Justice delayed is not always justice denied. Nineteen years after a man was thrown out of his Rs 130 a month job, the Supreme Court has ordered his reinstatement with the benefit of continuous service.
A Sankaralingam had joined the New India Assurance Company in 1986 as a part-time sweeper-cum-waterman. Three years later, the company asked him to stop coming to work after he requested he be regularised.
Part-time or full-time, a workman is entitled to the benefit of continuous service if he/she has regularly worked for 240 days in a year, a bench headed by Justice Tarun Chatterjee ruled. Such a worker cannot be removed without complying with the mandatory provisions of Section 25 F of the Industrial Disputes Act.
No workman who has been in continuous service for not less than a year shall be retrenched until he/she has been given one month’s notice in writing indicating the reasons for retrenchment and the period of notice has expired, or the workman has been paid in lieu of the notice, the wages for the period, the section says.
Sankaralingam’s re-instatement order is likely to benefit several part-time workers who would be entitled to avail benefits as workmen under the Industrial Act.
The court said the definition of workman under the Act did not make any distinction between full-time and part-time employee. The Act did not say that only a person employed full time will be said to be a workman.
“What is required is that the person should be employed for hire to discharge the work manual, skilled or unskilled in any industry,” the court said.
Interestingly, Sankaralingam was hired as a part-time employee of the company and was paid just Rs 130 per month. His agreement required him to work two hours, but he used to put in five every day. He was removed from service in March 1989 when he expressed his wish to become a permanent employee.
The Industrial Tribunal had in 1998 rejected Sankaralingam’s plea and held that he was not a workman under the Industrial Tribunal Act that extended protection to the workmen of an industry against any illegal removal from job.
But the Madras High Court ordered his reinstatement with full back-wages but left the issue of his regularisation open to be considered by the employer in accordance with the law. Now, the apex court has dismissed the company’s appeal and ordered Sankaralingam’s reinstatement.