Air India Statutory Corporation. V. United Labour Union
Petitioner: AIR INDIA STATUTORY CORPORATION. Vs. Respondent: UNITED LABOUR UNION & ORS. The appeals by special leave arise from the judgment of the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court dated April 28, 1992 made in Appeal No. 146 of 1990 and batch. The facts in appeal arising out of S. L. P. 7417/92, are sufficient to decide the questions of law that have arisen in these appeals. The appellant initially was a statutory authority under International Airport Authority of India Act. 971 (for short, ‘IAAI Act’) and on its repeal by the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994 was amalgamated with National Airport Authority (for short, the ‘NAA’) under single nomenclature, namely, IAAI. The IAAI is now reconstituted as a company under Companies Act, 1956. The appellants engaged, as contract labour the respondent union’s members, for sweeping, cleaning dusting and watching of the building owned and occupied by the appellant.
The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (for Short, the ‘Act’) regulates registration of the establishment of principal employer, the contractor engaging and supplying the contract labour in every establishment in which 20 or more workmen are employed on any day of the preceding 12 months as contract labour. The appellant had obtained on September 20, 1971 a certificate of registration from Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) under the Act.
The Central Government, exercising the power under Section 10 of the Act, on the basis of recommendation and in consultation with the Central Advisory Board constituted under Section 10(1) of the Act, issued a notification on December 9,1976 prohibiting “employment of contract labour on and from December 9,1976 for sweeping, cleaning, dusting and watching of buildings owned or occupied by the establishment in respect of which the appropriate government under the said act is the Central Government”.
However, the said prohibition would not apply to “outside cleaning and other maintenance operations of multi-storeyed building where such cleaning or maintenance cannot be carried out except with specialized experience. ” It would appear that Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) Bombay by letter dated January 20,1972 informed the appellant that the State Government is the appropriate Government under the Act. Therefore, by proceedings dated May 22, 1973 the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) had revoked the registration.
By Amendment Act 46 of 1982, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (for short, the ‘ID Act’) was made applicable to the appellant and was brought on statute book specifying the appellant as one of the industries in relation to which the Central Government is the appropriate Government and the appellant has been carrying on its business “by or under its authority” with effect from August 21, 1982. The Act was amended bringing within its ambit the Central Government as appropriate Government by amendment Act 14 of 1986 with effect from January 28, 1986.
Since the appellant did not abolish the contract system and failed to enforce the notification of the Government of India dated December 9,1976, the respondents came to file writ petitions for direction to the appellant to enforce forthwith the aforesaid notification abolishing the contract labour system in the aforesaid services and to direct the appellant to absorb all the employees doing cleaning, sweeping, dusting, washing and watching of the building owned or occupied by the appellant-establishment, with effect from the respective dates of their joining as contract labour in the appellant’s establishment with all consequential rights/benefits, monetary or otherwise, The writ petition was allowed by the leaned single judge on November 16,1989 directing that all contract workers be regularised as employees of the appellant from the date of filing of the writ petition. The issue whether the activity is of perennial nature came to be considered for various courts and it was held that since it is a statutory liability, therefore the nature of work is perennial. As regards the status of workmen of contractor, it is held that the workmen of the contractor do not automatically become direct employees of the principal employer even where the registration/licence is cancelled or the contract is abolished.