SUPREME COURT DISAPPROVES EMPLOYERS POLICY OF HIRE AND FIRE

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The Supreme Court has strongly disapproved the policy of ‘hire and fire’ being adopted by employers, both public and private and being approved by the courts in the name of the policy of globalisation, ignoring the Fundamental as well as the Constitutional and Human Rights of the workers.

A bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly in their order noticed ‘In a large number of cases like the present one, relief has been denied to the employees falling in the category of workmen, who are illegally retrenched from service by creating by-lanes and side-lanes in the jurisprudence developed by this court in three decades.

The stock plea raised by the public employer in such cases is that the initial employment or engagement of the workmen or employee was contrary to some or the other statute or that reinstatement of the workmen will put unbearable burden on the financial health of the establishment.

The courts have readily accepted such pleas unmindful of the accountability of the wrong doers and indirectly punished the tiny beneficiary of the wrong, ignoring the fact that he may have continued in the employment for years together and that micro wages earned by him may be the only source of his livelihood.’ The apex court further noted ‘It needs no emphasis that if a man is deprived of his livelihood, he is deprived of all his Fundamental and Constitutional Rights and for him the goal of social and economic justice, equality of status and of opportunity, the freedom enshrined in the Constitution remains illusory.

Therefore, the approach of the courts must be compatible with the constitutional philosophy of which the Directive Principles of the State Policy constitute an integral part and justice, due to the workmen, should not be denied by entertaining the specious and untenable ground put forward by the employer-public or private.’ The apex court imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on Punjab State Warehousing Corporation and restored the order of the labour court directing the corporation to reinstate appellant Harjinder Singh with 50 per cent back wages on the post of work munshi from where his services were terminated on July 5, 1988.

The apex court disapproving the recent approach of the court in labour matters also noted ‘Of late there has been a visible shift in the court’s approach in dealing with the case involving the interpretation of social welfare legislations.

The attractive mantras of globalisation and liberalisation are fast becoming the raison d’etre of the judicial process and an impression has been created that the constitutional courts are no longer sympathetic towards the plight of industrial and unorganised workers.’ Justice Ganguly in his separate but concurring order also noted ‘I am of the view that any attempt to dilute the constitutional imperatives in order to promote the so called trends of globalisation, may result in precarious consequences.

Reports of suicidal deaths of farmers in thousands from all over the country along with escalation of terrorism through dangerous signals.’ The Judge quoted from the writings of eminent Bengali pet Rabindranath Tagore ‘We have for over a century been dragged by the prosperous West behind its chariot, choked by the dust, deafened by the noise, humbled by our own helplessness and overwhelmed by the speed, we agreed to acknowledge that this chariot drive was progress and the progress was civilisation without venturing to ask ‘progress towards what and progress for whom’.’ Justice Ganguly concluded by noting ‘How relevant are these words and how deep are the ditches created in our society by the so-called advance of globalisation.

At this critical juncture the Judge’s duty, to my mind, is to uphold the constitutional focus of social justice without being in anyway misled by the glitz and glare of globalisation."

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