The high court has directed the state government to treat distillery unit employees on a par with that of sugar mills and asked it to come out with an exit policy for them within three months.
The judgment came against a petition filed by employees of a distillery unit at Lauria in West Champaran seeking direction to the state government for payment of wages and also to be treated like sugar mill employees, who have been given an exit policy, leaving the distillery employees in the lurch.
“The decision, conduct or policy of the state smacks of arbitrariness or irrationality. Therefore, the writ application is allowed with a clear direction upon the respondents, especially the chief secretary, Government of Bihar, that he has a duty to put in place an exit policy even for the workers of distillery units within a period of three months,” Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi said.
It is the duty of the government to put in place an exit policy in favour of distillery workers that is, the petitioners, on a par with the Exit Settlement Plan, which was put in place for sugar mill workers and provide benefits accordingly, the court said.
The counsel for the petitioners contended that they are entitled to equal treatment as sugar mill employees, as the Supreme Court has affirmed the state government’s acquisition of sugar mills along with distillery units.
“The petitioners are correct in asserting that the state cannot shake off its liability so far as workmen of the distillery is concerned. They are an integral part of the vesting in the state and the state has further created a hostile and discriminatory atmosphere by treating one set of workmen to have a legal right to be given a golden handshake, whereas similarly and identically placed workmen of the distillery are treated as a different class,” Justice Tripathi said in his 19-page order.
Expressing displeasure over the differential treatment towards distillery employees, the bench refused to buy the state’s argument that the exit settlement plan was meant for sugar mill workers only and hence allocation of funds was made only for them.
“The court is not impressed by the stand of the state that since the state cabinet did not provide for any exit plan for the distillery workers they have no obligation to meet and they cannot be extended any benefit vis-à-vis the workers of the sugar mills, as it is totally misplaced and dehors the law,” the bench said.