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The three judge bench of Justices R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy of the Supreme Court today restored a Writ Petition for fresh consideration by the Uttarakhand High Court and directed speedy disposal of the matter in ONGC Labour Union v ONGC Dehradun & ors.

The Bench held that the writ petition was disposed of without providing an opportunity to the members of the ONGC Labour Union who were in a position to apprise the High Court with all the facts and the detailed study/discussion by the Sub-committees, preceding the 08.09.1994 notification. Court observed that the High Court based its decision primarily on the basis of a 2001 SAIL v NUWW judgment which was related to an older notification.

ONGC had challenged the 1994 notification in Uttarakhand HC prohibiting employment of contract labour in different categories of work in the ONGC. High Court had quashed the notification. The Labour Union was not impleaded in the petition. Aggrieved by the verdict which did not give an opportunity to the Labour Union to defend the notification, but most definitely impacted them, the instant appeal was filed.

The ONGC Labour Union contended that “the impugned prohibitory notification was issued after complying with the provisions of Section 10 of the CLRA Act, which requires the Central Government to take into consideration the state of employment of contract labour in any process, operation or other works of any establishment. Specifically, the appropriate Government is required to bear in mind the conditions of work and benefits provided for the contract labour in the establishment by taking into account other relevant factors i.e. whether the work is incidental to or necessary for the industry, if it is perennial in nature, whether it is ordinarily done through regular workmen in the establishment or whether it is sufficient to employ considerable number of whole-time workmen.”

It was further observed from the union’s contentions that “the High Court was kept in the dark about the Sub-Committee’s inspection, deliberations and recommendation to the Ministry. Thus only one sided projection was made before the High Court. This by itself according to the Counsel, would warrant interference with the impugned judgment rendered in absence of the affected workman.”

Court thus observed, “Besides the Court was made to believe that the Central Government had not consulted the Labour Advisory Board. Thus, wrong inference was drawn on incorrect premises and the High Court proceeded under the presumptive footing as if, there was non-application of mind by the Central Government.”

The Bench has hence requested the High Court to “decide the matter expeditiously and preferably within four months of notice being served on the respondents in the restored Writ Petition.”

— India Legal Bureau

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