand Pandey

I am a victimised employee of a newspaper organisation. After victimisation I decided that I would use my law degree to fight for the cause of workers only; within and outside courts as well. The mode of fighting for the workers would be through trade unionism and legal cases. It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that almost all cases that were filed by me in different courts brought relief for the workers. It is not because that I am a very brilliant lawyer but because of the illegalities committed by the managements in their dealings with workers, which were set right by the courts. I can also say that my tenacity, honesty and sincerity to learn and understand the law and do the necessary research work for furtherance of my work helped me to a great extent in achieving the objective.

It is a common allegation of frustrated workmen (frustration is very understandable) that their advocates have colluded with the managements and as a result of it they have lost their cases. This allegation is not unfounded also. There are many unscrupulous lawyers who do not baulk at indulging in such malpractices. But my experience has been very different. I have come across many workers who after winning their cases, taking the cheques from the managements have forgotten their lawyers. What to say of paying the fees, they do not show the courtesy to meet their lawyers thereafter. If the fee is asked, they will come out with such alibis and even allegations that one feels ashamed in asking for the same.

I have a very recent experience. Two workmen, of Asian Age, who worked for the news paper on daily wages in the dispatch section of the newspaper, came to me on a reference of a friend. Let me tell their names. One is Durga Prasad Tiwari and the other is Subodh Prakash. They were getting a meagre wages of Rs. 1200/- per month way back in 1996. When the office of the news paper was shifted to some other places, they were asked not to come to office from the next day. They had been given an identity card to facilitate their entry in the Railway Stations.

When they came to me some fourteen years ago, I asked them what proof they have to show that they had been working with newspaper. They had none except the card for entry. However, I took the chance and sent a notice, which was, as usual, not replied by the management. In those days it was not possible to approach the court directly, so I raised the dispute before the conciliation officer of the Delhi Government. On one or two occasions the management’s representative attended the proceedings but later the presumptions management refused to attend them. The conciliation officer had no choice but to refer the case to the Labour Court. There also the management’s representative attended the two-three times but not thereafter. After giving enough opportunities the Labour Court’s Presiding Officer, an upright judge, passed ex parte award in favour of these workmen directing the management to pay them full back wages with all consequential benefits. The award came in the year 2000. It was a virtual windfall and the management threw the towel before entering the arena. They took the case in a most callous and indifferent way.

Now the question was of recovery arose. After winning the case in the Labour Court, a fresh case was to be filed in before the Execution Officer of the Delhi Government.
It has to be done with in 30 days of the publication of the award by the Government. I promptly filed the case for execution. Here also nobody came from the management even after the service of the notice by the registered post. The Execution Officer sent it to the ADM concerned for the recovery of Rs. 1,76,000/- , which was calculated at the rate of minimum wages, application at that time i.e. the year 2001.

It took nearly a more than a year to coax the ADM office to start the recovery proceedings. When the recovery proceedings started; the management woke up from the deep slumber and filed a writ petition in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. The main plea of the management was that the case was decided ex parte without affording any opportunity to it contest the case.

This is a very feeble logic particularly in Delhi, where all courts from Lower Courts to the High Court do not move even a millimetre till the proof of service is not produced and put on record file. Nevertheless, the High Court admitted the petition on the ground that at least 50 per cent of the amount to be recovered is deposited with the registry. The management accepted the condition with alacrity and deposited the money. Hon’ble High Court called for records from the Labour Court but in the meantime I made an application under 17B of the Industrial Disputes Act, which means that workmen will be entitled to minimum wages or the last drawn wages, whichever is higher, till the pendency of the case in the High Court. This is also known as Interim Relief. This was granted but in the meantime the management’s lawyer requested the court to be recused from the case. After two or three hearings, which if seen from the angle of duration, will be after nearly a year, he (the management’s advocate) was discharged.

I pressed for the final arguments and early disposal of the case, the Hon’ble High Court agreed to it. Three opportunities were again given to the management but it was the same old habit and tendency of the management that reflected in the High Court. Ultimately, the Hon’ble High Court dismissed the petition of the Management and thereby upheld the award of the Labour Court. Rs. 88,000/- , deposited by the Management at the time of the admission of the case, had matured to 1, 17,000/- were released in favour of both workmen.

My shocking and sad experience stars from here, which I will narrate in the next post.