In a late-night hearing, the Calcutta High Court, presided over by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, addressed the issue of non-payment of provident fund (PF) dues to jute mill workers by various companies, including Delta Mills. The petitioners’ advocate highlighted that the dues amounted to an average of Rs 2.5 lakhs per worker, totaling approximately Rs 25 lakhs for 10 workers.
Earlier in the day, the single bench had summoned the directors of the companies and directed them to be interrogated by the Serious Fraud Investigation Unit (SFIO). Shockingly, it was revealed during the hearing that these directors were merely “sham directors,” laborers within the company who had been coerced into assuming directorial roles in exchange for monetary compensation.
The court then called for DSG Dhiraj Trivedi of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to explain why the ED had not initiated an investigation into the matter. The ED clarified that it could only investigate scheduled offenses under Section 447 of the Companies Act, 2013, provided that the necessary criteria were met, including the lodging of an FIR.
Upon analyzing the circumstances and recognizing the clear elements of fraud, including the appointment of sham directors and abuse of position through connivance, the court directed the SFIO to lodge an FIR at the local police station to facilitate the ED’s investigation.
Despite SFIO’s contention that it could not independently lodge an FIR, the court invoked Section 212 of the Companies Act, asserting its authority to direct the SFIO to file the FIR in the public interest.
The court mandated the SFIO to file the FIR before 3 pm the following day and instructed the ED to commence its investigation immediately upon receiving the details. Additionally, it ordered the release of the questioned directors and the return of their mobile phones.
The case, titled *SANATAN NASKAR v THE REGIONAL PROVIDENT FUND COMMISSIONER AND ORS.*, has been listed for further proceedings at 3 pm the same day.
The Calcutta High Court’s proactive stance in addressing the non-payment of PF dues underscores its commitment to upholding labor rights and combating financial malpractice. By directing the SFIO to initiate an investigation and ensuring swift action, the court aims to deliver justice to the affected jute mill workers and hold accountable those responsible for fraudulent practices.