Hindustan Unilever Employees Union, Pondicherry v. Inspector of Factories, Pondicherry and Ors.

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Hindustan Unilever Employees Union, Pondicherry v. Inspector of Factories, Pondicherry and others

Hindustan Unilever Employees Union, Pondicherry v. Inspector of Factories, Pondicherry and Ors.
(2010) 127 FLR 585 (Mad)
In the High Court of Madras
W.P. No. 20876 of 2009 and M.P. No. 1 of 2009
Before Justice K. Chandru
Decided on June 08, 2010

Relevancy of the case: Removing “Optional Lock System” in the computerised attendance system

Statutes & Provisions Involved

  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 4)
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (Section 9A, 12)
  • The Right to Information Act, 2005
  • The Puducherry Factories Rules, 1964 (Rule 97-102, 104)
  • The Factories Act, 1948 (Section 111A)

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The petitioner, in this case, is the trade union functioning in the factory of the second respondent.
  • The petitioner union has come forward to file the present writ petition seeking for a direction to the first respondent i.e. Inspector of Factories to consider the complaint sent by the union and to take action against the second respondent for removing “Optional Lock System” in the computerised attendance system maintained in the second respondent factory and for a consequential direction to the second respondent to keep all statutory records and registers prescribed under the provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 and Rules made thereunder.
  • In the software utilised by the second respondent, whenever the workmen registered their names, it was programmed in such a way that registration would directly be rejected. Utilising the said programme and with a view to victimise the workers, the registration was locked.
  • Therefore, the petitioner union stated that such a procedure was illegal and they should discontinue the Time Attendance System (TAS) computerised system and that the original card system should be introduced.
  • The issue was that the software used by the second respondent should be investigated and the Optional Lock System which is for their whims and fancies must be removed.
  • The petitioner union also invoked the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and sought certain information from the first respondent.

Opinion of the Bench

  • Justice K. Chandru:

In the settlement signed under Section 12(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the workmen have agreed for the introduction of the TAS system of attendance. Therefore, such an introduction does not invite the introduction of Section 9A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

  • Further, maintenance of registers in the soft copy was also permitted by the Joint Chief Inspector of Factories and a copy of which has been produced in the typed set. Therefore, the said permission is also not under challenge.
  • The petitioner union has agreed for the introduction of the TAS system of attendance by a settlement. Therefore, it is too late for the petitioner to question the same.
  • Even otherwise, under Rule 104 of the Puducherry Factories Rules, 1964, the Chief Inspector of Factories can grant an exemption in respect of any of the provisions contained under Rules 97 to 102 in respect of any factories subject to such conditions.
  • Apart from this, Section 4 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 grants legal recognition of the electronic records.

Final Decision

  • The action of the second respondent is not illegal and is not without the authority of law.
  • Even otherwise, under Section 111A of the Factories Act, 1948, every workman employed in the factory is entitled to obtain from the occupier the information relating to workers’ health and safety at work.
  • Therefore, it is unnecessary to entertain the writ petition with the limited prayer sought for by the petitioner union.

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