Our Legal Correspondent
Chennai, July 16
An employee on sick leave who joins duty with fitness certificate could not be held by the employer medically unfit to discharge his duties, the Madras High Court has held.
If the employer had accepted the fitness certificate, then same sickness/ailment could not be said to be a ground to hold employee medically unfit to discharge his duties.
Setting aside the award dated December 26, 2000 of the Labour Court, Coimbatore declining to grant relief to the workman (Somasundaram), Mr Justice K. Chandru said that in this case, the question of remanding the dispute to the Labour Court was necessary only to decide the question of relief.
Citing a judgment of the Madras High Court in Mani Higher Secondary School vs Joint Director (Secondary) School Education, Madras (reported in 1989 1 LLJ 34), the Judge ruled the employer could not dismiss the employee on basis of medical unfitness. In that case, the findings of the Labour Court were not supported by legal evidence.
According to the Judge, in the present case, it was a clear case of violation of Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act. Therefore, while setting aside the Labour Court's award, this Court was of the view that compensation in lieu of reinstatement could be granted to the petitioner.
The petitioner was employed by ABT Parcel Service, Coimbatore (R-2). He fell sick and took treatment as in-patient in the Department of Neuro Surgery at Thanjavur Government Medical College Hospital.
The management asked the petitioner to appear before a private doctor for medical examination. It was claimed that after the medical examination by the doctor, a report was sent to the management. The petitioner maintained that when he joined duty after discharge from Thanjavur Government Hospital with fitness certificate, which was accepted by the management, there was no necessity to refer his case to a private doctor.
On January 3, 1997, the management discharged the petitioner from service on the basis of the opinion of the private doctor.
The petitioner raised a dispute against his discharge, and filed a claim statement before the Labour Court.
The workman filed a writ petition and contended that the evidence of private doctor could not be accepted as final proof for his medical unfitness and that the opinion of the medical board should be accepted.
The Judge ruled that instead of driving parties to further litigation, this Court was of view that a lumpsum compensation should be fixed. Under the circumstances, a compensation of Rs 5 lakh was directed to be paid by management to petitioner. This order should be implemented by the management within eight weeks.