In an unusual order, the Madras High Court has granted liberty to 11 temporary employees of a cooperative milk producers’ union to initiate criminal proceedings against government officials responsible for not making them permanent employees in the last two decades.
Justice S. Vaidyanathan granted two months’ to officials to accord permanent employee status to petitioners under the Tamil Nadu Industrial Establishment (Conferment of permanent status to Workmen) Act of 1981, failing which they were warned of criminal prosecution.
“It goes without saying that if any complaint is made by the petitioners, criminal action should be taken against the officers responsible for implementing the court orders and the government will have to sanction prosecution against those persons.”
Directing the High Court Registry to circulate a copy of the judgment to all criminal courts in the State as well as the Chief Secretary so that it could be circulated among all IAS officers, the judge ordered that the criminal courts must expedite the trial in such cases.
Officers, against whom such complaints had been made, must appear before the criminal courts on all dates of hearing and their presence should not be dispensed with by any criminal court unless there were genuine reasons, such as hospitalisation or any death in the family. “The reason for directing the presence of the officers before the criminal court is to make them realise the pain and suffering undergone by the employees who have been litigating before courts for years,” the judge said.
He lamented that “the employees are made to face economical death, which is worse than criminal offences on account of the act of the officers”.
The orders were passed on a writ petition filed by the 11 employees, seeking a direction to the officials to consider their latest representation.
Petitioners’ counsel C. Kanagaraju brought it to the notice of the court that originally 49 temporary employees were engaged by the Coimbatore District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union between 1988 and 1994 for jobs, such as loading and unloading milk cans, melting ghee and packing.
In 1999, the general manager of the union wrote to the Commissioner of Milk Production and Dairy Development to regularise the services of all the 49 employees.
When there was no response from the Commissioner, 30 temporary employees filed a joint writ petition before the High Court in 2010.
Justice R. Suresh Kumar disposed of the writ petition in November 2016 and held that the petitioners’ claim for absorption was fully justified since the 1981 Act provided for conferment of permanent status if a worker had been in continuous service for 480 days in 24 calendar months.
Observing that the government must be a model employer, the judge issued directions to the officials to pass appropriate orders on their plea within three months.
Nevertheless, the requests of the present batch of 11 petitioners were not considered at all, the counsel complained.