(1.) The petitioners who are employed as Kalasies in the department of Carriage and Wagon at Kakinada Port, East Godavari District, in the Vijayawada division of South Central Railway have filed this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the issue of a writ of mandamus directing the respondents not to enforce the orders of retrenchment passed against the petitioners. The respondents who are impleaded are: (i) Divisional Superintendent, South-Central Railway, Vijayawada, (2) Divisional Machanical Engineer, South Central Railway, Vijayawada, (3) Train Examiner-in- charge, Kakinada Port, and (4) Divisional Personnel Officer, South Central Railway, Vijayawada.
(2.) The case of the petitioners is that they were all appointed as substitutes in the month of September, 1970 and that they had completed more than six months of service as substitutes and had acquired the status of temporary railway employees. While so they were served with notice of termination on 8th July, 1971, by the third respondent which is in the following terms: "Your services will not be required with effect from 10th July, 1971, due to filling up of the posts by regular men from the approved panel. a You are hereby given a month's pay " in lieu of notice from 10th July, 1971 to 9th August, 1971 in terms of clause (C) of section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and section 76 of Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957. yOU are required to return over copy of this duly signed. This cancels this office letter No. nil, dated 28th June, 1971. The petitioners state that this action of the third respondent is illegal and ultra vires of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, that the Train Examiner is not the competent authority to issue notice of retrenchment, that the authorities had contravened the orders issued by the Railway Board frcm time to time and also the Indian Railway Establishment Manual and the Industrial Disputes Act, that the petitioners though they were working in the railway department for over nine months, no steps were taken by the authorities to regularise their services, that they are thrown out from the employment, all of a sudden, without any just cause, that the Railway Board had taken a policy decision that there shall not be any further recruitment, of Kalasies and those who are already in service should be made permanent after following the usual procedure, that deSpite the aforesaid circular issued by the Railway Board the 3rd respondent sought to retrench the petitioners and appoint in their places, perSons who had no experience and who are new entrants, that applications for appointment of Kalasies were invited in 1969, that no fresh applications were thereafter called for and that the selections made by the respondents on the basis of the said applications deprive the petitioners of an opportunity to apply for the said posts though they had put in more than nine months of service. Hence this Writ Petition.
(3.) On behalf of the respondents a counter-affidavit has been filed by the Divisional Personal Officer, South-Central Railway, Vijayawada. It is admitted that the petitioners were appointed as substitute Kalasies on 30th September, 1970. But it is denied that they were appointed by the Divisional Machanical Engineer. It is stated that the petitioners continued to be substitutes till 9th July, 1971 when they were given notice of retrenchment. It is further stated that on 30th September, 1969 a panel of three officers consisting of (1) an officer of the personnel Branch, (2) one officer of the Machaical Department, and (3) one non-official nominated by the Divisional Superintendent was constituted as a Committee for the purpose of selectihg candidates for permanent appointment, that within a pericd of fifteen months from the date of the constitution of the said Committee, after interviewing 1,600 candidates, the Committee had selected 226 candidates and it was published on 19th January, 1971 that as and when posts fell vacant, candidates frcm out of the selected list were to be appointed for the purpose of permanent appointement. On 26th April, 1971 the Divisional Superintendent ordered the Divisional Personnel Officer and other concerned cfficers that, they should operate upon the panel published in January, 1971 for purposes of giving regular postings and as a consequence of this order of the Divisional Personnel Officer, the third respondent issued on 8th July, 1971 notices to ten petitioners offering them one month's salary in lieu of one month's notice as required under section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act. The said notices were given by competent authority with a view to give appointment to selected candidates whose list was published in January, 1971. The said notices are not illegal or ultra vires of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act. Previously cne month's notice was issued for the termination of the services, but on receiving further instructions from the Divisional Superintendent, that notice was cancelled and by another notice dated 8th July, 1971, the petitioners were informed that in lieu of one month's notice, wages under section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act were tendered and the procedure prescribed by the Industrial Disputes Act was scrupulously followed. It is averred that the orders of the Railway Board contained in the letter dated 1st May, 1971 are applicable only to persons who have been appointed prior to 16th March, 1970. The Chief Personnel Officer pursuant to the Directions given by the Railway Board and his earlier instructions given on 21st May, 1970 had indicated on 15th June, 1970, that the substitutes to be brought within the purview of the screening should have put in not less than one year cf service on 16th March, 1970 and as the petitioners were appointed only in September, 1970 they were not qualified and therefore they do not come within the purview of the Railway Board's letter, dated 1st May, 1971. For the aforesaid reasons. it is stated that the notices were issued properly and they do rot violate principles of natural justice. To the counter- affidavit several annexures have been enclosed including the list of 226 candidates selected by the Selection Committee.;