Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writ challenging Labour Court award for reinstating dismissed workman set aside

The Madras High Court has dismissed a writ petition from a Udhagamandalam-based company challenging the award of the Labour Court, Coimbatore, directing the management to reinstate a workman who was dismissed on July 4, 1997 on charges of misleading it in connection with his conviction by a criminal court for rash and negligent driving.

The management of Rallis India Ltd, Fine Chemicals Division, in the petition contended that a criminal case was registered against the worker (Leon Lenard), who was serving as a driver, for rash and negligent driving. He pleaded guilty before the Judicial Magistrate and was convicted. Subsequently, the management came to know that the worker was involved in an accident in which he had also paid fine in the case.

In that case, according to management, he falsely gave his father's name, and such action was done to mislead the management. A charge memo was given to him by the management. He admitted before an enquiry officer of the company about his conviction. Based on the enquiry officer's report, he was dismissed from service.

The worker filed a claim statement before the Labour Court, which held that there was no infirmity in the enquiry. The court, however, ruled that the punishment of dismissal was disproportionate to the charges levelled against him. During the course of 17 years of service, there was no complaint that he met with any accident.

If the conduct of the worker was not satisfactory during his service, he would not have got two promotions, the Labour Court had said. The court held that the workman was entitled for reinstatement with continuity of service but only with 50 per cent of back wages.

The management contended that the award of Labour Court was erroneous. Having found the workman guilty and accepting the domestic enquiry conducted by management, it was not open to the Labour Court to exercise power under Section 11-A of Industrial Disputes Act.

Also, once a person had committed such a misconduct of suppression of information about his conviction to the management, naturally the employer would refuse to engage him as it had lost confidence in him.

Mr Justice K. Chandru, who heard the writ petition, said that insofar as the contention that management had lost confidence on workman, it must be stated that the Labour Court relied upon two promotion orders given to workman. Hence, the contention of management that it had lost confidence in him could not be accepted. The writ petition would stand dismissed.

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