KOCHI: In an unprecedented move that infringes on the employees' right to seek legal remedy on a service-related issue, the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEB) has restrained its employees from directly approaching the courts, including the Kerala High Court, to seek relief on their grievances within the organisation.
The order, issued by KSEB CMD K Ellangovan, on May 6, said all employees of the board, both workmen and officers of all cadre, aggrieved on service matters, must approach the three levels of authorities - first, second and the third level - within the organisation before approaching any judiciary forum. But, employees said the board's three-level grievance redressal mechanism was time consuming and there's no fixed time frame to rectify their complaints.
The KSEB chairman's order, which will have a bearing on its 35,000 employees, said only those service matters which are not mitigated by the three level of authorities on escalation, should be brought to the consideration of the court of law. The circular also cautioned the employees who violate the directive will have to face disciplinary action.
"The action of any employee approaching any court directly on service matters without exercising the options available in the administrative hierarchy and procedures will be viewed seriously as per the existing rules. The workmen/officer who approach the court directly in the cases shall be liable to face appropriate disciplinary action as per the rules in force," the order said.
According to the KSEB CMD, a few employees are suing the KSEB in various courts, directly on service matters without utilising the existing administrative avenues and procedures. “In some cases, the KSEB is not in a position to defend the case properly and in several instances, the company is faced with embarrassing situation of implementing unfavourable orders and tackling with contempt of court proceedings. This has often put the KSEB at the risk of huge financial loss and has resulted in undue benefits to some non-deserving employees,” said the order.
The KSEB also cited a reason for restriction that it was forced to spend significant manpower and financial resources towards handling many court cases. Kerala Electricity Employees’ Confederation (INTUC) president K P Dhanapalan said the order itself is a violation of Constitutional rights. “Every citizen has the right to approach the court when there is any grievance.
Insisting the employees to go through the long process to get justice is a infringement on the fundamental rights,” said Dhanapalan. The confederation will take appropriate action soon to revoke the order by the KSEB, he said.
Piling up of cases
Last year around 160 service cases were filed by the employees. The legal officer said there were several other matters in which the KSEB is involved. The service matter included general transfer, fixing of grade and promotion. The employees have filed petition with regard to allowance and benefits that comes around 20.