Fifty-year-old Tara Singh litigated with Uttar Pradesh’s irrigation department for 20 years to get his job back that fetched him Rs 299 every month.
Of these 20 years, 14 were spent in the Supreme Court, which in 2005 referred Singh’s case to a larger bench to decide if irrigation department was an industry. This because Singh — who worked as a tubewell operator-cum-technician — had invoked industrial disputes law against the department for terminating his services illegally in 1996.
On June 29, however, a bench of Justice Kurien Joseph and Justice Rohinton Nariman accepted Singh’s contention to de-tag his matter from the other petitions after he said the larger bench to hear the legal question was yet to be set up.
His counsel Aishwarya Bhati told the court that her client was a poor man and without a job for two decades. The court accepted her argument to dismiss UP government’s appeal against the 2002 Allahabad high court verdict restoring his employment. Singh will now get allowances at par with current wages.
“We find no reason on facts to entertain the special leave petition, which is dismissed,” read the court’s brief order. It said the larger bench can adjudicate the legal question pending before it.
Singh’s brush with the courts began when he moved the industrial tribunal after his “illegal” removal and won the case on July 27, 1996. Aggrieved, the state moved the high court a year later but lost the case. In 2002, the Supreme Court issued notice to Singh on the state’s appeal and restrained him from joining work.
On May 2 last year, the Supreme Court adjourned Singh’s case, observing a five-judge bench has to give a verdict on whether the irrigation department can be called an industry. However, the judgment pronounced three days later referred the matter to a seven-judge bench for an authoritative pronouncement. With this Singh’s case also got tagged with the other petitions.
“My client won in both the forums below. But the matter got stuck in the Supreme Court on a constitutional issue and delay in setting up the appropriate bench,” Bhati told HT.
She said they took a chance by filing an application to de-tag Singh’s case.