At, Supreme Court of India
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE UDAY UMESH LALIT & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE DINESH MAHESHWARI
For the Petitioner: A. Mohan Raj, Advocate, Ajit Kumar Ekka, AOR. For the Respondents: Mukul Rohatgi, Sr. Advocate, Buddy A. Ranganathan, Advocate, A.V. Rangam, AOR.
Termination Order dated 01.01.2020 and further notice dated 27.04.2020 are subject matter of challenge in this petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that Writ Petition No.4795 of 2020 seeking identical relief has been preferred by the petitioner before the High Court of Calcutta, which is still pending consideration.
It was submitted that because of the pandemic (COVID-19) and the Lockdown pursuant thereto, the petition could not be taken up for hearing before the High Court and it was in these circumstances that the present petition under Article 32 of the Constitution has been filed by the petitioner.
Learned counsel for the petitioner further submitted that if some ad-interim protection is granted, the petitioner will move to the High Court for urgent listing of the writ petition pending before the High Court.
Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent(s), the Board of Trustees for the Port of Kolkata, on caveat, submitted inter alia that the present petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India would not be maintainable; and that the order of termination was passed on 01.01.2020 and challenge to the termination order was filed only on 04.03.2020; and that since then the matter was listed at least on four occasions but no efforts were made on behalf of the petitioner to have the matter taken up.
Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, learned Senior Counsel further submitted that the petitioner has sublet the facility to a Contractor and that the workers employed are not being extended the benefits of ESI or PF contribution.
Without going into the rival contentions, in our considered view, the ends of justice would be met if the following directions are passed:
a) We permit the petitioner to move the High Court immediately and get the pending matter listed before the High Court for appropriate orders;
b) In order to facilitate such exercise on behalf of the petitioner, ad-interim protection is granted for a period of two weeks from today or till the date application is moved before the High Court, whichever is earlier; and
c) in the meantime, the respondent is directed to not to take any steps pursuant to order of termination dated 01.01.2020 and further notice dated 27.04.2020.
We also direct that in no circumstance, the period of two weeks granted by us shall be extended.
It shall however be open to the petitioner to make appropriate prayer before the High Court and as and when such prayer is made, the same shall be considered purely on merits of the matter uninfluenced by any of the observations made by us.
It is made clear that we have not and shall not
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be taken to have expressed any opinion on the merits of the matter and the aforesaid interim protection has been provided only because of the pandemic (COVID-19) and the lockdown. The writ petition is disposed of in aforesaid terms. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of.