If Labour Court orders reinstatement and employer challenges the said order, is workman entitled to payment of full wages during pendency of challenge by employer? Del HC explains in consonance of Industrial Disputes Act

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh, JJ., decided a matter with regard to payment of full wages to workman while proceedings are pending pertaining to him in the Court.

Respondent 1 – workman moved the application under Section 17B of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The present appeal was preferred by the appellant-Corporation against the decision by which Single Judge was pleased to set aside the award passed by the Labour Court and vide the said order, Single Judge had granted regularization to the workman with 30% back wages and continuity of service for all purposes.

Labour Court had dismissed the workman’s claim, but the Single Judge had set aside the award and granted reinstatement with regularization but the NrDMC, instead of implementing the said decision challenged the same before the Division Bench.

Applicant-workman moved this application under Section 17B of the Act for payment of full back wages last drawn or minimum wages, whichever was higher, inclusive of any maintenance allowance as per provision of Section 17B of the Act.

Analysis, Law and Decision

“17B. Payment of full wages to workman pending proceedings in higher court:

where in any case a Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal by its award directs reinstatement of any workman and the employer prefers any proceedings against such award in a High Court or the Supreme Court, the employer shall be liable to pay such workman, during the period of pendency of such proceedings in the High Court or the Supreme Court, full wages last drawn by him, inclusive of any maintenance allowance admissible to him under any rule if the workman had not been employed in any establishment during such period and an affidavit by such workman had been filed to that effect in such Court:

Provided that where it is proved to the satisfaction of the High Court or the Supreme Court that such workman had been employed and had been receiving adequate remuneration during any such period or part thereof, the Court shall order that no wages shall be payable under this section for such period or part, as the case may be.”

 As per NrDMC, it was difficult to find details of the present employment of the applicant-workman-respondent 1 and if an order under Section 17B of the Act is passed, it will burden the public exchequer as NrDMC was reeling under a financial crunch and the public money would go in wrong hands.

In Court’s opinion, the grounds by NrDMC were not tenable.

Law

“…if re-instatement has been ordered by Court and the employer, instead of complying with the said directions, chooses to challenge the said order, the workman is entitled to full wages last drawn by him, inclusive of any maintenance allowance admissible to him during the pendency of the said challenge by the employer.”

Court noted that a point was raised by the management that since the award passed by the Labour Court was not in favour of the workman, he had no right to move an application under Section 17B of the Act.

There is no provision for appeal provided in the Industrial Disputes Act against the decision of a labour court, which is in the form of an award.

The Bench opined that the writ petition was only a continuation of the reference/claim originally filed by the workman before the labour court, hence, the decision of the Single Judge to reinstate the workman with 30% back wages and to consider his case for regularization as per prevalent policy, was in the nature of Award in favour of the workman.

The said decision of the Single Judge had been challenged by the management, hence this Court had the jurisdiction to grant relief under Section 17B of the Industrial Disputes Act.

In the present matter, NrDMC failed to negative the claim of the workman that he was not gainfully employed. Since the disposal of the appeal would take some time, the workman and his family members cannot be allowed to starve in the meantime.

Concluding the matter, the workman was entitled to full wages last drawn by him and since respondent 1 had been ordered to be regularized with all consequential benefits, the Management, i.e., NrDMC shall pay his full last drawn wages or minimum wages, which ever higher from 18-2-2020 onwards and keep on paying during the pendency of the present appeal. [North Delhi Municipal Corporation v. Bal Kishan, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5543, decided on 24-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the appellant: Ms Namrata Mukim, Standing Counsel with Ms Garima, Jindal, Adv.

For the Respondents: Ms Namrata Mukim, Standing Counsel with Ms Garima, Jindal, Adv. For R-1

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