Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Anil S. Kilor, J., reiterated that the strict rule of pleadings as applicable to civil suits is not applicable under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The petitioner’s application under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 was rejected by the Labour Court, Nagpur and the Judgments and Order passed has been assailed in the present petition.

Petitioner had worked as a skilled worker with respondent scheduled employment “Printing Press”, to which provisions and schedule prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 are applicable.

Claimed Permanency

He filed a complaint before the Industrial Court under Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices, 1971 claiming permanency.

On filing the above complaint, the petitioner was treated as a permanent employee by the respondent and therefore he withdrew his complaint.

However, the non-payment of the wages of permanent employee drove him to approach this Court.

Respondent stated that the petitioner was working as a skilled worker since 1989 and was getting benefits of permanent employee.

Further, the petitioner, subsequent to this, tendered his resignation, citing a reason that despite a statement made by the respondent before the learned Industrial Court and this Court that, the petitioner was a permanent employee, minimum wages have not been paid to him as per the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.

Petitioner again took resort to the legal remedy by preferring n application under Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947 before the Labour Court for grant of arrears of wages and bonus for the period 11-08-1989 to 31-12-2013, as a ‘fitter’.

Analysis and Decision

Questions for Consideration:

1. Whether the Labour Court, possesses jurisdiction under Section 33-C(2)of the Act, 1947, to grant arrears of wages due under the Minimum Wages Act, particularly where there is no dispute regarding the rates of wages and it is admitted by the parties that minimum rates of wages were fixed by the Government?

2. Whether the strict rule pleadings is applicable to the Industrial disputes?

The purpose of enacting the ID Act, 1947 was to make provisions for the Investigation and settlement of Industrial Dispute and for certain other purposes.

Court also referred to Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947, which read as follows:

33C. Recovery of money due from an employer

(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any money or any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money and if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be diecided by such Labour Court as may be specified in this behalf by the Appropriate Government.”

Language of the said Section makes it clear that:

“…if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be decided by Labour Court.”

Further to add to the above, if there is no dispute as to rates between the employer and the employee and the only question is whether a particular payment at the agreed rate is due or not, then Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act would not be attracted at all, and the appropriate remedy would only be either under Section 15(1) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, or under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act.

Court in view of Section 33-C(2) of the Act, 1947 and the facts laid, held that the Labour Court committed error in not exercising jurisdiction under Section 33-C (2) of the I.D. Act and further applicant also failed to prove that he was having the pre-existing right.

Bench referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in, Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. Abdulbhai Faizullabhai, (1976) 3 SCC 832 and observed that 

I.D. Act, 1947 being beneficial legislation protects labour, promotes their contentment and regulates situations of crisis.

Mechanism of the Act is geared to conferment of regulated benefits to workmen and resolution, according to a sympathetic rule of law, of the conflicts, actual or potential, between managements and workmen.

Moreover an industrial dispute where the process of conflict resolution is informal, rough-and-ready and invites a liberal approach. Procedural prescriptions are hand-maids, not mistresses of justice and failure of fair play is the spirit in which courts must view processual deviances.

Hence, in light of the ID Act, 1947 being a beneficial legislation and strict rule of pleadings not made applicable, as applicable to the suits filed under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, Court stated that it is erroneous that the application was rejected under Section 33-C (2) on the ground of not sufficient pleadings being made.

Therefore, the impugned judgment and order passed by the Labour Court needs to be set aside and sent back to the Labour Court to decide the same afresh. [Tularam Manikrao Hadge v. Sudarshan Paper Converting, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 965, decided on 21-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Sharad Kumar Sharma, J. contemplated the writ petition where the petitioner raised questions related to the order of the Labor Court passed in 2014.

The brief facts as involved in the instant writ petition were that the petitioner in the capacity of being an employer as a registered company under the Companies Act, had got different units and plants situated at various places, which required the services of certain workman in order to discharge the industrial work, which the unit had to undertake and in order to get the work performed in an efficient manner they required the services of Tool Room Trainee. Hence, the respondent was engaged as a Trainee with the said company and appointment made of the respondent for Trainee was governed by the terms and conditions of letter of appointment as it was provided in the letter of appointment itself issued. A certain stipend was fixed for the respondent. Subsequently the services of the respondent were put to an end on the grounds that the work and services were not satisfactory. The issue that arose afterwards was resolved between the parties.

Hence, the respondent filed an industrial dispute against the petitioner; consequently a proceeding was drawn before the Conciliation Officer and on the culmination of the said proceedings before the Conciliation Officer under Section 2-A of the U.P. Industrial Disputes Act, reference was sought to be made with regards to an adjudication of the controversy as raised by the workman. Consequently, a reference was made to the effect that as to whether and the act of the employer of dispensing the services of the petitioner as a tool room trainee was just and valid and to what benefit the trainee would be entitled to receive.

Labour Court ultimately by the impugned award had held that the act of the employer of dispensing the services of the respondent by an order was illegal and the workman was directed to be reinstated into the services.

Counsel for the petitioner Sudhir Kumar, submitted that in the said letter of appointment a clause was mentioned where the employer had reserved the rights to terminate the services of the trainee as any desired time without assigning any reason and even with put any prior intimation. He argued that while holding the termination as to be illegal the Labor Court had not treated that it was a reference which was made for defining the status of the workmen, as that of the respondent being of a regular employee.

Labor Court to the particular issue related to the status of the workman held that, it cannot in any manner be interpreted as if the petitioner was providing a regular status to the respondent as the effect of the award would be that as soon as the order was dispensed, the service of respondent was held to be bad in the eyes of the law, it will only give the respondent the same status of that being of a Tool Room Trainee from where he was removed, the post which he had acquired prior to his removal and thus he would be acquiring back the status of that of a Tool Room Trainee only, and the said award cannot be read as if it was giving him the status as that of a regular employee.

The Court observed that the clause of the terms of appointment would not come into play at the stage where the respondent was given a reason for his termination. More particularly, when had it been a simplicitor dispensation of service without attaching any stigma, then the employer could had exercised its power to dispense the services, but as soon as the employer attached a stigma and made any observation affecting the credibility with regards to the manner in which the work was performed by the trainee, it amounted to be a stigmatic order and in that eventuality, the adherence to the principles contemplated under the Industrial Disputes Act or under the principles of natural justice was required to adhere to prior to terminating the services of the workmen.

Hence, it may not be treated to have an effect of providing the status of a regular employee to that of the respondent was absolutely a misconception which was  drawn, because logically even otherwise also, if the order of termination was set aside, it goes without saying that the effect of setting aside of the termination order would only be revival of the status of the workmen, which was existing or he was enjoying in relation to the trainee which was prevailing at the time when the services were dispensed.[L.G. Balakrishnan & Bros Ltd. v. Virendra Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 646, decided on 02-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Prakash Shrivastava, J. allowed the petition of the petitioner and held that in the absence of consent or in case of opposition by a party before the Labour Court, the other party cannot be permitted to be represented through an advocate as per Section 36(3) and (4) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The petitioner has challenged the order of the Labour Court dated 8-10-2012, whereby the objection of the petitioner in respect of representation of the respondent in the proceedings before the Labour Court through the advocate has been rejected.

The facts of the instant case is that the reference has been made to the Labour Court under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act in respect of retrenchment of the petitioner and in the proceedings before the Labour Court, the petitioner had raised an objection that the respondent cannot be allowed to be represented through the advocate as the petitioner has not appointed any advocate to represent him and in this regard has placed reliance upon Section 36(3) & (4) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Labour Court considering Section 30 of the Advocates Act has rejected the said objection.

The High Court held that since the petitioner has not consented to it and opposed it, the respondent-employer cannot be permitted to be represented before the Labour Court through the Advocate. In this regard, the Court placed reliance on the judgments of Uttam Kumar Pardasani v. Petcare Divin of Tetragon (P) Ltd. in Civil Appeal No. 561/11 and Itnas Pharmaceutical Ltd. v. Yogendra Singh Chouhan in WP No.6445/15.[Prakash Meena v. Ultratech Cement Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 1788, decided on 25-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Shivaji Pandey, J. dismissed a writ petition filed by an employer, challenging the amount of compensation directed to be paid to its employee by the Labour Court, on the ground that the petitioner had not exhausted the alternative statutory remedy.

The instant petition was filed is challenging the order passed by the Presiding Officer of Bhagalpur Labour Court whereby and whereunder petitioner’s employee was awarded a compensation of around Rs 4.72 lakhs. Additionally, it was also ordered that if the said amount was not paid to the concerned employee within a period of thirty days, it would carry a simple interest of 12 percent on the principal amount of around Rs 2,03,771.

The Court noted that Section 30 of the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 has a provision of appeal. But instead of exhausting the alternative remedy of appeal, the present petition was filed directly before this Court. In view thereof, the petition was held to be not maintainable.

Accordingly, the petition was dismissed with a liberty to the petitioner to file an appeal as provided under Section 30 of the Employee’s Compensation Act.[Frontline (NCR) Business Solutions (P) Ltd. v. Anita Devi, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 564, Order dated 19-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Anu Malhotra, J. gave a decision by upholding the decision of Presiding Officer of Labour Court-X, Karkardooma, Delhi, regarding the illegal termination of services of the workmen.

In the present case, services of two work persons Laxmi and Raj Kumar were allegedly terminated by the management i.e. New Delhi Institute of Management.

It was contended by the management; both the work persons were appointed on ad hoc basis and thus the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 would not be applied. Nevertheless, both of them were paid the salary higher than the market standard. As per the statement of claim, the management was not providing the legal facilities such as PF, ESI, appointment letter, attendance card, leave book, payslip, annual and casual leave, overtime wages, bonus etc. to its employees and on their demanding the minimum wages, the management got annoyed with them and terminated the services of both the stated work persons on obtaining their signatures on blank papers. Further, their claim was entertained by the Labour Conciliation Officer but no settlement was arrived at.

Management had failed to prove that Raj Kumar had made a request for settlement of his dues as he had taken up some other job and similarly Laxmi had made a request for settlement of her dues as she was not in a position to continue her services and thus it was held that the management had failed to prove that the resignations were voluntary, which led to illegal termination of the workmen. Management had assailed the award contending the impugned award to be erroneous and proceeded on wrong presumption of law and facts.

Workmen had submitted that the management was misleading the Court by interpreting the salary vouchers as being towards ‘full and final’ settlement. The phrase ‘full and final payment’ was later inserted by the management malafide to thwart the course of justice. Further, the workmen contended that they had never resigned and their services were terminated by the management.

Hence, on consideration of the record available, the Court was of the view that the Labour Court’s decision cannot be faulted as there is no error of law that is apparent on the face of record of the impugned award. No requisite notice was issued to the workmen for termination of their services; they could have been terminated in accordance with Section 25 F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, which having not been done so, it was rightly concluded by the labour Court that the termination of services of the workmen was in contravention of the law and was illegal.

The writ petitions were disposed of accordingly. [Laxmi v. New Delhi Institute of Management,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12290, decided on 03-11-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Interpreting the provisions of Sections 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 vis-à-vis a Voluntary Retirement Scheme framed by the State of Andhra Pradesh, the Court said that though there is cessation of relationship between the employee and the employer in VRS but if it does not cover the past dues like lay-off compensation, subsistence allowance, etc., the workman would be entitled to approach the Labour Court under Section 33C(2) of the Act.

Explaining the position of law, the Court said that if the VRS had mentioned about the lay-off compensation, needless to say, the claim would have been covered and the amount received by the workmen would have been deemed to have been covered the quantum of lay-off compensation. If it is specifically covered, or the language of VRS would show that it covers the claim under the scheme, no forum will have any jurisdiction. However, on a perusal of the VRS framed by the State of Andhra Pradesh, the Court noticed that it did not deal with the lay-off compensation and hence, said that the workmen is entitled to approach the Labour Court.

The 3-Judge Bench of Dipak Misra, V. Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph, JJ was deciding the reference made by the 2-Judge Bench in an appeal from the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court where it was held that once the workmen had availed the Voluntary Retirement Scheme and received the special compensation package, they could not have put forth a claim for lay-off compensation under Section 33C(2) of the Act. [A. Satyanarayana Reddy v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1059, decided on 30.09.2016]