SC directs UOI to regularize the Army Porters engaged for more than 10 years

A special vacation bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising JJ Dr. Justice B.S Chauhan and Mr. Justice Deepak Mishra directed the Union of India and the Ministry of Defence to consider the case of regularization of the Army porters who have been engaged for more than 10 years as Army Porters in Nowshera (Rajouri) sector in J&K. The court further directed the Union of India and the Ministry of Defence to consider their appointment on the basis of their service record within a period of four months from the date of judgment.
Prof. Bhim Singh, Sr. Advocate has been representing the porters since 2010. He also filed an appeal before the Army Tribunal which did not hear the matter on the dispute of jurisdiction. Prof. Bhim Singh has been arguing this matter vehemently before the Supreme Court. Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Mr. Altamas Kabir had admitted this matter as an appeal. This appeal was fixed before the vacation bench on the request of Prof. Bhim Singh.
The Supreme Court observed after hearing the final argument, “Admittedly, the appellants had been working as ‘Porters’ in the civilian part of the Army for 15 to 25 years. The Central Administrative Tribunal vide its judgment and order dated 21.5.2009 has taken note of the fact that as per the pleadings taken before the Tribunal that they had been working for 10 to 22 years.
However, the Tribunal rejected their claim placing very heavy reliance on the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court in Secretary, State of Karnataka and Others vs. Uma Devi (3) and Others (2006) 4 SCC 1. Thereafter, the petitioners had been approaching one court or the other but they could not get the relief. When they went to Armed Forces Tribunal, the question of jurisdiction arose and the Tribunal came to the conclusion that it has no jurisdiction to deal with the case of civilian part of the Army.”
The Supreme Court also observed that in view of the fact that the appellants had been working for 15 to 20 years as on today and in view of the paragraph 53 of judgment in Uma Devi (Supra), would come in their aid. The said paragraph is reported below:
“53. One aspect needs to be clarified. There may be cases where irregular appointments (not illegal appointments) as explained in State of Mysore vs. S.V. Narayanappa (1967) 1 SCR 128, R.N. Nanjundappa vs. T. Thimmiah (1972) 1 SCC 409 and B.N.Nagarajan vs. State of Karnataka(1979) 4 SCC 507, and referred to in paragraph 15 above, of duly qualified persons in duly sanctioned vacant posts might have been made and the employees have continued to work for ten years or more but without the intervention of orders of courts or of tribunals. The question of regularization of the services of suchemployees may have to be considered on merits in the light of the principles settled by this Court in the cases above referred to and in the light of this judgment. In that context, the Union of India, the State Governments and their instrumentalities should take steps to regularize as a one time measure, the services of such irregularly appointed, who have worked for ten years or more in duly sanctioned posts but not under cover of orders of courts or of tribunals and should further ensure that regular recruitments are undertaken to fill those vacant sanctioned posts that require to be filled up, in cases where temporary employees or daily wagers are being now employed. The process must be set in motion within six months from this date. We also clarify that regularization, if any already made, but not subjudice, need not be reopened based on this judgment, but there should be no further by-passing of the constitutional requirement and regularizing or making permanent, those not duly appointed as per the constitutional scheme.”
The Supreme Court also quoted the Union of India and others vs. Vartak Labour Union (2) (2011) 4 SCC 200 in support of the porters. The Supreme Court had observed in this case in para 22 that,
“In the facts and circumstances of the instant case, where members of the respondent Union have been employed in terms of the Regulations and have been consistently engaged in service for the past thirty to forty years, of course with short breaks, we feel, the Union of India would consider enacting an appropriate regulation/ scheme for absorption and regularization of the services of the casual workers engaged by the BRO for execution of its ongoing projects.”
Prof. Bhim Singh described the judgment of the Supreme Court as a beacon light to realize the dream of the most exploited Army Porters who shall get their due according to the mandate of the Constitution and principles of natural justice.