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One man?s unending ?labour? for justice

india Updated: Nov 02, 2006 16:27 IST
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A DIESEL generator operator-cum-fitter with Indore Malwa United Mills between 1982-1991, who claims to have been wrongfully terminated, is still running from pillar to post for justice six years after a High Court judgement reinstating him and despite President of India’s office ordering local authorities to redress the grievance.

During the prolonged period, the operator, Francis Fernandes, lost his ailing wife for lack of proper treatment and couldn’t provide college education to his son. The trouble began when Fernandes, who had received the best craftsmanship award of machine fitter by Ministry of Labour, Employment and Rehabilitation in 1974, complained of diesel theft by some people who ran the mill canteen in 1985-86.

Displeased with this complaint and his legitimate demand to confirm his services after serving seven years on the post, he was charge-sheeted on the grounds that he did not submit the gate pass at the exit gate and was dismissed from service in 1991. When he approached the labour court, it held his dismissal improper and directed the management to reinstate him with back wages in 1997.

Challenging the 1997 labour court order, the mill management filed an appeal with the industrial court. In September 1999, the industrial court set aside the labour court order. Incidentally, industrial court member judge Govardhanlal Mandiwal, who issued this order, was facing charge of producing fake caste certificate to get the post he was occupying (Mandiwal’s services were terminated in February 2003).

A month later, Fernandes through his counsel S H Moyal challenged the industrial court’s order in the Indore bench of MP High Court through two writ petitions.

In the writ petition (1401/1999), he sought to be made a permanent employee under relevant provisions of Standard Standing Orders fixed by Malwa Mill.

Responding to this writ, the High Court in its order on July 11, 2000, said that on account of promise being given to the petitioner that he shall be offered the post of security guard. At this stage, the learned counsel for the petitioner does not press this petition. “It is, accordingly dismissed as not pressed,” the judge concluded.

Francis told Hindustan Times, “I paid Rs 18,000 to my counsel (Moyal) to press for my cause and not to not press it.”   In writ petition (1399/1999) he sought his reinstatement in service holding his termination as unjustified. The High Court on July 25, 2000, ordered to reinstate his services as security guard (not as DG operator) on terms and conditions fixed by the mill management. As he was jobless, Fernandes accepted the post.

But, Fernandes says he has not received the copy of terms and conditions till date. He alleged that his counsel did not plead his case, conversed in English with the mill’s lawyer Girish Patwardhan and the judge, which he could not understand.

“I was denied justice since my lawyer didn’t argue on my behalf. The court was told that I have refused to accept the terms and conditions, whereas I had said nothing. Hearing this, Justice Deepak Verma, who was heading the bench, then scolded me. Terms and conditions are unavailable even in court records,” Francis claimed.

After 14 months of the court reinstatement order, the mill management called him on duty but dismissed him again in 2004 on charges, which according to Francis had no base and against which he appealed in the labour court. The matter is pending for the last two years. Frustrated, he wrote to the President of India narrating his woes with a demand to reopen writ petition (1399/1999) regarding his reinstatement. Responding to it, the President’s office sent a letter to the Chief Minister’s office and the latter directed the District Collector to look into the matter.

The Collector wrote to the Labour Commissionerate, which held a meeting, called all the parties concerned including NTC but the issue of terms and conditions was not raised.

Without addressing the core question, Labour Commissionerate in its April 2004 letter to Labour Department Deputy Secretary in Bhopal and Indore District Collector remarked that the court has settled his reinstatement matter and no other issue was pending with the department. “This letter has misled the authorities, as it didn’t answer what I had sought for,” Francis averred.

This August, Francis sought information from the Collectorate to know the proceedings held as follow-up of the President’s order. Having failed to receive appropriate reply under Right to Information Act, he filed an appeal last month with District Collector (appellate authority) who has listed it for hearing on November 8, 2006.