Del HC | If a petition involving industrial dispute has no ‘exceptional circumstances ‘ but does have statutory remedy available, can it still be entertained by Court? HC discusses SC’s principles

Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J., while addressing the present petition observed the principle laid down by the Supreme Court of India with regard to Industrial Disputes.

Challenge in the Present petition

Trade Union of PTI Employees and Federation of four PTI Employees’ Unions have challenged the retrenchment of 297 employees by the Press Trust of India.

Permanent and regular workmen have been retrenched while contractual workers have been retained. The principle of ‘last come first go’  has not been followed.

Reasons why retrenchment is violative of certain provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act

Further, it has been stated that retrenchment is violative of Section 25-N of the Industrial Disputes Act as PTI employs more than 100 employees and has not taken the prior permission from the State Government before retrenchment;

retrenchment is violative of Section 25-N of Industrial Disputes Act as three months notice/three months wages in lieu of notice has not been given;

retrenchment is violative of Sections 25-F and 25-G of the Industrial Disputes Act as one month notice indicating the reasons for retrenchment and the retrenchment compensation has not been given;

retrenchment is violative of Section 9A of the Industrial Disputes Act read with Clauses 10 and 11 of the Fourth Schedule as the service conditions of the employees relating to rationalization/technique were altered without notice;

the retrenchment is violative of Section 16A of the Working Journalists Act, 1955 as the reason for retrenchment was the liability for payment of wages and mandating promotional grades as per Clause 18(f) of Majithia Award;

the retrenchment is violative of Section 25-G of the Industrial Disputes Act as there is the substantial short payment of retrenchment compensation to the employees;

closure of Attendees, Transmission and Engineering departments is violative of Section 25-O of the Industrial Disputes Act as the closure was without permission and the retrenchment is illegal and mala fide to sabotage the continued disbursement of Majithia Award benefits and to discourage the employees to pursue their remedies under the Wage Board.

retrenchment constitutes an unfair trade practice as set out in clauses 5(a), (b) and (d) of the Fifth Schedule of the Industrial Disputes Act;

large number of employees have not yet received individual notice of their retrenchment; and the plea of “No work” of PTI is false and contrary to PTI work registers.

Analysis and Decision

Whether the writ petitions should be entertained in view of the statutory remedy available to the retrenched employees under the Industrial Disputes Act?

Bench while deciding the present matter observed that,

The law is well settled by the Supreme Court that a writ petition should not be entertained in respect of industrial disputes for which a statutory remedy is available under the Industrial Disputes Act unless ‘Exceptional circumstances’ are made out.

Writ jurisdiction is a discretionary jurisdiction and the discretion should not ordinarily be exercised if there is an alternative remedy available to the petitioner.

Sum and Substance:

  • If the writ petition discloses ‘Exceptional circumstances’ and does not involve disputed questions of fact, the writ petition in respect of an industrial dispute may be entertained.
  • If the writ petition discloses ‘Exceptional circumstances’ but the facts are disputed, the writ petition should not be entertained and the petitioner has to invoke the statutory remedies available as per law.
  • If the writ petition does not disclose ‘Exceptional circumstances’, the writ petition should not be entertained irrespective of whether the facts are disputed or not.
  • Writ jurisdiction is a discretionary jurisdiction and the discretion is ordinarily not exercised, if an alternative remedy is available to the petitioner. The powers conferred under Article 226 of the Court are very wide but these are extraordinary remedies subject to self-imposed restrictions.

With regard to ‘exceptional circumstances’ Court referred to the decision of Delhi High Court, Hajara v. Govt. of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 7982.

In the present matter, there are no exceptional circumstances for the exercise of the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.

Bench stated that the present matter is squarely covered by the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in U.P. State Bridge Corporation Ltd. v. U.P. Rajya Setu Nigam Karamchari Sangh,2004 (2) L.L.N. 93 wherein the Court held that,

“We are of the firm opinion that the High Court erred in entertaining the writ petition of the respondent Union at all. The dispute was an industrial dispute both within the meaning of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as well as U.P. IDA, 1947. The rights and obligations sought to be enforced by the respondent Union in the writ petition are those created by the Industrial Disputes Act.”

High Court observed that,

“The principles of uniformity and predictability are very important principles of jurisprudence.”

Most of the retrenchment cases are simpler than the present case but the writ jurisdiction is not exercised as the law is clear and well settled that the rights under the Industrial Disputes Act have to be agitated before the Industrial Tribunal.

In the present matter, Court declines to exercise the writ jurisdiction in view of the statutory remedy available to the retrenched employees under the Industrial Disputes Act.

Court noted there is no averment in that in any of the retrenched employees authorized the petitioners to espouse their cause. There is no averment that shows the authority of the petitioners to file the petitions.

Held

Bench held that the petitions are being dismissed on the ground that the retrenched employees have a statutory remedy under the Industrial Disputes Act and no ‘Exceptional circumstances’ have been made out by the petitioners.

Post Script

In view of the well-settled law by the Supreme Court that the writ petition relating to an industrial dispute can be entertained only if there are ‘Exceptional circumstances’, it is mandatory for the writ petitioner to disclose the ‘Exceptional circumstances’ in the Synopsis as well as in the opening paras of the writ petition.

Hence, if the writ petitioner does not disclose the “Exceptional circumstances” in the writ petition, the Registry shall return the writ petition under objections to enable the writ petitioner to disclose the “Exceptional circumstances” in the Synopsis as well as in the opening paras of the writ petition.[PTI Employees Union v. Press Trust of India Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1216, decided on 18-09-2020]

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