Decided on March 10,1971



- (1.)1. The petitioners who are fourteen in number were employed in the work of Nagarjunasagar Dam Project which is a work charged establishment and their services were terminated on account of retrenchment in the years 1968 and 1969 after being in continuous service ranging from five to fourteen years. Their service particulars were given as per the list enclosed to the petition. The petitioners 6 and 10 have put in a continuous service of 5 and 7 years respectively, while the rest of them served for 11 to 14 years. They belong to regular monthly category of workers. This Writ petition has been filed impugning G.O.Ms. No.44, Public Works (MI) Department, dated 8-1-70 by which the workmen in the work-charged establishments are allowed either the Retrenchment Compensation payable under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act) or the Retrenchment Gratuity payable under the Andhra Pradesh Retiring and Invalid Gratuities (non-pensionable Establishments) Rules, 1941 (hereinafter referred to as 'the gratuity Rules), but not both.
(2.)The case of the petitioners is that during the years 1968 and 1969 about 3,000 monthly paid category of workers including the petitioners were retrenched from the work-charged Nagarjunasagar Dam establishment. About 85 to 86 per cent of the retrenched workers were paid both the benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity consequent on their retrenchment. The petitioners have been paid only the retrenchment compensation but not the gratuity as in the case of others. In this manner about 300 workers retrenched after long years of service were paid only single benefit of retrenchment compensation and denied gratuity. The Government of Andhra Pradesh bave issued a number of G.Os. in respect of the payment of the double benefits to retrenched workmen. By G.O.Ms. No.605 dt. 26-3-1966 it was ordered that the work-charged employees of the Highways Department are "workmen" as defined in clause (5) of Section 2 of the Act and they are entitled to gratuity also besides retrenchment compensation. The said G.O. was acted upon and the employees of the Highways Department retrenched from service had been paid both the benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity, eversince, By G.O.Ms.No.195 dt. 12-7-1967 the double benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity laid down in G.O.Ms. No, 605 referred to above, have been categorically and unequivocally extended to the workers of the Nagarjunasagar Dam establishment. By a further G.O.Ms. No. 1311 dt 21-8-68, the Government extended the double benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity to the workers in all branches of the Public Works Department i.e. Irrigation, Buildings, Electricity etc., In the light of the above G.O.s. the workmen belonging to the various branches of the Public Works Department including workmen of Nagarjunasagar Dam who have put in 5 years continuous service and more were paid retrenchment compensation under Section 25-F of the Act and one month's wage towards gratuity for each year of service as per the Gratuity Rules. While so, by memo. No. 325F2/69-4 dt. 18-3-1969 orders were passed abruptly and without any reason or justification keeping in abeyance the earlier G.O.Ms.No.195 so far as it relates to the payment of gratuity to work-charged employees who are retrenched, Since then the payment of additional benefit of gratuity has been stopped to workmen including the petitioners. Therefore, the impugned G.O.Ms.No.44, dt. 8-1-1970 was issued denying double benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity' to the workmen. In that G.O. it was stated that the Government has further examined the case and direct that either retrenchment compensation under the Act or the retrenchment gratuity under the Gratuity Rules be paid and not both.
(3.)According to the petitioners they became entitled to both the benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity. They became entitled to the same under different provisions of law: The retrenchment compensation is paid to tide over the difficulties facing a retrenched workmen when thrown into the street while the gratuity is earned by the workman year after year, as a result of good behaviour and devotion to work and it is a retiral benefit. According to the respondents, though according to G.O.Ms.No.605 and G.O.Ms. No.1311 referred to above both retrenchment compensation as well as gratuity to all work-charged establishments were allowed, subsequently the Government have taken a policy decision that a workman on retrenchment can claim either retrenchment compensation as provided under the Act or retrenchment gratuity as provided under the Gratuity Rules, but not both and accordingly passed the G.O. which is impugned in this writ petition. It was stated that G.O.Ms.No. 605 was issued on wrong interpretation of the provisions of the Act and the Gratuity Rules. Subsequently when the mistake was realised the Government have issued instructions keeping in abeyance the orders issued in G.O.Ms.No.195, since there is a scheme already granting gratuity following retrenchment namely, Andhra Pradesh Retiring and Invalid Gratuities (non-pensionable establishment) Rules, 1941, referred to above. The workmen cannot get the benefit of gratuity under the gratuity Rules and at the same time retrenchment compensation under the Act. Since the provisions of the Act are more favourable to workmen, they may get retrenchment compensation as provided under the Act and not the gratuity benefit conferred under the Gratuity Rules. According to them a workman cannot get both the benefits, but one of them only.

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