A decision of the EPF Appellate Tribunal, North Delhi, that the term “employee” was defined in the Payment of Bonus Act as regular workers which included apprentices, was upheld by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Rejecting the contention of M/s Sree Mangayarkarasi Mills (P) Ltd, Madurai, that just because their workers were given attractive package, including bonus, that should not be put against the management, the Court ruled that there was no case made out to interfere with the findings of the Tribunal in agreeing with the proceedings issued under Section 7A of the Employees Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Act, 1952 for deposing the PF dues. In their writ petition, the management challenged the order dated July 23, 2010, passed by the Tribunal.
The first respondent (Asst PF Commissioner, Madurai) initiated proceedings against petitioner for depositing the PF dues, under Section 7A. The petitioner, it was stated, was covered under the Act and was making contribution only to 225 eligible employees. Apart from these employees, they had also engaged number of persons as trainees. The petitioner contended that their standing order provided for such employment, and they were not eligible for PF coverage. R-1 claimed that it was only a camouflage to label them as trainees. They were regular employees, the respondent claimed. The Tribunal, while rejecting the case of petitioner, ruled they were regular employees. It cited a decision of this Court in NEPC Textiles Ltd vs Regional PF Commissioner reported in 2007 LLR 535 wherein it was held that though persons were engaged as apprentices, they were required to do work of regular employees, and hence they could be deemed to be employees of the mill.
The Tribunal further submitted that workers of the Company were receiving bonus under Section 2(13) of Bonus Act. The term ‘employee’ was defined which included apprentice. Therefore, they should be considered as employees of the Company. For purpose of Bonus Act, they could not treat non- covered workers as employees and for purpose of EPF Act, they would be treated as non-employees. Mr Justice K. Chandru held that this Court was unable to agree with the petitioner’s submission. The writ petition would stand dismissed.