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Management Of Koiri Hitkarini … vs State Of Bihar And Ors. on 25 July, 2003

Patna High Court
Management Of Koiri Hitkarini … vs State Of Bihar And Ors. on 25 July, 2003
Equivalent citations: (2004) IILLJ 564 Pat
Bench: R S Dhavan, S K Singh


Ravi S. Dhavan, C.J. and Shashank Kumar Singh, J.

1. The appellant challenged the award of Labour Court, Patna in Reference Case No. 18 of 1988. The award is dated June 6, 1994. The dispute is in between the Management of Koiri Hitkarini Panchit Hat Samittee and the Workmen.

2. The reference was made under Section 10(1)(c) of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the reference was made to the Labour Court by a notification dated June 27, 1988 in the following terms:

“Whether the termination, of the services of Sarvashri Sachita Prasad Mehta, Head Clerk; Mahesh Mahto, Accounts Clerk; Lallu Prasad, Tahsildar; Mahendra Kumar, Tahsildar; Mohan Pd., Tahsildar; Ram Nath Mehta: Tahsildar; Baijnath Mahto, Tahsildar; Parasnath Mehta, Bijali, Mistri: Ramashish Mahto, Night Guard; Devi Lal, Tahsildar; Dinesh Prasad, Library Incharge; Rishlkeshwa Mahto, Tahsiidar; and Laxman Prasad Mehta, Watchman by the Management of Koiri Hitkarini Panchit Hat Semite, Muzaffarpur, Patna-6 is justified? If not, are they entitled to reinstatement or any other relief?”

3. The award is based entirely on the pleadings of the parties. The allegation which is being raised before the Court now is beyond pleadings before the Labour Court. The allegation against the workmen was never made during the domestic inquiry.

4. The workmen had their services dispensed with as the record shows, on the assertion of the management subsequently that they were part time with an alternative plea that they had left their services. Before the Labour Court the management also raised a plea of jurisdiction, in effect, that their Society was not an industry and the persons mentioned in the reference were not their workmen.

5. The first plea on jurisdiction was noticed by the Labour Court relying on the case Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board v. A. Rajappa, AIR 1978 SC 969 : 1978 (2) SCC 213 : 1978-I- LLJ-349. The Labour Court rightly came to a finding that the management in fact carried out a systematic activity which was not casual or temporary in nature and lasted throughout the year and in the circumstances the Society was an industry and that the persons named in the reference were their workmen. Labour Court also records that these workmen had been in continuous service between five to 15 years.

6. Apparently a change of management on an election made things difficult for these workmen, thus the subsequent action of the employer. The plea of the employer that the dismissal was on the ground of misconduct was negatived by the Labour Court. The Labour Court was of the opinion on the basis of the record and the evidence which was produced that the termination never alleged misconduct and, thus, the workmen were never confronted with any allegation and the action of the management in terminating their services was arbitrary and illegal.

7. The Labour Court also noticed that the management took up inconsistent pleas. First, the pleading that the Society was not an industry virtually gives an impression that the management could do as it pleased with their staff. The Society did carry out a systematic activity and it came within the definition of the term industry. These workmen who (sic) had discharged continuous service thus were entitled to the protection of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

8. The ground that the workmen were part time employees, was not accepted nor could be proved by the management. The fact that the employees, as it was asserted, had abandoned their services also could not be proved. The next best thing the management resorted to is to manufacture a plea that the workmen were guilty of misconduct. In so far as misconduct is concerned, a person who has been charged with has to be confronted with such a misdemeanour. The workmen were never given an opportunity to face an allegation of misconduct. The nature of misconduct which was being placed was misappropriation and embezzlement. Such a charge borders on criminality. The issue is not whether the person is workman or an officer, it is a matter of integrity and subsequent pleas by the management as a face saving device to justify termination cannot be accepted.

9. The management had offered a very shabby defence and this led to an award of special costs at Rs. 10,000/-. But for the statement of counsel that the workmen are working, the Court would have doubled the cost.

10. There is no error in the order of learned Judge in the petition. The petition is dismissed with cost.

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