- Apprentice Lawyer
The Delhi High Court has directed the Central Provident Fund Commissioner (CPFC) to pass immediate practice directions on uploading of all orders passed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioners, Assistant Provident Fund Commissioners, Central Government Industrial Tribunal and other subordinate officials/authorities who adjudicate disputes. (M/s Civicon Engineering Contracting India Pvt Ltd vs Central Board of Trustees)
While noting that not a single order had been uploaded since June 2019, Single Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh has stated that the practice directions shall stipulate the manner of passing orders, timelines for uploading order on the website, timelines for communication to parties etc.
The Court was dealing with a petition preferred by M/s Civicon Engineering Contracting India Pvt Ltd (petitioner) for the supply of a copy of order passed by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) under Sections 7Q & 14B of the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
The petitioner submitted that in spite of repeated visits to EPFO and making requests, a copy of the order was not supplied.
On the other hand, the respondent authority claimed that the order was communicated to the petitioner by speed post and that the petition was "only an excuse" to overcome the objections on limitation.
Without going into the question as to whether requests were made for a copy of the orders or not, the court opined that the orders passed by the department should be readily available to litigants and their counsel, in order to enable them to avail of their remedies in accordance with law.
The Court observed,
"The non-availability of orders would be completely unjustified, especially during the pandemic when most offices are working in an online mode. The availability of orders online would obviate the need for litigants to file petitions such as the present one wherein the only prayer is for making orders available."
Considering that almost all courts and tribunals across the country uploaded all orders and proceedings sheets online, the Court opined that the EPFO need not be an exception.
"The necessity for the same, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic needs no emphasise..It is part of good governance of all institutions, especially authorities and bodies performing public functions to provide services to the maximum extent possible by integrating technology in their everyday working.", the court said.
Consequently, the CPFC was directed to issue the necessary practice directions in respect of uploading of all orders and their communication to the parties by email.
The Court has sought a detailed compliance affidavit from CPFC in this regard, within a period of six weeks.
The petition was allowed with a direction to the authorities to supply the order copy to the petitioner.
Petitioner was represented by Advocates Tejpal Singh Kang, Palak Nenwani.
Respondent was represented by Advocate Puneet Garg.
Read the order: