CUTTACK: The closure of Talcher Thermal Power Station (TTPS), a unit of NTPC in Angul district, has hit a roadblock with the Orissa High Court issuing a stay order on it. The Joint Secretary of Ministry of Labour and Employment had passed an order on July 12, 2021, accepting the application of TTPS seeking permission to close the unit with effect from August 20.
NTPC Men’s Congress president Rama Chandra Khuntia and NTPC Workers’ Union president Bishnu Mohan Rath had filed two separate petitions challenging the July 12 order. The petitions, which had sought an interim order, were taken up for analogous hearing on Thursday. After a preliminary hearing, the court issued the stay order and said it shall remain effective till November 1, the next date of hearing. Accordingly, the court issued notices to the Centre, NTPC, TTPS and State government seeking their responses by then.
The division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice BP Routray observed, “The issue of the closure of an undertaking, which has functioned since 1968, has serious repercussions and involves several complex factors. It involved the unsettling/shifting of nearly 250 regular employees, including 157 executives and 92 non-executives, and 1,479 contract workers”.
“The petitioner contend that even the mandatory requirements of Section 25-N of the ID Act have not been complied with. The impression that the court is left with, at this stage, which is of course to be treated as prima facie, is that the move for closing the undertaking appears to be pre-determined one and rushed through by treating the statutory mandatory requirements as a mere formality”, the bench said.
The bench also said, “The petitioners have made out a prima facie case for an interim order as prayed for. Considering the number of workmen, both regular and contractual, who are likely to be disturbed or left high and dry by the closure, the balance of convenience in passing the interim order as prayed for is also in favour of the petitioners”.
According to the petitions, the plant was shut down and all the workmen were rendered idle from April 1, 2021. The six units of TTPS are functioning well. The TTPS Stage-III Expansion Project had already been approved by the State government. A petition was filed by one Gadadhar Samal following it.