Pay 50 per cent of balance amount to closed mill employees: HC

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Chennai, May 4 (PTI) The Madras High Court has directed the Puducherry government to release 50 per cent of the balance amount payable to the employees of the closed Swadeshee-Bharathee Textile Mills Limited, a government undertaking in the union territory.

Justice S Vaidyanathan gave the direction while passing interim orders on a petition from two labour unions on April 29.

The petition sought to quash a notice dated September 29, 2020 of the managing director of Swadeshi Cotton Mill, which ordered its closure and consequently, direct the authorities concerned to take appropriate steps to make the mill operative.

'On consideration of the submissions made by the parties, a detailed adjudication is required in this case with regard to the legal submissions of the parties.' 'In the meanwhile, the (Puducherry) government shall release 50 per cent of the balance amount due to the employees within 15 days, preferably on or before May 15, so that no estoppel plea would be taken and the government also cannot take a stand that as a major portion of the amount has been paid, nothing survives to be adjudicated further,' the court said.

Any amount paid will be without prejudice to the rights of the parties in the petition, as the legal issue has to be answered and it cannot be closed, the judge said.

Earlier, Government Pleader (Puducherry) told the judge that barring a handful of workmen, all others had accepted the compensation, knowing very well that the undertaking suffered losses.

The judge made it clear that a five member panel or seven workmen can join together, form a union and raise a dispute, questioning the non-employment on account of the alleged illegal closure under Section 2-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, which is maintainable.

Even assuming that all the workmen had been settled, a single worker is entitled to raise a dispute, challenging the non-employment against the alleged illegal closure, which needs to be decided by the appropriate Labour Court/Tribunal, the judge said and posted the matter for further hearing on June 21. PTI CORR SA BN BALA BN BALA