Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Siddhartha Verma, J. reiterated the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Lal Mohammad v. Indian Railway Construction Co. Ltd., (2007) 2 SCC 513, wherein it was decided that when a workman is employed for a particular project then the services of that employee came to an end as soon as the project was over and he could not be given permanent status. It was also held that shortfall of period of notice or compensation, after completion of the project would not render the termination bad on that count.

The instant writ petition was filed challenging the award passed by the Labour Court. The petitioner was employed by the Indian Railway Construction International Ltd. initially as a peon on casual basis for period of six months by the order of the Project Manager, Vindhya Nagar. After completion of such service, the petitioner was re-employed on monthly basis and was attached with Anpara Project. This was done by the order of Regional Manager IRCON – Anpara. He continued for four years in this arrangement, after which he was brought in the regular scale. Thereafter, he was transferred to another Rihand Nagar Project. However, subsequently, his services were dispensed with. The petitioner raised an industrial dispute praying for reinstatement with back wages pursuant to which the Labour Court passed the order which was challenged by the petitioner in the instant writ petition.

At the outset, the Court noted that several other workmen of the Company who were found surplus and their services were also dispensed with, had filed writ petitions before the High Court. After moving to and fro, the case ultimately reached for decision in appeal before the Supreme Court in Lal Mohammad v. Indian Railway Construction Co. Ltd., (2007) 2 SCC 513. The Supreme Court found that the petitioners were not entitled to be regularised in the services of the Company as they were not employees of the company. It, however, held that the petitioners were entitled to compensation and thereafter the appeals were dismissed.

The petitioner in the instant writ petition claimed that his case was different from the case of Lal Mohammad. However, after hearing the parties and perusing the written arguments and also going through the award, the High Court found that no interference was warranted in the award of the Labour Court. It was observed:

“The Supreme Court in the case reported in Lal Mohammad v. Indian Railway Construction Co. Ltd., (2007) 2 SCC 513 has categorically laid down that when a workman is employed for a particular project, the services of that employee came to an end when the project was over and, therefore, could not be given a permanent status. It has also held that the workman could not be considered as employee of the company under which various other projects ran.”

The High Court also found that there was similarity in the case of the instant petitioner and the case already decided. Under such circumstances, the writ petition was dismissed. [Bipin v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine All 787, dated 25-10-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Navin Sinha and Indu Malhotra* has set aside the impugned judgment of Uttaranchal High Court, whereby the High Court had set aside the award passed by the Labour Court on the ground that no disciplinary enquiry was held by the School regarding alleged abandonment of service by the respondent.

Background

 The Respondent was initially engaged as an Assistant Teacher in Jai Bharat Junior High School, Haridwar during the period July, 1993 to 21-05-1994, which was an unaided private institution. Subsequently, she worked as a Clerk from 01-07-1994. From 24-05-2005 the School started receiving grants-in-aid from the State, and came to be governed by the Uttaranchal School Education Act, 2006. The Respondent filed a complaint before the School contending that she had worked continuously up to 07-03-2006. It was that her services were illegally retrenched since 01-07-1997 without granting her any hearing, or payment of retrenchment compensation. The school, on the other hand, argued that on account of her continuous absence, the School had to engage another clerk in her place. The Respondent never made any grievance about her alleged termination till 2006, which was made after 9 years only when the School started receiving grants-in-aid from the State and became a Government School. It was further argued that the employment of the respondent was illegal, since the father of the respondent was a member of the Managing Committee, and her mother was the Chairman employed by the School. It was also stated that minimum qualification requirement for teachers was of B.Ed. and Teacher training while the respondent was only 12th passed.

Findings of the Courts Below

Labour Court vide Award dated 22-08-2016 held that the respondent was not entitled to get any relief as there was sufficient evidence adduced by the Management to prove her continued absence from the School since 01-07-1997. However, the said award of the Court was set aside by the High Court on the ground that the respondent had failed to discharge the onus to prove her employment till 08-03-2006. It was only after the School started receiving grants-in-aid, the respondent filed the present application after over 9 years. Hence, the High Court had set aside the Award dated on the sole ground that no disciplinary enquiry was held by the School regarding alleged abandonment of service by the respondent.

 Observation and Decision

The Bench cited Workmen of the Motipur Sugar Factory Private Ltd. v. Motipur Sugar Factory, (1965) 3 SCC 588, wherein, it had been held that, “A defective enquiry stands on the same footing as no enquiry and in either case the tribunal would have jurisdiction to go into the facts and the employer would have to satisfy the tribunal that on facts the order of dismissal or discharge was proper.”

Reliance was also placed on Workmen of Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. of India (P) Ltd. v. Management of Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. of India (P) Ltd., (1973) 1 SCC 813, wherein the Court had made following observations:

  • Even if no enquiry had been held by an employer or if the enquiry held by him is found to be defective, the Tribunal in order to satisfy itself about the legality and validity of the order; had to give an opportunity to the employer and employee to adduce evidence before it. It is open to the employer to adduce evidence for the first time justifying his action, and it is open to the employee to adduce evidence contra.
  • The effect of an employer not holding an enquiry is that the Tribunal would not have to consider only whether there was a prima facie case. On the other hand, the issue about the merits of the impugned order of dismissal or discharge is at large before the Tribunal, on the evidence adduced before it, has to decide for itself whether the misconduct alleged is proved. A case of defective enquiry stands on the same footing as no enquiry.
  • It has never been recognised that the Tribunal should straightaway, without anything more, direct reinstatement of a dismissed or discharged employee, once it is found that no domestic enquiry has been held or the said enquiry is found to be defective.
  • It has to be remembered that a Tribunal may hold that the punishment is not justified because the misconduct alleged and found proved is such that it does not warrant dismissal or discharge. The Tribunal may also hold that the order of discharge or dismissal is not justified because the alleged misconduct itself is not established by the evidence. Section 11-A now gives full power to the Tribunal to go into the evidence and satisfy itself on both these points.

The Court observed that full opportunity was given to the parties to lead evidence to substantiate their respective case and the High Court had not even adverted to the said evidence, and had disposed of the case on the sole ground that the School had not conducted a disciplinary enquiry before discharging the respondent from service. The School had led sufficient evidence before the Labour Court to prove that the respondent had abandoned her service from 01-07-1997 when she got married, and moved to another District, which was not denied by her in her evidence. The record of the School also revealed that she was not in employment of the School since July 1997.  The Bench stated,

“Only because some documents had not been produced by the management, an adverse inference could not be drawn against it.”

 In the light of above, it was held that initial employment of the respondent as a teacher from July 1993 to 21-05-1994 was itself invalid, since she was only inter-mediate, and did not have B.Ed. degree, which was the minimum qualification to be appointed as a teacher. Therefore, the impugned judgment of the High Court was set aside and the award passed by the Labour Court was restored. [State of Uttarakhand v. Sureshwati, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 34, decided on 20-01-2021]


*Justice Indu Malhotra has penned this judgment.


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: S. N Pathak J., upheld the award applying the principle of equal pay for equal work.

 The facts of the case are that the respondent –workman was appointed by the petitioner management i.e Food Corporation of India on the post of Hindi Typist in on casual basis without any appointment letter being issued to him or being appointed against any sanctioned post. On 06.05.1984, the casual service of the workman was terminated which was challenged by him before the Central Government Industrial Tribunal No. 1 at Dhanbad which held that the workman completed 240 days of service and since he had not been paid retrenchment compensation, so his termination of service was wrong and he must be reinstated with full back wages and also entitled for pay protection vide award dated 08.08.1990. Later, the Management on 03.02.1995, issued Circular inviting applications from internal candidates fulfilling eligibility criteria for filling up the post of Hindi Typist, the workman/respondent did not apply for the same and chose to raise industrial dispute claiming regularization of service under Section 10 of the Industrial Dispute Act which was decided in favour of the workman Being aggrieved by the same, the Management has preferred instant writ petition.

 Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the concerned workman has not been able to bring on record the appointment letter nor did he possess the requisite qualification and has never appeared in any selection process held by the Management and did not fulfil the conditions and criteria as laid down in FCI Staff Regulation of 1971. Hence, the direction to regularize the workman in service is totally contrary to law making the award unsustainable and the same is fit to be set aside.

 Counsel for the respondents submitted that the writ petition is not maintainable and is fit to be dismissed. He further submitted that the respondent-workman was appointed on 04-12-1982 and since then he is in continuous service without any break and that there is no difference between the work of a casual Hindi Typist or the permanent Hindi Typist and the workman is performing the same, similar and identical duties to that of a regular Hindi Typist and the long continuous service of more than 25 years itself is sufficient to prove eligibility of the workman. It was further argued that in spite of having sanctioned vacant post, the concerned workman has not been regularized arbitrarily in order to deny him regular pay scale as also to deny the benefits of regular services and accordingly, the Award has rightly been passed holding the workman entitled to be regularized as a Hindi Typist with full wages.

The Court relied on judgment titled Bharat Bank Ltd. v. Employees, AIR 1950 SC 188 and observed that,

“61. In settling the disputes between the employers and the workmen, the function of the tribunal is not confined to administration of justice in accordance with law. it can confer rights and privileges on either party which it considers reasonable and proper, though they may not be within the terms of any existing agreement. It has not merely to interpret or give effect to the contractual rights and obligations of the parties. It can create new rights and obligations between them which it considers essential for keeping industrial peace.”

 The Court further observed that the law is well settled that there has to be equality before the law. the workman is entitled to equal pay for equal work. Equal pay for equal work is not expressly declared by the Constitution as a fundamental right but in view of Directive Principles of State Policy, as contained in Article 39(d) of the Constitution of India, “Equal pay for equal work” has assumed the status of the fundamental right in service jurisprudence having regard to the Constitutional mandate of equality in Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. It ensures a welfare socialistic pattern of a State.

The Court held that even though the workman was reinstated but instead of regular Typist, he was allowed to join as a casual typist in the year 1991. From the evidences brought on record, it appears that there were regular appointments of regular typist by the Management but the concerned workman was neither informed nor any opportunity was given to confirm his as a regular typist. Even after his reinstatement, the Management made regular appointments in the years 1994, 1995 and 1996 but nothing has been brought on record to show that the concerned workman was ever informed or given any opportunity to participate for appointment as a regular typist. The nature of work of casual typist and the regular typist are the same and similar. The workman concerned has been discriminated as he was getting salary of Rs 1,400 though, on salary hike, he was getting a sum of Rs 1,890 per month but the regular typist who was appointed in the year 1984, was getting a monthly salary of Rs 8,000, besides the other benefits of Earned Leave, Commuted Leave, etc.

In view of the above, the award is upheld and petition dismissed.[FCI v. Anil Kumar, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 878, decided on 21-10-2020]


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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]


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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]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Shivaji Pandey, J. allowed the writ application to the extent that the impugned order was remanded back to the competent authority to consider the claim of the petitioner afresh and take a decision in accordance with law.

The petitioner challenged the order, whereby the competent authority had refused to refer to the industrial dispute raised by the petitioner for adjudication on the ground that the disputant was engaged in the capacity of Sales Manager, and as such he would not qualify to be a workman within the definition given in Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The petitioner was appointed as Trainee Sales Team Manager, but he claimed to be a workman. A conciliation proceeding was held, but it failed to materialize and ultimately the dispute was denied from being referred to an Industrial Tribunal.

The Court held that the authority while exercising the power of conciliation and consideration to referring the dispute raised exercises a power which is administrative in nature and thus, it cannot exercise the power of adjudication and as such, cannot adjudicate the status of an employee whether he is a workman or not. It was emphasized by the Court that the appropriate authority while refusing to refer the dispute to the Tribunal cannot embark upon adjudicatory mechanism.

The Court was of the view that that authority had usurped the power of a quasi-judicial body and hence, the impugned order stood quashed. The matter was remanded back to the competent authority to consider the claim of the petitioner afresh and take a decision in accordance with law within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt/production of a copy of this order.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was allowed accordingly.[Rahul Muzaffarpuri v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1264, decided on 05-07-2019]

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

Rajasthan High Court: The Bench of Arun Bhansali, J.,  allowed the writ petition filed in regard to payment of minimum wages as prescribed for skilled workman under the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. 

The facts of the case were that the petitioners were employed as Pump Driver/Operator under Janata Jal Yojana, promulgated by Government of Rajasthan to provide drinking water to the citizens. They sought directions to the respondents to make payment of minimum wages as prescribed for skilled workman under the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. They also prayed that the respondents should be directed to release 50% of the minimum wages withheld w.e.f. February 2013. Pawan Singh Rathore, counsel appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the controversy involved in the writ petition was covered by a decision of this Court rendered in Jagdish Singh v. State of Rajasthan, S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 5954/17, which was allowed with the directions that the petitioners who were employed under Gramin Janta Jal Yojana as Pump Driver/Pump Operator should be entitled to the wages as prescribed for skilled workman by the State of Rajasthan as per the provisions of Minimum Wages Act, 1948. It also directed that the amount of 50% of the minimum wages payable to the petitioners withheld by the respondents should be released forthwith. It was made clear in this case that these directions would apply only to the cases where the scheme in question was floated and implemented and not in any other case. If the scheme Gramin Janta Jal Yojana was not floated in a particular Gram Panchayat, the respondents would not be liable for payment at the rate of minimum wages rather, in that case, if any of the petitioners was employed in other scheme or otherwise, he would be at liberty to approach the authority under the Minimum Wages Act for adjudication of the dispute. 

The Court upheld the decision given in Jagdish Singh case and allowed the writ petition. [Rupendra Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 491, decided on 15-05-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A Division Bench comprising of Mushir Alam and Munib Akhtar, JJ. while hearing an appeal in relation to the termination of service, held that though a salesman is not a workman, he would be entitled to relief for dismissal of his service under the Payment of Wages Act, 1936.

The petitioner, a sales representative in the respondent company, on being terminated filed a claim under the 1936 Act which was decreed in his favour by the authority. The High Court, in appeal, reversed the decision ruling in favour of the respondent. Aggrieved by the said order, petitioner preferred the present leave petition. The two questions for Hon’ble Supreme Court’s consideration were: (i) whether the petitioner’s claim was maintainable under the Act; and (ii) whether he was a ‘workman’ within the meaning of the Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Ordinance, 1968.

The Supreme Court noted that the Labour Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2001 had expanded the scope of the 1936 Act to make it applicable to persons employed in any factory, industrial or commercial establishment. Thus, a person seeking to bring a claim within its scope has to show that he was a ‘person employed’ in a ‘factory or an industrial establishment or a commercial establishment’. The respondent admitted that it is an industrial establishment and petitioner was employed by it. Thus, the claim was maintainable under the 1936 Act.

Relying on its judgment in Pakistan Tobacco Co. Ltd. v. Pakistan Tobacco Company Employees’ Union, PLD 1961 SC 403, the court held that being a salesman, petitioner was not a ‘workman’ within the meaning of the 1968 Ordinance.

Lastly, it was held that the petitioner’s claim being maintainable under the 1936 Act, but he not being a workman in terms of the 1968 Ordinance, did not bar his relief since contributions made by him and the respondent towards the provident fund was covered within the definition of ‘wages’. Therefore, relief could be granted to him under the 1936 Act. [Aurangzaib v. Medipak (P) Ltd., Civil Petition No. 2743 of 2017, decided on 03-10-2018]

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The concept of fixed term employment defines the tenure of employment as well as other associated conditions of service and remunerations, which are provided to regular employees under various labour laws. The government has extended the facility of hiring workers on fixed term employment to all sectors for improving the ease of doing business for players intending to hire people for completing specified projects, tasks or orders. The facility of fixed term employment was introduced in apparel manufacturing sector in Industrial Employment (Standing Order ) Act in October, 2016.

[Key highlights] As per a notification issued by the labour ministry to amend the Order :-

  • The words “fixed term employment in apparel manufacturing sector” will be replaced by “fixed term employment” meaning that facility would be available/extended to all sectors.
  • The worker employed for short period will get better working and service conditions as compared to a contract worker.
  • No notice of termination of employment shall be necessary in case of temporary and badli workmen.
  • The fixed term employment is defined as a workman employed on a contract basis for a fixed period. Thus the services of the workman will be automatically terminated as a result of non-renewal of contract between the employer and the workman concerned.
  • A fixed term worker would not be entitled to any notice or pay in lieu of that, if his services are terminated or in case of non-renewal of contract or expiry of term of employment.
  • Also a temporary workmen who has completed 3 months of continuous service, shall be given 2 weeks notice of the intention to terminate his employment if such termination is not in accordance with the terms of the contract. In case he has not completed 3 months of continuous service, he shall be informed for the reasons for termination in writing.
  • Any services of temporary nature shall not be terminated as punishment unless the employee has been given an opportunity of explaining the charges of misconduct alleged against him.
  • A separation of service of the workman as a result of non-renewal of the contract of employment between the employer and workman concerned shall not be construed as termination of employment. This facility will aid the industry to employ worker in sectors which are of seasonal nature and witness fluctuation of demand and hence requires flexibility in employing workers.
  • Under the fixed term employment the working conditions in terms of working hours, wages, allowances and other statutory dues would be at par with a permanent workmen and no less than that.
  • A fixed term worker will also be eligible for all statutory benefits available to a permanent workman proportionately according to the period of service rendered by him even though his period of employment does not extend to the qualifying period of employment required in the statute.
  • The employer can directly hire a worker for a fixed term without mediation of any contractor.

[Source: The Economic Times]

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