Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Surya Kant, C.J. and Sandeep Sharma, J. dismissed a letters patent appeal finding no merit in the case as the issue stood settled between the parties in the earlier round of litigation.
In the pertinent matter, the respondent was a workman engaged on daily wage basis as a Beldar, who continuously worked for more than 240 days in each year. On 30-3-1996 he was allegedly retrenched. The respondent-workman, after 14 years, raised a Demand Charter, to give rise to conciliation of proceedings under the Industrial Disputes Act. However, the Labour Commissioner, vide order dated 30-6-2011, eventually declined to refer the matter to Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, as according to him, there was no justification to raise the dispute after a period of more than 14 years. The Reference was thus declined. The respondent-workman then approached the Court where the matter was ordered to be referred to Labour Court-cum-Industrial Tribunal and the question of limitation of appeal was directed to be kept in view “while moulding the relief”. The appellants did not challenge the order and instead, the matter was referred to the Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, which further ordered the reinstatement of the respondent with seniority from the date of the demand notice was served and no back wages were granted. The Tribunal found that some juniors to the respondent were allegedly retained in the employment and this Principle of Last Come First Go was violated.
The impugned judgment was then challenged by the appellants-State before the learned Single Judge where the Court held that the State authorities, “cannot be permitted time and again to raise the plea of inordinate delay in raising the dispute”. Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, in deference to those observations, denied the reinstatement or seniority to the respondent-workman from the date of alleged retrenchment and restricted those benefits from the date when the Demand Notice was served. Therefore, no unjust enrichment has been allowed by denying the back wages to the workman.
The Court opined that “True it is that unexplained and inordinate delay in raising the Industrial Dispute can be effectively fatal to the claim itself but this issue stands already settled between the parties in the earlier round of litigation”. Further, it held that any view contrary to the Judgment already given will nullify the mandate of the same.[Chief Secretary (PW) v. Ram Gopal, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 403, Order dated 03-04-2019]