The Meghalaya High Court has rejected the plea of prominent businessman Ngaitlang Dhar for quashing the order by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) prohibiting operation of his bank account in State Bank of India, Laitumkhrah branch.
It may be mentioned that Dhar was issued a letter on November 30, 2021 by the Authorised Officer, ESIC Regional Office, Guwahati addressed to the Recovery Officer, ESI Corporation, Guwahati for recovery of contribution under section 45C to 45-I of the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948 amounting to Rs 69,719 plus interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum with effect from July 21, 2012.
In the letter, Dhar was addressed as Proprietor/Principal Employer of N Dhar Construction.
Again, through another letter issued on August 17, 2022, the Recovery Officer, ESIC North East Region issued a prohibitory order to the Branch Manager, State Bank of India, Laitumkhrah (Shillong) Branch prohibiting operation of Account No. 20011865907 operated by Dhar. In this letter too, Dhar was addressed as Proprietor/Principal Employer/Director of N Dhar Construction.
Dhar then wrote a letter dated August 22, 2022 to the Authorised Officer, ESIC Regional Office, Guwahati informing him that there is no such establishment/factory by the name of N Dhar Construction nor is he the Principal Employer as alleged. He also clarified that there is no such workshop owned by him located at Mawblei, opposite Syiem Workshop.
Later, Dhar moved a writ petition in the High Court seeking quashing of the prohibitory order issued by the Recovery Officer, ESIC North East Region regarding his bank account at the SBI, Laitumkhrah branch.
During hearing of the case in the High Court, Dhar’s lawyer S Deb told the court that though there is no definition of the word ‘establishment’ under the ESIC Act of 1948, section 2(12) defines ‘factory’ to mean any premises including the precincts thereof whereon ten or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months.
Deb also stated that there is no record to show that there are ten or more persons employed with N Dhar Construction at Mawblei, Shillong and therefore, the prohibitory order is entirely unfounded, misconstrued and not tenable in law. He also pleaded for quashing of the prohibitory order by the court.
However, Justice Wanlura Diengdoh observed that the question arises as to how to determine the issue of whether Dhar is the Principal Employer of N Dhar Construction. The judge also said that the issue has to be decided by the civil court.
“The simple answer will lie in this, that is, that the only competent court to decide this issue would be the civil court,” Justice Diengdoh said while directing Dhar and to approach the competent civil court for redressal of their dispute.
Stating that Dhar’s petition for quashing of the ESIC prohibitory order “cannot be accepted”, Justice Diengdoh also passed an order rejecting the petition.