The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea owners in the dock for PF dues
- Court rejects bail plea of garden directors

Alipurduar, Sept. 3: Three directors of a tea company today surrendered before the court of the additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) here, which remanded them in jail custody for 14 days.

Suresh Agarwal, Jaiprakash Agarwal and Dinesh Agarwal — directors of Kohinoor Tea Company Ltd that owns Kohinoor Tea Garden in Samuktala — have been accused of defaulting on provident fund (PF) dues.

Trade union leaders claimed that this is the first time that any garden owner has been brought to task for failing to pay up PF dues.

On September 6 last year, L.J. Marandi, the enforcement officer of the PF department in Jalpaiguri, had lodged an FIR against all three with the Samuktala police. Dipak Ghosh, the then garden manager, was one of the accused.

Marandi had alleged that the company had not deposited Rs 72,38,229 as the employer’s contribution to PF from February 2004 to August 2006. The Samuktala police started a case under Sections 406 and 409 of the IPC — breach of contract and defalcation of government money.

The accused then submitted a prayer for anticipatory bail in Calcutta High Court, which rejected it. Instead, the high court on August 21 directed the trio to surrender in the ACJM’s court within two weeks, failing which an arrest warrant would be issued.

The three directors surrendered on the 13th day and petitioned for bail in the ACJM’s court. This time, too, it was rejected. Samir Majumdar, the assistant public prosecutor, said Ghosh is still missing.

The news of the arrest has given trade union leaders hope. Pravat Mukherjee, the general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, said: “We are happy that action has been taken against the owners of at least one tea garden for not depositing PF dues. This is the first time that something like this happened.”

Sanjay Bagchi, secretary, Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Planters’ Association, said the Agarwals had acquired the garden in 2003 and were running up losses. “They should have been given a chance.”

under scanner

Garden: Kohinoor Tea Garden
Location: Samuktala, 21km from Alipurduar town
Accused: Three directors of the company that owns Kohinoor
Charge: Failure to pay up more than Rs 70 lakh as the employer’s contribution to PF
Current status: Remand in jail custody for 14days

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