K.T. Sangameswaran

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has granted an interim stay of an order of the Second Additional District Munsif at Coimbatore as confirmed by the Principal Subordinate Judge, Coimbatore, in a case relating to provident fund contributions from NEPC Airlines and two sister concerns, NEPC Textiles and NEPC Tea Garden.

Justice S. Palanivelu granted interim stay and ordered notice on an appeal filed by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

In its plaint before the Sub-Judge, Coimbatore, the company submitted that provident fund contributions had been effected in respect of its employees with the EPFO. The airline division of NEPC Airlines had suspended its operation.

Meanwhile, it came to learn that as per a Central government notification of March 2001, provident fund was applicable to aircraft establishments and airlines other than aircraft and airlines owned or controlled by the Central and State governments also with effect from April 1, 2001. The companies submitted that the EPFO could not recover any amount from them prior to that date.

In view of the notification, the organisation was not entitled to retain the employer’s contribution in respect of the employees of the airline company on any grounds.

But the EPFO was attempting to recover the alleged dues of Rs.90 lakh as employer’s and employees’ contribution from the other two concerns without refunding the PF contribution to the airline company.

The prayer was to restrain the EPFO from recovering Rs.90 lakh from the two concerns.

On an appeal by the EPFO, the Principal Subordinate Judge confirmed the lower court’s order.

Challenging this, the provident fund authorities preferred an appeal, filed by counsel, S. Vaidyanathan, before the High Court.