Sawant, J. -
(1.)This group of petitions concerns the workers in canteens run in the different railway establishments. The relief claimed in all the petitions is that the workers concerned should be treated as railway employees and should be extended all service conditions which are available to the railway employees.
(2.)For our purpose, these canteens have to be classified into three categories, viz. (i) Statutory Canteens - These are canteens required to be provided compulsorily in view of the provisions of Section 46 of the Factories Act, 1948 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) since the Act admittedly applies to the establishments concerned and the employees working in the said establishments exceed 250; (ii) Non-Statutory Recognized Canteens - These canteens are run in establishments which may or may not be governed by the Act but which admittedly employ 250 or less than 250 employees, and hence, it is not obligatory on the railways to maintain them. However, they have been set up as a staff-welfare measure where the employees exceed 100 in number. These canteens are established with the prior approval and recognition of the Railway Board as per the procedure detailed in the Railway Establishment Manual; and (iii) Non-Statutory Non-Recognised Canteens - These canteens are run at establishments in category (ii) above but employ 100 or. less than 100 employees, and are established without the prior approval or recognition of the Railway Board.
(3.)The present petitions concern employees in all the three types of canteens. It will be convenient to deal separately with the employees in the three types of canteens, because, the history of litigation and the arguments advanced in respect of each of the categories are different.