Shivaraj V. Patil, J. -
(2.)This appeal is filed by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai challenging the correctness and validity of the impugned judgment and order made in the writ petition by the High Court. The writ petition was filed by a registered trade union called Kachara Vahatuk Shramik Sangh (hereinafter referred to as "Union"). It claims to represent 2000 workmen doing the work of lifting, transporting and dumping of debris, garbage, silt, house gully material etc., at the various dumping grounds of the Bombay Municipal Corporation. The appellant herein is the respondent No.1 in the writ petition (hereinafter referred to as 'Corporation') and respondent Nos. 2-33 are different contractors who had been entrusted with the above-mentioned work on contract basis. Respondent No. 34 is the State of Maharashtra and respondent No. 35 is the Contract Labour Board established under the provisions of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (CLRA Act). Respondent No. 36 is the Commissioner of Labour for the State.
(3.)In the writ petition, it was emphasized that the nature of work carried out by the contract labour is perennial; merely because the Corporation has chosen to employ system of contract labour for discharging its statutory obligations, the contract labour does not cease to be workman of the principal employer - the Corporation. According to the writ petitioners (Union), if at all, contract labour system was to be permitted, it could be done only in accordance with the provisions of the CLRA Act; an employer could not be allowed to carry on work through contract labour unless provisions of the statute were strictly complied with and that the Corporation was carrying on the work through contract labour for almost 15 years even without registering itself as a principal employer, that too through contractors who were not holding any licence under the CLRA Act. It is the further case of the Union that it kept on complaining to the Labour Commissioner about the gross violation of law and the legal rights of the workmen concerned. The Labour Commissioner, after investigation into the complaints, addressed letter dated 18.7.1998 to the Chief Secretary of the State recommending abolition of the contract labour system observing that Solid Waste Management Department is one of the sections of the Corporation, which is in operation for more than hundred years; in this Department the work of collection, transportation, dumping and disposal of the garbage, refuse, debris etc. is performed. The Labour Commissioner also stated in the letter that the Solid Waste Management Department had applied for registration as principal employer under the CLRA Act on 17th December, 1996. In the meanwhile, the writ petition had already been filed, so the said application was kept in abeyance. He also stated that none of the contractors had obtained licence under the provisions of the CLRA Act. He further pointed out that by the letters of 25th October, 1997 and 19th May, 1998, the Union had made representations to the Chairman of the State Contract Labour Advisory Board requesting him to advise the State Government to abolish the system of employment of Contract Labour in the solid Waste Management Department of the Corporation. In the letter of the Labour Commissioner, it is also stated that the work performed by the workers employed by the contractors is of regular and permanent nature. In the writ petition, it is also stated that the contract entered into by the Corporation with the contractors is a sham arrangement. The workmen concerned with the writ petition are in law and in fact employees of the Corporation, particularly so, when the task of sweeping and cleaning roads, gullies and removal of debris and garbage etc. are the statutory duties to be performed by the Corporation under Sections 61(C), 365 and 367 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 (for short the 'Act'). It is also stated in the writ petition that the conditions of service of these workmen are horrible and inasmuch as they are required to handle corpses of animals, excreta of animals and human-beings from house gullies and garbage dumps toxic and other danger material etc. In support of the writ petition, reliance was placed to the Circular dated 26-4-1985 issued by the Govt. of Maharashtra relating to Bhangi Mukti (prevention of scavenging), Circular dated 30-8-1996 issued by the Corporation on the precautionary measures to be taken while engaging contract labour, the letter dated 27-11-1996 addressed to the Additional Commissioner, Corporation, by the then Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Corporation Shri Hareshwar Patil stating that the garbage workers were not properly treated; there was no difference between the permanent workers of the Corporation and the contract workers; their conditions were really pitiable and steps are to be taken to improve the situation. Reference is also made to the letter of the Labour Commissioner dated 18-7-1998 addressed to the Chief Secretary of the State requesting to recommend the matter to the State Contract Labour Advisory Board for abolition and prohibition of the contract labour system. The Minister for Labour of the State addressed a letter dated 4-2-1999 to the Commissioner of the Corporation recommending for abolishing the existing contract system. In the writ petition, the following reliefs were sought:-
"(a) for a Writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate Writ, order or direction, directing the State of Maharashtra and Contract Labour Board, Bombay Municipal Corporation to forthwith abolish the contract labour system in the Solid Waste Department and for regularization of the services of all the workmen concerned with this Petition with retrospective effect forthwith and to pass appropriate order forthwith.
(b) for an order directing the Respondent to maintain status quo in respect of the employment of the workmen concerned with this Petition.
(c) For an order directing the Respondent No.1 to forthwith absorb all the workmen concerned with this Petition as regular and permanent workmen with retrospective effect from their initial date of work.
(d) For an order directing the Respondent No.1 to treat all the workmen concerned with this case on par with the permanent workmen in terms of wages and all service conditions...."