The chairman, managing director and board members of public sector units could be booked under criminal charges for industrial mishaps, if the Cabinet approves a key amendment to the Factories Act.
Even as the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected plea to reinstate stronger charges against senior officials of Union Carbide, the government is pushing amendments to the Factories Act 1948 to pin criminal charges on the top brass of PSUs in case of tragedies in their units.
Though the Factories Act was amended after 1984 Bhopal tragedy allowing sentence of up to 10 years for those responsible for mishaps, the argument is only lower rung officials are blamed and punished.
"As heads of the PSUs, their policy decisions are vital for safety of workers and environment. So, if they fail in approving, installing such systems in place they should be held responsible," PC Chaturvedi, secretary, labour ministry told HT.
There were several major industrial disasters in recent past like the Indian Oil Corporation fire at its Jaipur depot in 2009 that killed 12 people and left several people injured.
An expert committee under planning commission member Narendra Jadhav would meet to finalise the recommendation to be submitted to the PMO. If approved by the Cabinet, the amendment among others would be introduced in coming Parliament session.
While in private establishments the owner — defined as occupier — is held responsible there is ambiguity over the same in government units.
The amendment is backed by both trade unions and private sector. But PSUs resisting the proposal want an arrangement where the government undertaking (such as SAIL) and the controlling ministry (steel ministry) would designate a specific official as responsible.