The National Law University Delhi(NLUD) has issued a statement regarding the protests for reinstatement of sanitation workers of the University. The officials state that the alleged dispute is fundamentally between workers and the Contractors. Therefore, the university does not have any legal obligation for termination or reinstatement of the staff. In furtherance, it stated that:
“The University never hire workers; it only hires services. The deployment of workers keeps changing and only the service remains static.”– national law university, delhi
The clarification is in furtherance to the June 15th, 2020 order by the Delhi Labour Ministry. The said order had directed the University to reinstate all 55 safai karmcharis and pay their salaries.
Statement of the University
On 19th June 2020, the Delhi police detained Neetu Singh Yadav (Workers’ Representative) and Ekta Tomar (Student Representative) who assembled outside the campus to ensure the enforcement of the Labour Ministry’s order. The University, in reply, has clarified its non-involvement in the detention.
In its statement, the University expressed that they hired the house-keeping staff via a contract in 2008; without the assessment of manpower requirement. But in 2012, the Delhi Government issued guidelines for the same. In its implementation, the State Audit Team and the CAG Audit Team ordered the University to float fresh tender for outsourcing the services of safai karmcharis. Thereafter they awarded the tender to the current contractor, RMG. With the completion of the earlier contracts with White Fox and Golden, they also withdrew their manpower.
Referring to the Supreme court case, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. v. Mahendra Prasad Jakhmola & Ors., they stated that the entire process was legally binding. In essence, to determine the employee-employer relationship. The judgment further elaborates on the two tests to find out whether the contract laborers are the direct employees of the principal employer. Firstly, whether the principal employer pays the salary instead of the contractor. And secondly, whether the principal employer controls and supervises the work of the employee. In this contention, the University stated that:
“In the present case, the answers are in negative and hence the University does not have any legal duty and obligation towards such workers. The present contractor in a meeting also clearly volunteered to provide employment to all the former workers at other establishments closer to the University.. Labour Ministry’s order is in violation of law”reads the Statement.
Labour Ministry in Violation of Law
Notably, the NLUD statements examined that the Labour Ministry’s orders to cancel the existing contract shall be “in violation of law”. It highlighted that:
“As such these 22 workers of the earlier service provider were offered to join with the present service provider, out of which only 8 workers have joined. Remaining are adamant to join only in case they are given the assurance that the University will absorb them permanently, whosoever the contractor may be in future.”
The statement clarified that NLUD cannot absorb the workers, by the present or past contractors, permanently. Since it would increase the number of manpower excessively, the University stated,“There will be no use of having a contractor for the supply of the manpower, as it will be a sham contract and all such manpower will be treated as an employee of the University.”
The University relied on the case of State of Punjab & Anr. v. Sardari Lal & Ors., where the court observed that:
“The University’s autonomous status stands inviolable. The judgment quotes: “The University is an autonomous body and, therefore, the State Government will not be entitled to interfere with the internal administration of the University notwithstanding the fact that the State Government is the funding body until and unless the University Statutes provides for the same or there is an Act of Legislation Government.”
Since, the NLUD Act mandates that University bodies must approve all proposals bearing policy questions and financial questions. No other source or authority except for the University Finance Committee/Executive Council/ Governing Council can give their approval. Thus, the officials have placed the matter before the University Chancellor.