Delhi HC grants relief to 1200 HPCL workers; orders payment of Rs. 42 crores within one week

Cachar Paper Project Workers Union (Intuc) vs. Union Of India And Anr. | Delhi High Court | Status: Respondents to reply with compliance on 21.5.2020 |

The Delhi High Court on 24.4.2020 granted relief to over 1200 workers of the Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited, which operates two Mills in Assam, at Cachar and Nagaon. 
The High Court Bench of Justice Najmi Waziri directed the Liquidator of HPCL and the EPF Organisation to disburse 20% of the Provident Fund amount to the workers within one week, amounting to a total of Rs. 42 crores. The High Court further directed the Liquidator and the EPFO to disburse the remaining PF amount of over Rs. 160 crores at the earliest. The petition filed by the Cachar Paper Project Workers Union was filed through Advocate Siddharth Seem and was argued by Senior Advocate Mr. Colin Gonsalves. In January earlier this year the Delhi High Court had passed another order in the same matter protecting the workers from eviction from their quarters. HPCL, wholly owned by the Government of India, went into liquidation in 2018, and the workers have not been paid their wages, PF and other statutory dues for 39 months, since January 2017. Due to the dire financial constraints faced by the workers, over 60 workers have died during this period, and three have even committee suicide. 

A report of the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Government of Assam, noted in July 2019 that due to the non-payment of salaries, “the family members were helpless and could not bear the medical expenditures of the deceased employees and practically most of them died without medical treatments”. Another worker of the Cachar Paper Mill died on 23.4.2020 who was suffering from kidney disease and did not receive medical treatment, taking the toll to 65 deaths. The total dues owed to the 1200 workers is over Rs. 600 crores, and while the Parliament allocated Rs. 90 crore in July 2018 for disbursement of salaries to the workers, the same has not been done till date. The Delhi High Court directed the counsel appearing for Union of India to respond to this issue on the next date of hearing, which is 21.5.2020. 
According to the President of the Cachar Paper Project Workers Union, Mr. Manobendra Chakroborty, “The workers are dying regularly under starvations & non-availability of treatment due to non-payment of salaries and statutory dues since last 39 months. While the Central Government’s attitude has been neglectful and hostile, Hon’ble Delhi High Court has come to the rescue of dying workers. We believe justice will be done and workers will get their entire legitimate dues. We feel proud to express our gratitude to Learned Senior Advocate Mr. Colin Gonsalves & Siddharth Seem for their tireless efforts to bring the case for hearing during this lockdown period under urgent circumstances.”