The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a decision of the Calcutta High Court, directing Bharat Coking Coal Limited to grant compassionate appointment to the wife of its former employee, who was unheard of ever since his abduction in the year 1999, in the course of defending a theft at the company premises.
A bench comprised of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph held that the High Court had rightly applied the presumption that arises under the provisions of Section 108 of the Evidence Act 1872.
Section 108 stipulates that when the question is whether a man is alive or dead, and it is proved that he has not been heard of for seven years by those who would naturally have heard of him if he had been alive, the burden of proving that he is alive is shifted to the person who affirms it.
Noting that in the present case the former employee had been unheard of for over 20 years, the court said "We see no reason to entertain the Special Leave Petition".
When the matter was first heard by the court of first instance (Calcutta HC), the single-Judge had observed,
"this is an unfortunate case where an employee of the respondents fought at the cost of his life and also gave heavy resistance to the miscreants who came to steal the valuable of the company but failing to do the same they kidnapped the deceased employee and murdered him and concealed the body on the bank of river Damodar, as it appears from the report of the Superintendent of Police."
He had therefore ordered that one of the successors, either the widow or the major son of the deceased employee should be given employment at BCCL.
The decision was challenged before a division bench of the High Court after a delay of six years, and the same came to be dismissed. BCCL thereafter moved the Top Court, which refused to interfere with the impugned judgment.
"We direct that the petitioner shall comply with the order of the learned Single Judge, within a period of one month from today. The petitioner shall also pay costs quantified at Rs 2 lakhs to the widow of the deceased," the Supreme Court ordered.
The court has directed the company to compensate the former employee's family which was forced to "run from pillar to post for twenty years".
A report of compliance has to be filed by BCCL within a period of six weeks.
Case Title: Bharat Coking Coal Limited & Ors. v. Ruda Devi & Ors.
Case No.: SLP (C) Diary No. 8963/2020
Quorum: Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice KM Joseph
Appearance: ASG Vikramjeet Banerjee, AOR Neeraj Kumar Gupta and Advocates Shruti Agarwal and Ranjit Kumar Singh (for BCCL)