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HMT restrained from evicting employees from quarters by P&H HC

The Punjab and Haryana high court has restrained the Hindustan Machine Tools Limited (HMT) from evicting employees who are residing in government quarters allotted as per company policies. HC also restrained collection of water and electricity charges and discontinuation of these facilities, as employees had argued that they were not being paid salaries.

It was on October 27, 2016, that the central government had decided on closure of HMT’s tractor unit in Pinjore citing continuous losses and insignificant market share. The government had announced a VRS scheme or VSS (voluntary separation scheme) for employees with a budgetary provisions of 718.72 crore to clear outstanding salaries, other dues and liabilities towards banks and creditors. As per reports, 1,100 employees of the unit were affected, out of which 350 odd had approached HC in 2016.

A government of India public sector enterprise, HMT tractor division was set up at Pinjore in 1971. The company’s performance had started to decline in the 1990s.

In their fresh plea, the employees had sought directions from the HC, restraining the authorities from evicting them from the company quarters and from charging licence fee, electricity and water charges over and above the amount as agreed under the quarter allotment letters. They had cited August 2021 notices, asking them to pay up, failing which electricity and water connections would be disconnected. Petitioners are in the category of serving employees, however, they are not being paid their salaries and therefore, are not in a position to pay the charges, the court was told.

The bench of justice Girish Agnihotri observed that a very peculiar situation has risen, where the employees are not being paid by the employer. On the other hand, the company is stating that they are also not getting proper funds from the Centre. Respondents are directed to convene a meeting at the central government level and place before the court a viable solution so that such kind of situation does not arise, the court ordered, posting the matter for hearing on November 12 and staying the notices.