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The NLU Delhi Administration has stated that it has no legal liability to provide perpetual employment to the Safai Karamcharis who were terminated last year.
The administration of National Law University, Delhi (NLU Delhi) has responded to the controversy over the reinstatement of safai karamcharis (house-keeping staff) terminated last December, asserting that it has no legal liability to provide perpetual employment to contractual workers.
A note has been issued on June 22 and signed by the University's Vice-Chancellor Prof Ranbir Singh in this regard.
The University states that it has got the Delhi Labour Minister's June 17 directive legally examined. The directive was to reinstate the earlier safai karamcharis and to cancel the new contract entered into by NLU Delhi for housekeeping services with RMG.
The conclusion drawn from this legal assessment is that these directions are not legally sustainable, the administration states. As such, the accompanying direction to carry out a fresh reassessment of manpower requirement to engage housekeeping services is also not binding, it is added.
To explain its position, the University details that the terminated safai karamcharis were employed before the Delhi government's 2012 guidelines for manpower assessment kicked in. It is stated that the safai karamcharis were then hired without any assessment and that they were "more than the actual requirement." The note states,
In line with the requirement put forth by State and Central auditing teams, the University had to float a fresh tender, and awarded the contract of providing services of safai karamcharis to RMG, Thus, the University points out that the manpower of the earlier contractor was withdrawn.
In this backdrop, it is reiterated that "the University never hire workers; it only hires services."
It is further stated that
"the University is under no legal liability to provide perpetual employment to the workers deployed by the company after the completion of the term of the contract. The workers have no enforceable rights vis-vis principal employer for continued retention and hence any direction to retain them after the termination of contract is without any legal basis."
The University goes on to assert that it has taken all possible humanitarian measures to persuade the present contractor to provide the earlier safai karamcharis with alternate employment and that RMG has agreed to the same. The note also states,
Note issued by NLU Delhi administration
It is added that the cancellation of the University's contract with RMG would violate the law and "the University will not be able to sustain it in the court of law as a duly awarded contract cannot be cancelled arbitrarily."
Further, it is also stated that in line with the 2008 NLU Delhi Act, "any proposal having a policy question or financial implications will have to be approved by the University bodies i.e. Finance Committee/Executive Council/ Governing Council and no other source/authority."
The matter has been placed before the Chancellor as well, it is stated. Final directions on this issue would have to be taken only after it is examined by the University's governing bodies, it is added.
On a parting note, the administration has refuted that the recent detention of an NLU Delhi student at the University Gates was at its behest. The notes states,
Following the University's statement issued on June 22, the students of the NLU Delhi have issued a counter asserting that the "The University cannot shrug responsibility on the matter at this stage."
In their 5-page counter-statement, the students have contended in detail that the present contract between the University and RMG is illegal, that the University has obligations toward the safai karamchari workers and that the "offer of alternate employment (for the terminated safai karamcharis) is a mere façade."
"The over-emphasis on treating the University’s relationship with the workers as a mere service wrongly tries to dehumanize the issue", the statement adds.
55 house-keeping staff, engaged under a contract with White Fox and Golden, were terminated from service in December last year. NLU Delhi entered into a contract with Rajendra Management Group (RMG) to hire around 30 new workers instead.
Last week, Delhi's Labour Minister Gopal Rai directed the University to reinstate the safai karamcharis whose services were terminated.
The terminated workers and a student, wielding the the Labour Minister's order, had assembled at the University gate on Friday morning to meet with the administration.
As per a statement issued by the student-run NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity, the NLU Delhi student was detained by police on allegations that she had instigated workers who assembled outside the gate to protest.
The worker and the student were eventually released following the intervention of friends, lawyers and activists. However, the student statement adds that they were released "with a warning that they would be booked by way of an FIR under Section 188 and 144 if they were found in the vicinity of the University."
Following this development, the alumni of the University have issued a statement condemning the police's action and the administration's inaction in the matter.