Chennai: Observing that speedy disposal is a right of an aggrieved person, more specifically in labour side, the Madras high court has directed the Union government to conduct a review or inspection, so as to identify the problems and the issues in the matter of speedy disposal of the cases before the Appellate Tribunal. The court also asked the Centre to ensure that the object and the purpose for which the Tribunals are created is fulfilled and further ensure that the rights of the respective parties are protected, as the same being the constitutional mandate as well as the obligation on the part of Government of India, being a model State.
Justice S.M.Subramaniam gave the directive while dismissing a petition from the Managing Director, M/s A & F Overseas Trade Limited, Pondicherry, challenging an order of the Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner, directing the company to pay the Provident Fund dues of certain employees of the company.
Originally, the authorities issued an order to the company to remit the contributions of Employees Provident Fund, Pension Fund and the Employees Deposit Linked Insurance in respect of trainees enrolled from the date of engagement. The company replied that they were only appointed as trainees for two and half years and were paid stipend ranging from `600 to `800 and they were exempted from paying PF. However, the authorities after inspection held that in order to evade payment of PF, the company was treating certain employees as trainees and therefore, the company was bound to pay PF. Aggrieved, the company filed a review, which was also dismissed and the company filed the present petition.
During the hearing, when the judge asked whether the company had preferred any appeal against the order, Senior Counsel S.Ravindran submitted that it did not do so. However, it was ready to file an appeal, if the court condones the delay in filing the appeal since this petition was pending for over six years.
Declining to condone the delay, the judge said the only option would be that the petitioner was bound to pay the contribution as per the claim set out in the impugned orders and accordingly, proceed to pay as per the provisions of the Act and Rules.
The judge said during the course of arguments, senior counsel S.Ravindran as well as the members of the Bar expressed their anguish regarding the manner in which the Appellate Tribunal was deciding the matters belatedly and they were unable even to dispose of any case. In fact, the members of the Bar made a complaint that adjournments were granted in a callous manner and matters listed in October 2019 were adjourned to May 2020 and therefore, they were unable to get disposal of any case before the Tribunal, the judge added.
The judge said this court was of the opinion that the welfare legislations, more specifically in Labour Laws, were meant for speedy disposal of cases as the employees or managements cannot afford to wait for long years in respect of disposal of the cases, as it would affect the parties. "The parties, who all are waiting for justice for a number of years must be considered and the Tribunal must ensure early disposal of the cases", the judge added and gave the above directive.
The judge said the Government of India was bound to review the functioning as well as the disposal of the cases done by the respective judicial officers and accordingly take adequate steps to ensure speedy disposal of the cases to the litigants, who all were approaching the Tribunal under the provisions of various Statutes and Laws.
Impleading suo motu the Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment department as a party respondent in the case, the judge directed the Registry to communicate a copy of his order, enabling the Ministry to look into the matter and initiate all necessary steps. The exercise of conducting a review or inspection may be done by the impleaded respondent within 3 months, the judge added....