The increasing instances of anti-worker rulings by the judiciary have angered the Supreme Court of India. It has expressed concern over a large number of employees being denied appropriate relief in the name of economic reforms.
The apex court criticised the tendency of some judges who seem to agree with this new dispensation. “Of late, there has been a visible shift in the courts’ approach in dealing with cases involving the interpretation of social welfare legislations,” a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly commented. Terming illegal retrenchment in the name of liberalisation and globalisation as a violation of fundamental rights, the bench deplored the tendency of courts to approve such practices.
Saying that courts, including the “last court in the largest democracy of the world”, have lost sympathy for the common man in pursuit of the “attractive mantras” of globalisation and liberalisation, the Supreme Court judges warned that “precarious consequences” will visit the nation if they dilute constitutional imperatives to promote the “so-called trends of globalisation”.
“The attractive mantras of globalisation and liberalisation are fast becoming the raison d’etre (reason for existence) of the judicial process, and an impression has been created that constitutional courts are no longer sympathetic towards the plight of the industrial and unorganised sectors,” they added.
“Of particular concern was the fact that the services of a large number of employees, categorised as workers, were being terminated, often through questionable means,” judges said.
The court made these remarks while directing the reinstatement of Harjinder Singh, an employee of the public sector unit, the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation. The corporation had illegally terminated Singh’s service. “In a large number of cases like the present one, relief has been denied to employees illegally retrenched by creating by-lanes and side-lanes in the jurisprudence developed by this court in three decades,” the bench remarked.
“It needs no emphasis that if a man is deprived of his livelihood, he is deprived of all his fundamental and constitutional rights and for him the goal of social and economic justice, equality of status and opportunity, remain illusory,” the bench stressed.
“Therefore, the approach of the courts must be compatible with the constitutional philosophy of which the Directive Principles of the State Policy constitute an integral part and justice, due to the workmen, should not be denied by entertaining the specious and untenable ground put forward by the employer -public or private.”