The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Madras Bench, has quashed an order of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) recovering excess payment made to its casual labourers. It also asked the BSNL to refund the recovered amount.

They were initially inducted as casual labourers/temporary status mazdoors in the organisation for digging work for laying cables and installation of towers. They were treated on a par with temporary Group ‘D’ employees for the purpose of subscribing to General Provident Fund and drawing festival allowance. Without issuing any show-cause notice to them, BSNL in 2010 decided to revise their salary from industrial payscale to Central government payscale and to recover the overpayment.

Fifty-six casual labourers approached CAT seeking to set aside the recovery of payment, and demanded payment as per Industrial payscale. They contended that they were already drawing less salary and the recovery from 2002 was illegal.

Defending its action, the BSNL said there was scope for such a recovery from employees up to the date of cessation of service. If wages were paid on the basis of industrial payscale continuously to the applicants, it would be discrimination to others in BSNL across the country.

Disposing of the applications, the Bench, comprising its members B.Venkateswara Rao and P.Prabakaran, said that earlier the applicants were granted higher scale of pay erroneously following a decision of an incompetent authority and they could not be held at fault. Quashing the impugned order of recovery, the Bench also said the BSNL was at liberty to revise wages of casual labourers.

In 2010, BSNL decided to revise their salary from industrial payscale to Central government payscale

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