Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of A.M. Sapre and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ, partially allowed a civil appeal filed against the judgment of Jharkhand High Court whereby the dismissal order passed against 37 workmen was set aside and full back wages were granted to them.

The appellant was the Public Health and Engineering Department, whereas, the Workmen Union representing the said 37 workmen was the respondent. The short question that arose for consideration was whether the High Court and the Labour Court were justified in awarding full back wages to the said 37 workmen after setting aside their dismissal order holding it to be bad in law, being in contravention of Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and, in consequence, directing reinstatement of such workmen in service of the appellant.

On considering the submissions, the Supreme Court was inclined to allow the appeal in part. It was opined that the Courts below completely failed to see that back wages could not be awarded by the Court to a workman as of right consequent upon setting aside of his dismissal order. In such cases, it is necessary for the workman to plead and prove that after his dismissal from service, he was not gainfully employed elsewhere and had no earning to maintain himself and his family. The factors that need to be kept in mind while deciding on grant of back wages were discussed by the Supreme Court in earlier decisions in M.P. SEB v. Jarina Bee, (2003) 6 SCC 141; Haryana Roadways v. Rudhan Singh, (2005) 5 SCC 591; Deepali Gundu Surwase v. Kranti Junior  Adhyapak Mahavidyalaya, (2013) 10 SCC 324; etc. The Court, in the instant case, held that neither the Labour Court nor the High Court kept in consideration the principles of law as discussed in the aforementioned decisions. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not concur with the direction of the Courts below awarding full back wages to the workmen, which in Supreme Court’s opinion, certainly caused prejudice to the appellant (employer). However, in the interest of justice, the Court awarded 50% of the total back wages to the said 37 workmen. The order impugned was accordingly modified. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [Management of Regional Chief Engineer, Public Health and Engineering Department v. Their Workmen, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1587, decided on 20-09-2018]


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