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PSUs are government units: Calcutta court

Calcutta, Feb. 6: It has taken Calcutta High Court 12 years to conclude that public sector units should be treated as government organisations.

A recent high court order, asking the management of a leading PSU to reinstate an employee who lost his job in 1981, is expected to prompt hundreds of other PSU employees to file writs for redressing their grievances.

Partha Sarathi Sen Roy, a chartered accountant with Balmer Lawrie, a PSU under the Union petroleum ministry, was removed from service following a dispute with the management on February 27, 1981. Sen Roy filed a writ petition before Calcutta High Court challenging the dismissal.

The case dragged on in the high court till 1991, when then Justice Mohitosh Majumdar passed an order in favour of the petitioner and asked the management to reinstate him.

The management, however, filed an appeal against the order before a division bench presided over by Justice S.B. Sinha. It urged the bench to dismiss the case, arguing that the petitioner should approach the labour court for justice, as the PSU should not be treated as a government unit.

“The division bench could naturally realise the importance of my petition. When the judges were about to pass an order in my favour, the court was told that the status of the PSUs should be determined first. The court should discuss the matter and reach a decision on this issue before proceeding with the case,” Sen Roy told The Telegraph.

The files relating to the case were subsequently found missing from Calcutta High Court and could be traced only in August 2002, said Sen Roy’s lawyer, Joytosh Majumdar. However, by that time the presiding judge of the division bench had been transferred to another court, leading to a further delay in the proceedings.

The matter, along with seven similar cases, came up for hearing late last year before the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice S.K. Mukherjee. The judges, however, did not give a unanimous verdict. “While the chief justice observed that PSUs should not be treated as government units, Justice Mukherjee felt writ applications should be entertained against these concerns as they were run by the government,” pointed out Majumdar.

In the wake of the differences of opinion, the matter was sent to a third bench, of Justice T.K. Chatterjee, who recently upheld Mukherjee’s observation that PSUs should be treated as government units.

Sen Roy recalled the hardships he had to undergo during this period. “No one, not even my family members, could realise my suffering for the past 21 years. All this not only affected my professional career, but also hurt my dignity and social status,” he said.

“I may get back my job and receive arrear payments. But who will compensate me for the mental anguish I had to suffer all these years'” asked Sen Roy.

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