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The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Employees Provident Fund Organisation, Madurai & Others v/s M/s. Sri Nachammai Cotton Mills Ltd., Rep. by its Managing Director, Chettinad

    W.A.(MD) No. 1275 of 2021 & C.M.P.(MD) No. 5361 of 2021

    Decided On, 02 July 2021

    At, Before the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court


    For the Appellants: A. John Xavier, Advocate. For the Respondent: V.O.S. Kalaiselvam, Advocate.

Judgment Text

(Prayer: Writ Appeal filed under Clause 15 of Letters Patent Act, praying to allow this Writ Appeal by setting aside the orders passed by the learned Judge in W.P.(MD)No.23645 of 2019 dated 08.11.2019.)

T.S. Sivagnanam, J.

With the consent on either side, this Writ Appeal is taken up for disposal.

2. Heard Mr.AJohn Xavier, learned Counsel appearing for the appellants and Mr.V.O.S.Kalaiselvam, learned Counsel appearing for the respondent.

3. The appellant organisation is aggrieved by the directions and observations made by the learned Writ Court in the impugned order dated 08.11.2019 in WP.(MD)No.23654 of 2019, whereby the learned Writ Court has interpreted the provisions of Section 8-B of the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 ['the Act1, for brevity].

4. The learned Counsel for the appellant organisation submitted that the said finding of the learned Writ Court is incorrect, since the appellant organisation is entitled to exercise its powers under Section 8-B on any one or more of the employees mentioned under the said provisions. It can be by way of attachment and sale of the movable or immovable property or it may be by way of arrest of the employer or detention in prison or by way of appointing a receiver for the management of the movable or immovable property of the establishment. It is further submitted that under the said provisions, there is no mention that the recovery officer shall accede to modes of recovery in an order as satisfied therein.

5. The learned Counsel has placed reliance on the decision of the High Court of Punjab & Haryana in the case of Sobhag Textile Limited Vs. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Haryana and another reported in 2000 (3) RSJ 178 and the decision of the High Court of Gujarat in the case of Harish Vs. EPFO, in L.P.A.NO. 1746/2010.

6. The learned Counsel appearing for the respondent management submitted that the order of arrest could not have been resorted to without exhausting the other steps provided under the statute for recovery of the dues. It is further submitted that after the writ petition was allowed with the observations and directions, the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT) cum Labour Court, Chennai, listed the appeal filed by the respondent management in EPFA No.397 of 2018 and clarified the interim order which was passed earlier by rectifying the typographical error and ordered that the respondent management should deposit a sum of Rs.1 Lakh, as it was mentioned earlier and the portion of the order passed by the organisation dated 14.09.2015, was stayed till the disposal of the appeal and with further direction to the organisation not to take any steps against the respondent till the disposal.

7. 1n the order dated 06.12.2019 of the CGIT, it is seen that no time limit was fixed for deposit of a sum of Rs.1 Lakh. Therefore, it is submitted by the learned Counsel for the appellant organisation that the respondents have not complied with the conditions imposed by the CGIT and the benefit of stay will not accrue to them. However, since the appeal is pending before the CGIT, it will be appropriate for both the appellant organisation and the respondent management to agitate all the factual and legal issues in the pending appeal. However, since the respondent management has not complied with the order dated 06.12.2019, we are of the view that the protection granted by the Tribunal cannot inure endlessly in favour of the management.

8. We also take note of the submission of the learned Counsel for the appellant organisation with regard to the observations made by the learned Writ Court interpreting Section 8-B. We are of the view that since the appeal is pending before the CGIT, it may not be necessary for the learned Writ Court to decide the issue to Section 8-B of the Act. Therefore, we vacate all the findings rendered by the learned Writ Court and leave the issues open to be agitated at a later part of time, as and when the need arises.

9. In the light of the above, the writ appeal is disposed of, by directing the respondent management to deposit a sum of Rs.1 Lakh on or before 26.07.2021. If the amount is not deposited by the said date, the order of stay granted by CGIT vide dated 06.12.2019, and the protection granted from taking any coerciv

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e steps shall stand automatically vacated and it will be open to the appellant organisation to proceed for recovery, notwithstanding the fact that the appeal No.397 of 2018, is pending before the CGIT. In any event, the respondent complies with the direction issued by us, the order of stay will continue and the CGIT is directed to dispose of the appeal as expeditiously as possible. However, there shall be no order as to costs. Consequently, the connected miscellaneous petition is closed.