In a characteristic account of blatant misuse of power and money, Indian news agency PTI wasted about Rs. Two Lakhs defending its bigoted decision to arbitrarily withhold a meager ex-gratia of Rs. Six Thousand to its two employees.
And now, since even the Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with the order passed in favor of the two employees by a lower court, will the Press Trust of India pay Rs. Six Thousand each to them, at last.
The two – Vinod Kumar and Balram Singh Dahiya – had challenged the company’s action of not paying them the ex-gratia amount during the Diwali festival in 2004, saying that the such action of the management was violative of their conditions of service besides being whimsical and vindictive. They claimed before an industrial tribunal that their company had not disclosed any reason for not making the payment which action was also in violation of principles of natural justice. At that time, Vinod Kumar was the President of his union, while Balram Singh Dahiya held the post of Vice President in The Press Trust of India Employees’ Union, Delhi.
The Industrial Tribunal – II, Delhi, was thus seized with the question as to whether “ex-gratia payment” made on the occasion of festival or otherwise generally to the workforce is enforceable liability on the management or management can pay the same to certain group of workmen and leave others?
And finally, it arrived at the conclusion that payment of customary ex-gratia made to the workmen by the management persistently for considerable period amounts to implied condition of service under the law and comes under the definition of “fringe benefits”.
“ … therefore, withholding of payment of ex-gratia of Rs.6000 to the workmen Vinod Kumar and Balram Singh Dahiya each for the financial year 2003-2004 on the ground that they remained under suspension is not justified and they are entitled to the same. These issues are accordingly decided in favour of the workmen and against the management.”
The Presiding Officer of the tribunal Sh. Babu Lal, thus ordered on 26.5.2009 that: “In view of my findings on various issues as referred to above, I hold that workmen Sh. Vinod Kumar and Balram Singh Dahiya are entitled to ex-gratia payment of Rs.6000/- each for the financial year 2003-2004 and which is being given to other employees without discrimination and management is bound to make payment of this amount to the workmen.”
But, not satisfied, the management of Press Trust of India belatedly challenged the order of the tribunal in the Delhi High Court which upon hearing on the first day itself dismissed its writ petition.
During all this period, the Press Trust of India constantly engaged the services of at least: (i) two law firms, (ii) two designated senior advocates, (iii) battery of other lawyers, and approached the Delhi High Court twice – first challenging an interlocutory order against its lawyers and then to appeal against the Award of the tribunal.