Bombay High Court Steers Payment of Wages to Gardeners, Calls CIDCO “Inhuman and Callous”

Bombay High Court reprimanded City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO). CIDCO made gardeners work for them for several years; during the lockdown without pay and without protective gear. Despite an award by the Industrial Tribunal against them in 2018 effectively making gardeners permanent employees.

Brief Background

Maharashtra Kamgar Sanghatana on behalf of its members/workmen filed the writ petition. Since the last several years they are working as Gardeners or ‘Malis’ for CIDCO. Justice SJ Kathawalla while hearing the petition called CIDCO’s treatment of the workmen (gardeners) “inhuman and callous“. The Court directed the payment of unpaid wages from January until April 2020. Justice Kathawalla also directed the CIDCO to continue to pay earned wages to the workmen before the 5th of every month.

On December 1, 2012, a plea for relief was made before the Industrial Tribunal, Thane, regarding the permanency of the concerned workmen. On January 13, 2017, the Tribunal passed the Award stating that the concerned workmen be taken as permanent employees in CIDCO. Further, the Tribunal extended all benefits of permanency with effect from December 1, 2012. CIDCO challenged the Award, but the Court dismissed it stating that it stands passed.

Contentions

Petitioner argued that the orders did not stay, and CIDCO compelled the concerned workmen to survive on the charity of ration provided by NGOs and social workers. Whereas CIDCO’s counsel stated that his client made a request for a special leave petition against the court’s order, but the advocate at Delhi did not take any steps due to the lockdown.

He added that the payments of January 2020 stand paid as on April 2020. That instructions have been issued to the contractor to pay the concerned workmen up to April 2020. And that they handed over the gardeners to the Panvel Municipal Corporation to pay them.

Bombay High Court Observation

“None of the submissions made by CIDCO’s counsel justify the inhuman and callous conduct. Also the non-payment of earned wages since January 2020.”- The Court said. Making the concerned workmen work even during the pandemic and thereafter not paying them their earned wages for months, compels them to extend their hands before NGOs and social workers for ration to feed themselves and the members of their families. The Court opined that remains a very inhuman act on part of CIDCO, deserving severe condemnation.

Moreover, the Court addressed the grievance of the concerned workmen that they are not provided with ID Cards, face masks, hand gloves, etc. Because of which, they are finding it difficult to reach their place of work and are exposed to the virus.

Consequently, the court directed CIDCO to pay the concerned workmen their unpaid earned wages up to April 2020. And on or before May 18, 2020 issue essential service ID Cards to the concerned workmen. Along with face masks, hand gloves, sanitizers/soap, if not provided so far, and replace/replenish the same from time to time.

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