Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Jayantha Jayasuriya, CJ and Murdu N.B. Fernando and S. Thurairaja, JJ., allowed an appeal which was filed being aggrieved by the order of the High Court in a matter of violation of fundamental rights alleging unlawful termination of employment.

Background:

The employee Applicant – Appellant – Appellant (Employee – Appellant) was recruited by Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau i.e. Respondent – Respondent – Respondent (Employer – Respondent) as a Civil Engineer Grade D1, in January 1986. The Employee – Appellant was suspended on a disciplinary issue on the 26th of August 2011, was found guilty upon the conclusion of the disciplinary inquiry and was terminated from employment on the 14th of October 2013. Being aggrieved with the termination of employment, the Employee – Appellant had filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court against the Employer – Respondent alleging that the termination of his services was a breach of his fundamental rights enshrined in Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1) (g) of the Constitution. Subsequently the Employee – Appellant had filed an application against the Employer – Respondent in the Labour Tribunal of Colombo on the 17-03-2014 challenging the termination of his services. The Employer – Respondent filed its answer and raised the preliminary objection under Section 31 B (5) of the Industrial Disputes Act No.43 of 1950, that the Employee – Appellant could not maintain an application before the Labour Tribunal due to the fact that he had first filed a fundamental rights application before the Supreme Court. The preliminary objection was upheld by the Labour Tribunal and the Employee – Appellant’s application was dismissed. Being dissatisfied with the order the Employee – Appellant appealed to the High Court, it upheld the order of the Labour Tribunal and dismissed the appeal of the Employee – Appellant. Being aggrieved with the said Order of the High Court, the Employee – Appellant preferred an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and leave to appeal was granted on the questions of law.

The Counsel for the Employer – Respondent, relying on Section 31B (5), submitted that the Employee – Appellant can challenge the termination of his services in several forums including the Labour Tribunal, District Court and Supreme Court, but he cannot seek legal remedies from multiple forums in respect of the same issue / dispute.

Issue:

The issue of law to be decided in this appeal was whether the provisions of section 31B (5) of the Industrial Disputes Act No. 43 of 1950, as amended, debar the Employee – Appellant from maintaining his application to the Labour Tribunal against the termination of his services by the Employer – Respondent claiming that the said termination of his services violated his fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 12 (1), 12 (2) and 14 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

Decision:

The Court interpreted Part IV A of the Act which contains the provisions relating to Labour Tribunals, including section 31B (5). Part IVA was introduced by the Industrial Disputes (Amendment) Act No. 62 of 1957. Part IVA initially had four sections – i.e.: sections 31A, 31B, 31C and 31D. These sections have been subjected to a few amendments since 1957. Further, new sections 31DD, 31DDD [later repealed] and 31DDDD were added to Part IVA, by other Amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act and held that,

a workman who chooses not to avail himself of the procedure available under Part IVA of the Act in the first instance, but later realizes that he should resort to the provisions of Part IVA of the Act, should be penalized by debarring him from doing so unless he has received a determination from that other forum. I would add that debarring a workman from having access to a Labour Tribunal merely because he has, perhaps misguidedly, previously decided to refer his claim to another forum but has not received a determination from that forum, would go against the clear intention of the Legislature when it introduced Labour Tribunals in 1957.”

The Court while allowing the appeal relied on the Supreme Court judgment of Gamaethige v. Siriwardene, (1988 II CALR 62) where it was observed that exercise of the Supreme Court’s fundamental rights jurisdiction “cannot be equated to the prerogative writs”. This statement highlighted the even wider gulf between the nature of a fundamental rights application and an application to a Labour Tribunal. In view of these essential differences, it was said that the workman-appellant’s fundamental rights application and his application to the Labour Tribunal cover the same or similar ground and have the same or similar scope.

Secondly, it appeared that the Employee-Appellant’s fundamental rights application and his application to the Labour Tribunal sought similar substantive reliefs.

Thirdly, whether he has been subjected to unequal treatment or been denied the equal protection of the law or been made the victim of unreasonable or arbitrary or mala fide action on the part of the employer-respondent [which is said to be an organ or entity of the State]. The termination of the workman-appellant’s services is only a part of the issue before the Supreme Court and is looked at by this Court in the context of the questions described in the preceding sentence. On the other hand, the application to the Labour Tribunal will be decided solely on the core issue of whether the termination of services was just and equitable.

Fourthly, there was a significant disparity between the procedure followed by this Court in entertaining and determining the workman-appellant’s fundamental rights application and the procedure followed by a Labour Tribunal when determining the application made to it by the Employee-Appellant. The fundamental rights application will proceed to a full hearing only if the Employee-Appellant is first able to make out a prima facie case that his fundamental rights have been violated by the Employer-Respondent and is granted Leave to Proceed with the fundamental rights application.

The Court set aside the decision of the Labour Court and the High Court and directed the Labour Court to rehear the application.[W.K.P.I. Rodrigo v. Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau, SC Appeal No: 228 of 2017, decided on 02-10-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assitant has put this story together

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, Murdu N.B. Fernando, PC, and S. Thurairaja, PC, JJ., allowed an application for special leave to appeal filed aggrieved by the order of the High Court.

The applicant-respondent-petitioner (workman) was employed as the Farm Manager of the respondent-appellant-respondent Company (employer). He had filed an application in the Labour Tribunal claiming compensation for the alleged unlawful termination of services and gratuity from the employer. The employer had stated that the termination was due to ‘frustration’ of the contract of employment as the farm in which the employer worked was closed down as it was not feasible to continue with its operations. After inquiry the Labour Tribunal had ordered compensation to the workman for the wrongful termination of employment. Being aggrieved, the employer had appealed the High Court where the appeal was allowed and order of the Labour Tribunal was set aside. Thus, the current appeal was filed by the workman. The Counsel for the employer, Viran Corea with Sarita de Fonseka had raised a Preliminary Objection stating that the workman had not complied with Rule 2 read with Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules of 1990 and moved for a dismissal of the application in limine. They further contended that workman had filed, by way of motion several documents without assigning any reason for the delay and/or inability to have tendered the said documents along with the petition. Per Contra, the counsel for the workman, Ms. Kaushali Rubasinghe with Mr. Kushani Harischandra, submitted that in terms of Rule 2 read with Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules, documents have to be annexed where the application contains allegations of fact which cannot be verified by reference to the judgment or Order in respect of which special leave to appeal is sought. It was submitted that no prejudice had been caused to the rights of the employer or the administration of justice due to the non-availability of those documents. Further, they contended that the application was taken up for support for the first time; no objection was raised on the maintainability of the application. However, the objection regarding non-compliance was raised only when the matter was taken up for support for the second time.

The Court while explaining Rule 2 read with Rule 6 specified that documents that are required to be annexed to an application for special leave to appeal, if allegations of facts referred to in such an application cannot be verified by reference to the judgment in respect of which special leave to appeal is sought. The Court further held that there was no provision requiring the filing of objections in an appeal. Hence, the statement of objections and the verifying affidavit filed by the workman before the High Court are not necessary to consider the instant application thus; said documents are not material documents to consider granting of special leave to appeal in the instant application. Preliminary Objection raised by the employer was overruled imposing costs.[Hiranya Surantha Wijesinghe v. Tenderlea Farms (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine SL SC 7, decided on 17-09-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Sisira J. de Abrew, Murdu N.B. Fernando and S. Thurairaja, JJ., allowed an appeal filed in terms of Article 154(P) of the Constitution read with Section 31-DD of the Industrial Disputes Act (as amended) and Section 9 of the High Court of the Provinces (Special Provisions) Act No. 19 of 1990.

The Applicant-Respondent, in this case, was the Manager attached to Thanamalwila Branch of Uva Development Bank.  His services were terminated by the Bank and there were several charges levelled against him at the domestic inquiry, the President of the Labour Tribunal had decided that the Applicant-Respondent of the said Bank had not acted with 100% honesty in dealing with affairs of the bank, subsequently an appeal was filed in the High Court where they had affirmed the order of the Labour Tribunal who had held that the termination of services of the Applicant-Respondent was unjustified and had ordered reinstatement and  ½ back wages. Being aggrieved by which the Employer-Appellant had filed the instant petition.

The Court while allowing the appeal relied on the judicial decisions of National Savings Bank v. Ceylon Bank Employees Union, 1982 (2) SLR 629 and Bank of Ceylon v. Manivasagasivam, 1995(2) SLR 79, held that the President of Labour Tribunal who stated that the Manager had not acted with 100% honesty when he was dealing with his duties cannot be ordered to be reinstated in the same bank with back wages. Thus, the decision of both the President of the Labour Tribunal and the High Court Judge were held to be wrong and were set aside making the termination of the Applicant-Respondent justified. [Uwa Development Bank v. Ceylon Bank Employees Union, SC Appeal No. 39 of 2016, decided on 02-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: The Three-Judge Bench of Vijith K. Malalgoda, M.N.B. Fernando and E.A.G.R. Amarasekara, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the Judgment of the High Court whereby it was held that the Labour Tribunal had failed to correctly analyse the evidence placed before it.

Appellant herein had instituted proceedings before the Labour Tribunal of Galle against the respondent alleging that they had wrongfully and unlawfully terminated his services as Superintendent of a cinnamon plantation called ‘Punchimalakanda’. Respondents denied the employment of the appellant and in an inquiry before the Labour Tribunal, he was granted a compensation of Rs 3,75,000 for wrongful termination. Being aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Provincial High Court of Galle which set aside the findings of Labour Tribunal. Hence, the present appeal. 

The Court opined that it is well settled legal principle that it is not open for an Appellate Court to re-examine and re-appraise evidence analyzed by the Labour Tribunal unless there is a question of law on the face of the record. Further, Section 31 D of the Industrial Dispute Act No. 43 of 1950 states that the order of a Labour Tribunal shall be final and shall not be called in question in any court except on a question of law. Reliance was placed on Ceylon Cinema and Film Studio Employees’ Union v. Liberty Cinema Ltd., 1993 SCC OnLine SL SC 19 where it was held that “it may be possible that the Appellate Court may come to a different finding on facts but the evaluation of the facts is a matter for the tribunal.”

In view of the above, it was opined that the High Court Judge had misdirected himself when it concluded that the President of the Labour Tribunal had failed to give due consideration to evidence placed before him. Thus, the impugned judgment was set aside.[Shanthi Sagara Gunawardena v. Ranjith Kumudusena Gunawardena, SC Appeal 89 of 2016, decided on 02-04- 2019]