Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union (Regd.), Sindri Another vs Union Of India and Others

Published On: 21st January, 2023

Authored By: Mouli Singhal
Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA

Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union (Regd.), Sindri Another vs Union Of India and Others

1981 SCC (1) 568

DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 13 November 1980


  1. Petitioners are the workers and union of workers of one undertaking under the Government of India which is the Sindri Fertilizer Factory. The undertaking decided to sell old and redundant equipment for which offers were made and tenders submitted by potential buyers were considered.
  2. The highest tender accepted by the tender Committee was of Respondent No. 4 for Rs. 7.6 crores. However, the said equipment was later reduced since the factory wanted some equipment back. This led to a decrease in the price quotation of tender and the fresh offer was decided to be made to only those tenderers whose tenders exceeded Rs. 4 crores. The offer was again finalized in favor of Respondent No. 4 but this time for Rs. 4.25 crores.
  3. When the plants of the factory had to be shut down, the workers had to be deployed however, they were absorbed into alternative units of plants in the same factory unit.
  4. The writ has been thus filed by the petitioners to hold the sale null and void due to the below-mentioned violations.


  1. Whether the writ maintainable as filed by the workers, workers’ union, and other petitioners?
  2. Whether the workers’ right to occupation was violated as a result of the entrenchment and subsequent absorption?
  3. Whether the tenders (both old and revised) were valid or unjust and arbitrary?


  1. Article 32[1] this is the article that gives the citizens the right to file a writ which are: habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto when there is a violation of fundamental rights enumerated in Part III of the Constitution of India.
  2. Doctrine of locus standi- provides that for a case/ petition to be maintainable, only an aggrieved party whose fundamental right has been violated can file a writ or a case.


Petitioners’ counsel’s contention: 

  1. That there was no report to show why the decision to sell the equipment was taken.
  2. no fresh offer was made for the revised sale of equipment and there was a price manipulation.
  3. That the right of occupation of almost 11,000 workers was violated and that they faced an arbitrary entrenchment.

Respondent’s counsel’s contention: 

  1. That the petition was not maintainable because the petitioners have no locus standi.
  2. That the Board of Directors of the undertaking has issued fresh offers, the only difference being that they were issued to only those whose earlier tender was for more than Rs. 4 crores.
  3. That the Chief Engineer laid down in his report that the equipment had become unsafe to work with and could lead to accidents if negligent and has highly recommended to dispose of them.


The five-judge bench deciding this case has considered all of the issues providing separate sets of opinions in the form of judgements.  

What did the court hold?

  1. The Court held that there is no fundamental rights violation of the workers neither of Article 14[2] nor of Article 19(1)(g)[3]. As per Article 19(1)(g), the right to carry any profession or run any business is not the same as working at a particular post or under a particular office. Abolition of a post or termination of one’s service period/ tenure won’t mean that their fundamental right of occupation is violated.

As far as the question of entrenchment is concerned, the workers who were entrenched were simultaneously absorbed in an alternate employment in another unit. The retrenchment was in the first place done because the equipment to be sold was old and redundant and the plant site was not safe for working and could lead to accidents. The report for the same was made by the Chief Engineer and given to the Board.

  1. The internal working of a public undertaking is controlled and handled by the Board of Directors of the said undertaking. However, such public undertakings are also significantly controlled by the people and so the decision-makers are accountable to the public which is why, a fact of law in a dispute that could be of least consideration in any undertaking becomes a cause of action when it comes to public enterprises and their functioning.                                Hence, the point is that the workers also form as much part of the undertaking as the management and Board does and that is why they also need to be informed of the decisions which concern their functioning and employment. Now, as per the case facts, the reason for to sale and reason for fresh tenders were not provided to the workers’ union which is an injustice to them and so they have the adequate locus standi to claim for the relief by filing a case/ writ as suited.  
  1. To answer the respondent’s contention, the court has in this case first time observed and held that locus standi that is one’s standing in the case should be liberalized as the law is not getting any less dynamic. In order to address larger public interest and to embrace the legal dynamism the restrictions of law should be dissolved enough so that those who can’t afford justice can at least take help from others to do the same.

These can be organizations that work very closely with the subject matter brought up in the case or can be another person who although not himself injured by the violation still has enough interest of his own that he wishes to be addressed through this case for an appropriate relief or remedy. This is known as the concept of participative justice where people who are though not themselves the aggrieved persons still form a class of people who want their concerns to be addressed for some sort of relief or the larger public interest.

Locus standi- restriction or liberty?

This is the first case in which the locus standi was observed in a liberal way and a diversion was made from the traditional approach of the judicial system where the standing of the petitioner in a case filed by him was strictly considered. One who suffered the injury would file the case.

This liberal trend as held by Justice Krishna Iyer in this case is a new entry into a dimension where socio-legal issues are to be addressed closely no matter who files the case as long as it concerns the rights of the public at large whether the subject matter be civil or criminal or constitutional.  

Although liberal trends are appreciated, still Professor De Smith[4] has warned against invoking the court’s jurisdiction by someone who hasn’t been affected or injured or simply is not concerned by it. Justice V.S. Deshpande[5] in his writings has observed that locus standi in any case has to be determined by two factors: –

  1. The petitioner must be able to show that there lies a public interest in the case and
  2. That he is as much or more interested in the case which represents the public interest.

Since the last two decades, locus standi in terms of Public Interest Litigation has been widely used to address social, economic, and legal issues, the rule of locus standi is being read and interpreted in liberal terms to allow people to file cases on behalf of injured party when such injured party is not so much privileged to even file a case, engage a lawyer, pay the fee and be a part of other legal complexities.

Some of the wonderful examples of successful PILs are where one was filed to address the rising concern of sexual harassment in the workplace[6], where undertrials were kept for a time longer than prescribed[7], where the concern was of rising deterioration of environment[8] and many more. In all these cases, the restriction of locus standi was relaxed and a purposive and liberal interpretation was made to detect the mischief and promote the corrected stance through such liberalization.


There was an observation made by the bench that maintainability is not the same as providing prayed relief to any party. The aggrieved person should be under a disability due to which he takes help from someone else to file the case on his behalf[9]. A petition filed for delay of justice will be rejected no matter whether the party has standing or not.

The restriction of locus standi can be closely observed in private matters. The strict interpretation is observed as long as it is a matter of dispute between two parties but as soon as there is a development of a substantial question of law that needs constitutional interpretation and leads to a violation of fundamental rights, this restriction can be ignored to protect the larger public interest.

Locus standi as a restriction to protect the legal system from evils like a miscarriage of justice but not at the cost of the rights of the citizens.


[1] INDIA CONST. art 32.

[2] INDIA CONST. art 14.

[3] INDIA CONST. art 19, cl. 1(g).



[6] Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors (1997) 6 SCC 241.

[7] Hussainara Khatoon & Ors. v. State of Bihar 1980 SCC (1) 81.

[8] MC Mehta v. Union of India 1987 SCC (1) 395.

[9] Simranjeet Singh Mann v. Union of India 1992 SCC (4) 653.

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