16 April 2023 4:18 AM GMT
Dealing with Kudankulam Nuclear Power Employees Union petition's seeking benefit of wages for the work done on a holiday, the Madras High Court remarked that public servants are like school children who always welcome holidays and exemption from work. The court was hearing a plea claiming double wages for working on a declared holiday (Ambedkar Jayanti).Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai...
Dealing with Kudankulam Nuclear Power Employees Union petition's seeking benefit of wages for the work done on a holiday, the Madras High Court remarked that public servants are like school children who always welcome holidays and exemption from work. The court was hearing a plea claiming double wages for working on a declared holiday (Ambedkar Jayanti).
Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench said that though Dr. Ambedkar was someone who would have wanted people to work hard instead of declaring holiday on his anniversary, and that a system of sentiments and symbolism is prevalent.
"Like Bharat Ratna Shri.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, he too would have said “Don't declare holiday on my death, instead work an extra day, if you love me”. We, however, subscribe to sentiments and symbolism. Courtesy rather than efficiency is our hallmark. Whenever references are held in memory of departed Judges, the Court bell will go at 03.15 p.m. The function will conclude at around 03.45 p.m. with the Hon'ble Chief Justice solemnly announcing suspension of the Court work for the rest of the day as a mark of respect for the departed soul. There is similar loss of 90 minutes of working time when farewell functions are organized. Public servants are like school children. Grant of holidays and exemption from work are always welcome."
The trade union members had approached the court claiming twice the wages for 'round-the-clock shift workers' who had worked on Ambedkar Jayanti in 2018, which fell on a Second Saturday. The management had rejected their claim by saying that since the workers were already given the benefit of working on a holiday, they cannot be given double benefit.
Referring to Section 5(2)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Industrial Establishments (National and Festival Holidays) Act, 1958, the court said:
"A plain reading of the aforesaid statutory provision would lead anyone to the conclusion that the employee must have worked on a holiday to claim the benefit conferred by the provision. The expression employed is “any holiday”. It only means that the day concerned should have been a working day but for its declaration as a holiday. If it is already a holiday, the aforesaid provision cannot be invoked for claiming double benefit. If an employee had worked on any holiday allowed under Section 3 of the Act, he will be entitled to the benefit set out in the provision."
During the hearing, the court was told the the 'round-the-clock shift workers' are not asking for double benefit but only seek benefit as contemplated in Section 5(2)(b) of the 1958 Act. The bench said that as far as the 'round-the-clock shift workers' are concerned, there is no concept of second Saturday.
"14th April 2018 became a holiday only on account of declaration of Dr.Ambedkar Jeyanthi as national holiday. Any 'round-the-clock shift worker' who had worked on 14th April 2018 would be entitled to the benefit set out in Section 5(2)(b) of the Act. As far as such workers are concerned, it was not a case of working on a holiday falling on a holiday," it added.
The court thus directed the Site Director of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, to confer the monetary benefits to the workers accordingly.
Case Title: Kudankulam Nuclear Power Employees Union v. Government of India and ors
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw Mad 118