New Delhi: The employee unions at disinvestment-bound Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd's (BPCL) Cochin and Mumbai refinery have moved the Kerala and Mumbai High Court, seeking a direction from the court for the BPCL management to drop the "restrictive clause" in the Employee Stock Purchase Scheme (ESPS) that excludes litigants against the privatisation of the state-run company. The unions have contended that the condition is illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory and ultra vires the Constitution.
"The case is directly linked to the strategic disinvestment of BPCL, which is the subject matter of challenge in two writ petitions (filed earlier by the Unions). It is a fit case where the Court is required to set aside the said condition in the ESPS and also undertake strict judicial scrutiny of the entire decision-making process relating to the strategic disinvestment in BPCL and pass necessary orders as the Court may deem fit in the public interest," the petition said.
The petition argued that the extension of the deadline for submitting an expression of interest for BPCL sale to November 16 "appears to be granted to ensure that before it is received the Petitioner Unions are forced to abandon plea raised by them in the writ petitions by way of such pressure tactics and high handed action and coercive action taken by the BPCL management with full knowledge and approval of the Government of India (Respondent No 1) and to ensure that when the expression of interest are received on that date, there is no challenge to the entire process of strategic disinvestment."
The restrictive condition in the ESPS – rolled out on September 28- is a "direct and open pressure tactics adopted by the BPCL with the full knowledge and consent of Respondent No 1 (government) to pressurise the Petitioner Unions to withdraw the two Writ Petitions challenging the strategic disinvestment of BPCL."
"The said action is totally illegal on the part of the BPCL management which is using this method to break the unity of the Unions and preventing scrutiny of strategic disinvestment of BPCL by the Court," the unions said.
Praveenkumar P, General Secretary of Cochin Refineries Employees Association (INTUC), told PSU Watch that the association has asked the Kerala High Court to direct the BPCL management to "exclude the clauses 9 and 10 from the offer form to be signed by employees to get the shares in ESPS." The clauses exclude employees who are litigants against the disinvestment of BPCL in a court of law from buying shares under ESPS. "The rights of employees as Indian citizens should be protected to challenge the disinvestment process of BPCL now or in future as the company cannot suppress the right to question injustices," Kumar.
An opportunity should be given "to all employees on the roll of BPCL to purchase shares as per ESPS without imposing the barrier of five years of service in the corporation on the grounds of right to equality," he said.
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