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Kerala High Court Quashes BPCL's Order Barring Employees From Enrolling In Post-Retirement Medical Scheme

Hannah M Varghese
20 May 2022 8:30 AM GMT
Kerala High Court Quashes BPCLs Order Barring Employees From Enrolling In Post-Retirement Medical Scheme

The Kerala High Court has recently directed Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to continue to provide the Post Retirement Medical Benefit Scheme (PRMBS) to employees with less than 15 years of service in accordance with the long-term settlement.

Justice Sunil Thomas thereby quashed a notification issued by the BPCL in the form of an administrative order to the extent it deprives the benefit of the medical scheme to those who have not completed 15 years.

"there will be a direction to the employer BPCL to continue to give effect to the post retirement medical benefit scheme to the petitioners and similarly situated persons, without any distinction regarding the period of service and strictly in accordance with the long term settlement."

The Court was adjudicating upon a batch of writ petitions filed by the employees' unions in the BPCL, Kochi Refinery. Allowing the petition, the court also quashed the company's notification depriving medical benefits to the employees who had not completed 15 years of service as on June 1, 2021.

The petitioners argued that the scheme was introduced as part of welfare measures to provide sustainable medical benefits to eligible employees and their dependants in view of the occupational hazards arising from employment. In fact, the benefits were being enjoyed by the petitioners by way of a binding settlement. Therefore, it could not be withdrawn unilaterally by the company.

The company took the stand that the writ petitions were not maintainable as the dispute strictly come within the scope of an industrial one as specifically defined under Section 2(s) of The Industrial Disputes Act.

The Single Judge observed that any issue over denial of benefits of the provisions of PRMBS incorporated in a settlement to a group of employees could not constitute an industrial dispute as contemplated under the Section.

The Court further pointed out that the settlement that was applicable to the entire sub-executive-level staff had now been tinkered with by carving out a group of persons and denying them the benefits through the said notification.

Appearance: Senior Advocate Jamshed Cama for the respondents, Advocates Elvin Peter P.J and N. Anand for the petitioners. Advocates P. Benny Thomas, P. Ramakrishnan, D. Prem Kamath, Tom Thomas, Abel Tom Benny, Jyothish Krishna, Ahammad Sachin, Kurian Oommen Therakath, Sruthy J. Mampilly, Preethi Ramakrishnan, T.C. Krishna, C. Anil Kumar, Asha K. Shenoy and Pratap Abraham Varghese for the respondents.

Case Title: Saju A.R. & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 232

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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