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No contempt lies in absence of specific directions, Supreme Court

The SC on May 19, 2020 {The Workmen through the Convener FCI Labour Federation v. Ravuthar Dawood Naseem} held that concededly,   the   subject   References,   as   well   as,   the direction issued by the Tribunal, which has been upheld upto this Court is silent about the system in which the concerned workers have to   be   regularised   and departmentalised. It was also held that it is incomprehensible as to how it would be a case of disobedience, much less wilful disobedience, so as to entail in contemptuous conduct of the concerned officers of the Corporation especially when the eligible enlisted workers have already been regularized under the Direct Payment System (DPS) as per the applicable policy of 1991.

It was further observed by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar & Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, that to constitute civil contempt, it must be established that disobedience of the order is wilful, deliberate and with   full   knowledge   of   consequences   flowing   therefrom.    

It was held that it is seen that even the Division Bench of HC did not issue any specific direction to the respondent Corporation to regularise the concerned workmen under the Departmental Labour system and not to do so under the Direct Payment System (DPS) as per the policy of 1991. The Supreme Court has merely affirmed the view taken by the Tribunal and the Madras High Court.

The grievance in these petitions is about alleged non-compliance of direction given to the respondent, ­Food Corporation of India, to regularise and departmentalise the concerned workers who had initiated industrial disputes.

The SC held that the issue as to regularisation of the concerned   workmen   under   particular   labour   system   had   not been put in issue before the Tribunal and upto this Court. It was held that a general   direction came   to   be   issued   to   regularise   and departmentalise them.   Resultantly, it was held that the respondents were left with the only option to regularise the concerned workmen as per the extant applicable policy of the Organisation, under the Direct Payment System (DPS).

Thus, it was held by the SC that no contempt action can   be   initiated   on   the   basis   of   general   direction   to   the respondents   to   regularise   and   departmentalise   the   concerned workmen. Accordingly, the contempt petitions failed and were dismissed.   Show cause   notices   stood   discharged by the SC.

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