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June 24, 2020

Employees cannot seek enforcement of normal employment terms when the country is going through abnormal times

by facelesscompliance in Compliance Law, Corporate Law

Employees cannot seek enforcement of normal employment terms when the country is going through abnormal times

The High Court of Delhi on 22.06.2020 dismissed the plea of All India Association of Air Force Civil Cooks enforcing that the plea appeared as been filed without regard to the prevalent circumstances and the large scale loss of employment and resultant hardships being faced by those without assurance of employment. Employees cannot seek enforcement of normal employment terms when the country is going through abnormal times. The petition was heard by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw  and Justice Asha Menon.

Reason for grievance

  • The grievance presented in the petition by the All India Association of Air Force Civil Cooks was, that they, during the Corona pandemic they (the cooks) are being made to live/reside at the Station of their posting.
  • A roster of 14+14+7 is being followed. For the first 14 days they are kept in quarantine; for the next 14 days they are made to work as cooks and thereafter they are given 7 days in which they visit their respective residences (thereafter roster of 14+14+7 commences again).
  • It is contended that they are being forced to stay away from their homes for 28 days in a month and out of which, for 14 days their services are not utilised, by keeping them quarantined.
  • Staying away from their respective families is not in terms of their employment.
  • Grievance is also made that they are not being treated as ‘Corona Warriors’ and being thus not conferred benefits to which Corona Warriorsare entitled.

Opinion of the High Court pertaining to roster of 14+14+7 days

  • According to the HC, the petition has been filed without regard to the prevalent circumstances and the large scale loss of employment and resultant hardships being faced by those without assurance of employment.
  • The cooks having surety of employment are making grievances of inconveniences allegedly being suffered by them, again forgetting that the cooks, if permitted to return to their respective residences after duty hours every day, are likely to bring with them the Covid-19 infection, when reporting back for duty, endangering the personnel of the Air Force.
  • They cannot thus seek enforcement of employment terms as in normal time, when the entire country is going through abnormal times.
  • The suggestion, of permitting the members of the petitioner to home quarantine is again without even application of mind. Questions as to how many members of the family are there, what kind of residential accommodation is available and whether home quarantine is even possible therein for each of the members of the petitioner arise in such situation, which makes this option unfeasible.
  • The suggestion made during the hearing, of the members of the petitioner being made to work in the kitchens wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is again totally illogical and without knowledge of conditions in the kitchen and the viability of adorning PPE therein.

Opinion of the High Court pertaining petition of being treated as Corona Warriors

  • The High Court could not comprehend how civilian cooks of the Air Force who are during the hearing described as Group ‘C’ non-industrial employees of Air Force, are entitled to be treated as ‘Corona Warriors’ and entitled to benefits thereof.
  • Doctors, paramedics, policemen, sanitation workers and others engaged in different frontline duties in the fight against the COVID-19 are called “corona warriors”.
  • While working in the kitchen at the Air Force Stations, the members of the petitioner cannot be said to be exposed in any manner to the Corona virus, to claim themselves to be “frontline workers”.

Another grievance presented was that the members of the petitioner, while being made to reside at the Air Force Stations, are charged for their meals. Delhi HC asked the counsel for the respondents, whether a better arrangement can be worked out or whether the charges for the meals can be dispensed.

The Delhi HC We did not find any merit in the petition by the All India Association of Air Force Civil Cooks and it was accordingly disposed off. The respondents were requested to hold consultations with the representatives of the members of the petitioner and to explore if any other arrangement, satisfactory to the members of the petitioner, can be worked out.

However merely because this direction has been issued, it would not confer any right on the petitioner or its members.

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