A Supreme Court bench of Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Indu Malhotra observed in the case of ‘The Officer In Charge, Sub Regional Provident Fund Office, vs. M/s Godavari Garments Limited’, that merely because workers were permitted to do the work off site would not take away their status as employees for the purpose of Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
In this case, women workers were provided by the Company, with cut fabric, thread, buttons, etc. to be made into garments using their own sewing machines. The issue before the Court was ‘whether the women workers employed by the Company are covered by the definition of "employee" under Section 2(f) of the EPF Act?’ The Provident Fund Officer held in the affirmative but the High court setting aside the order observed that the Company had no direct or indirect control over the women workers.
The Apex Court noting the definition of "employee" under Section 2(f) of the EPF Act said that it is an inclusive definition, widely worded to include any person engaged either directly or indirectly with the work of an establishment. The Court also observed that the EPF Act is a beneficial social welfare legislation enacted by the Legislature for the benefit of the workmen, and merely by reason of working off site would not strip the workers of their status as employees. The bench also noted that the women workers were paid wages directly by the respondent on a per piece basis for every garment stitched.
Setting aside the High Court judgment, the bench noted that the decision in C.E.S.C. Limited v. Subhash Chandra Bose could not be used as in that case, the court interpreted the meaning of the term "supervision" as used in the definition of "employee" Section 2(9) of the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948, whereas, the term "supervision" is nowhere used in the definition of "employee" under Section 2(f) of the EPF Act.