New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that during the bifurcation of states it was incumbent upon the state and central governments to address issues relating to state government and PSU employees as they could not be treated as guinea pigs and left high and dry for no fault of theirs.
The court said this while directing the Bihar and Jharkhand governments to pay the dues of employees of Bihar Hill Area Lift Irrigation Corporation (BHALCO), which later became JHALCO. The payments were pending for years.
"The factual expose, as is evident, reflects a very sad scenario.
"We call it sad as we are disposed to think that when a state is bifurcated by a parliamentary legislation, both the states and the centre are required to take certain decisions under the Act and they are required to be taken in quite promptitude and not leaving the poor employees high and dry and suffer for no fault of theirs," said a bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Dipak Misra in a recent judgment.
Speaking about the plight of BHALCO employees, one of whom committed suicide by setting himself on fire, Justice Misra said: "The tragedy has fallen solely because of the bifurcation.
"True it is, under the law there has been bifurcation and the central government has been assigned the role to settle the controversies that had to arise between the two states."
"But the experimentation that has been done with the employees as if they are guinea pigs is legally not permissible and indubitably absolutely unconscionable.
"It hurts the soul of the Constitution and no one has the right to do so", the judgment said, frowning at both the state governments of Bihar and Jharkhand and the centre.
The court further said that if the facts of the case were to be tested on the anvil of the principle of social and economic justice enshrined in the constitution, "there can be no trace of doubt that both the states and the corporations have conveniently ostracized the concept of `model employer`".
The court said it would not be wrong to say that "they have done so with Pacific calmness, sans vision, shorn of responsibility and oblivious of their role in such a situation".
"Their action reflects the attitude of emotionlessness, proclivity of impassivity and deviancy with cruel impassibility," the court said.
"Neither of the states nor the corporations have even thought for a moment about the livelihood of the employees.
"They have remained totally alien to the situation to which the employees have been driven to," it said.
"In a state of good governance, the government cannot act like an alien," the judgment said admonishing both the Bihar and Jharkhand governments.
Referring to the totality of facts and circumstances including the concept of social justice, role of a model employer in a welfare state and the conduct of both Bihar and Jharkhand governments, the court issued eight directions asking that the employees who were paid certain amount after this court had directed for deposit of Rs.50 crore by the Bihar government but have not been absorbed by JHALCO, they should be paid their salary from Jan 1, 1995 till Dec 29, 2001.
The Bihar government was asked to make the payment within three months. However, Bihar would deduct the amount that has already been paid in pursuance to the court`s earlier order.
Jharkhand was asked to pay from Dec 29, 2001 to Dec 29, 2004. It was asked to pay the amount within a period of four months to those employees or their legal representatives.
Both the states shall compute the salary component after granting the benefit of pay revision which has been extended to other employees, the judgment said.
"The amount, as directed to be paid, shall be paid with 7.5 percent simple interest per annum," it said.