Calcutta HC: Employees should not work beyond specified hours

Dismissing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Calcutta High Court noted that requiring an employee to work beyond their designated hours would negatively impact their productivity, especially for the railway employees

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The Division Bench, comprising of acting chief justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, noted that railway employees who specifically oversee train operations should not be compelled to work beyond their specified hours. It could result in too much fatigue and it may also hinder effective supervision of train movements and operations, ultimately jeopardising public safety.

The petitioners argued that railway employees overseeing train operations were required to work beyond the standard eight-hour shift, sometimes up to 12 or even 24 hours continuously, which they claimed posed a safety risk to the travelling public. This concern prompted the petitioner to file the lawsuit.

In response to the lawsuit filed, the deputy solicitor general of India submitted his written instructions stating that due to a shortage of staff during the pandemic, railway employees were required to work for 12 hours. However, the arrangement is no longer in force and has been revised, making the current working hours for railway employees to eight hours.

The petitioners argued in response that it is not always the case and there are numerous instances where the duty hours are communicated to the railway employees via WhatsApp messages.

The Calcutta High Court emphasised that it is the responsibility of the employer to establish the terms of employment and regulations. However, it also stated that the railway administration should ensure that the safety and security of the passengers are not jeopardised, and the working hours of railway employees should be regulated accordingly. This observation should be noted by senior officials of the railway administration.

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