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Delhi High Court Issues Directives To Central Govt Hospitals To Curb Corrupt Practices By Contractors While Engaging Workmen

 

In a most brilliant, bold, balanced and brief judgment titled All India Kamgar General Union vs Union of India & Ors in W.P.(C) 4834/2020 and W.P.(C) 5697/2020 delivered just recently on October 27, 2021, the Delhi High Court has issued detailed directives to Central Government Hospitals to ensure that no improper and corrupt practices are indulged in by the contractors in respect of engagement of contractual workmen. While stating very rightly that the hospital administration shall ensure that steps are taken and are monitored on a regular basis, Justice Pratibha M Singh stated explicitly that it will be the responsibility of the Medical Superintendent of every such hospital to ensure that the contractual workers are not abused or misused in any manner and proper payment of their salaries, in accordance with the amount being released by the hospitals are made by the Contractors. Of course, the development comes in a plea that was filed by contractual workmen engaged at the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals, who were terminated on appointment of a new contractor.

To start with, the single Judge Bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh of Delhi High Court who authored this extremely commendable, cogent, composed and convincing judgment and heard the case through video conferencing as stated in para 1 first and foremost then states in para 2 that, “The present petitions have been filed by the Petitioners who are contractually employed Workmen, working with the Respondent/-HospitalLady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital (hereinafter “Hospital”), challenging the illegal termination of their services. The grievance of the Workmen is that they that they had been earlier engaged by one contractor, Jai Balaji Security Services, and have been working in the Hospital as Multi-Tasking Staff (hereinafter “MTS”) since 2015. However, when the new contractor stepped in, their services were terminated. Further, it was alleged that the Workmen were told by the new contractor engaged by the Hospital that unless and until they pay money to the new contractor, they would not be retained by the Hospital. It was also submitted that several of the Workmen had, in fact, paid the new contractor and their services had been retained by the Hospital.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, “Vide orders dated 31st July, 2020 in W.P. (C) 4834/2020, and 27th August 2020, in W.P. (C) 5697/2020, this Court had impleaded the new contractor, M/s. Competent Services (Regd.), as Respondent No.4 in the matter. This Court had also directed that the new contractor shall engage the services of the Petitioners, and their salaries would be paid to them. Till the next date, services of the Petitioners were directed to not be terminated. Broadly, this Court had noticed that such grievances against contractors were being raised in many cases. Considering the fact that such a grievance, that a new contractor has been engaged and is charging commission under the guise of “security deposit”, both in lump-sum and as a cut in monthly salaries from the employees, was being made against a reputed hospital, the Secretary, Minister of Health & Family Welfare was directed to nominate a senior official to look into this matter concerning the Lady Hardinge Medical College and submit a report before the next date of hearing.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then envisaged in para 11 wherein it is held that, “A perusal of the Report by the Committee clearly shows that there were several gaps in the recruitment of contractual workers and several reforms have been suggested. Accordingly, the steps taken by the Hospital and the further steps suggested by the Committee, are reiterated below, in order to maintain uniformity, transparency and consistency in the recruitment of contractual workers. Accordingly, the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals as also other Central Government Hospitals, in order to ensure that no improper and corrupt practices are indulged in by the contractors, shall take the following steps, in respect of engagement of contractual workmen through contractors:

a. For selection of the contractual firm through GeM, two separate and independent committees, viz., Bid finalization committee and Bid evaluation committee comprising of non-administrative faculty members would be constituted;

b. The approval, if necessary, shall be obtained even from the Ministry for award of the contract, after the Bids are evaluated and finalized;

c. The hospital administration shall create awareness amongst the outsourced workers about their dues and statutory deductions. For the said purpose, when they report for duty for the first time, a senior person from the hospital administration shall try and hold an interactive session in the presence of the contractor to sensitize them as to their rights and duties;

d. Proper and transparent criteria shall be fixed, and once the Contractor has finalized the workers, the administration shall also verify their identity cards and documents before they are allowed to report for duty;

e. Adequate administrative personnel shall be recruited in the hospital to deal with the contractual workers, and if there are any vacancies, steps to fill up the same shall be taken expeditiously;

f. Salary details of outsourced employees shall be displayed by putting up Boards in prominent places in the premises to avoid any chances of salary being cut or unauthorized deductions being made by the contractor;

g. A committee of at least two senior persons – one from administration and one from amongst the faculty members, shall be constituted to interact with the outsourced employees on a quarterly basis to check if they are facing any difficulties, including difficulties in respect of the salaries and other payments. The said Committee shall also keep a check on their efficient & qualitative delivery of services;

h. Suitable provisions shall be incorporated in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to fix the accountability of the selected vendor in case of any violations of the SLA.

i. The Hospital Authority shall also ensure the verification of the educational qualifications as well as other eligibility conditions by the vendor required, so as to ensure that the right person is engaged for the right job.

j. Every outsourced workman may be provided with detailed terms and conditions governing their engagement with the hospital, including the details of job requirements, attendance norms, leave entitlements, and facility available under the ESI, amongst others.

k. In accordance with the Committee’s recommendations, salary slips may be issued each month to the outsourced workmen showing the breakup of admissible salary and statutory deductions, and the net salary payable through the Bank must reflect on the salary slips.

l. The Hospital shall also consider introducing a system of biometric attendance in respect of outsourced workmen.

m. Further, as per the guidelines issued by the CVC, rotational transfers of persons holding sensitive posts on a regular basis shall also be undertaken.

n. A complaint box shall be put up in a prominent place in the premises of the hospital, so that any contractual workers who have complaints against the contractors would be able to submit their complaints in those boxes, even in an anonymous manner. These complaints shall also be looked into, and action shall be taken within two weeks of receiving the said complaints.”

Furthermore, the Bench then also directs in para 12 that, “The hospital administration shall ensure that the above-mentioned steps are taken and are monitored on a regular basis. The responsibility for ensuring that the steps as directed hereinabove are taken, would be of the Medical Superintendent of the hospital, who shall ensure that the contractual workers are not in any manner abused or misused, and the proper payment of their salaries, in accordance with the amount being released by the hospitals are, in fact, being made by the Contractors.”

Going ahead, the Bench then states in para 13 that, “This Court records its appreciation for the detailed enquiry conducted by Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, in his Enquiry report. In view of the said Enquiry Report and the subsequent Action Taken Report dated 19th October, 2020 filed by the Lady Hardinge Medical College & Associated Hospitals, so also the Report of the Committee constituted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, no further orders are called for in these matters.”

In addition, the Bench then also directs in para 14 that, “Let a copy of this order as well as the Report of the Committee constituted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare be circulated to Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals as also all other Central Government Hospitals for appropriate implementation of the aforementioned directions.”

For the sake of clarity, the Bench then makes it clear in para 15 that, “It is made clear that the continuation of contractual workers shall always be in accordance with law. The present order shall not be construed as giving any permanence to the contractual employees.”

What’s more, the Bench then hastens to add in para 16 that, “With these observations, the present petitions, along with all pending applications, is disposed of.”

Finally, the Bench then holds in para 17 that, “The digitally signed copy of this order, duly uploaded on the official website of the Delhi High Court, www.delhihighcourt.nic.in shall be treated as the certified copy of the order for the purpose of ensuring compliance. No physical copy of orders shall be insisted by any authority/entity or litigant.”

In conclusion, the landmark directions given by the Delhi High Court in this noteworthy judgment ought to be implemented accordingly. It brooks no more delay now. No denying!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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