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Top PF court runs in Amby

The Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal has been functioning from a car. Harish V. Nair finds out.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2008 01:06 IST
Harish V. Nair

From a distance, the car in the picture — parked outside Mayur Bhawan in CP — is just another Ambassador. But get closer and ask the occupants, and you find that it’s much more than that. It’s a courtroom, believe it or not.

The Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal, India’s top court dealing with PF disputes from across the country, has been functioning from the car for more than three months now. It has been like this ever since a fire on October 6 destroyed its office in the ninth floor of Mayur Bhawan. The car is the official vehicle of the tribunal head or the presiding officer, as he is known.

And this is how the court in the car functions: the tribunal head and his stenographer sit on the rear seat. The lawyer positions himself on the front seat, near the driver’s, and turns back to make submissions.

When approached by Hindustan Times, tribunal head R.L. Koli refused to comment. “He is not authorised to speak,” a staff said. Sources, however, said Koli has repeatedly requested the Centre to allot an alternate site for the tribunal.

Sources in Central PF Commissioners Office said the tribunal had stopped functioning after the fire and claimed “it operated from a car only on three or four days”. But HT found at least two lawyers appear before the “court” on Monday.

Is working from his official car a form of protest by Koli? The lawyers do not think so. They are impressed with his sincerity. Advocate P. Vinay Kumar said, “What can he do if he doesn’t have an office? He is still managing to hear urgent matters. This is the height of government apathy.”

Another lawyer said that similar forums are housed in posh hotels.