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Balijan South Tea Estate Vs. Labour Court and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject;Labour and Industrial
CourtGuwahati High Court
Decided On
Judge
AppellantBalijan South Tea Estate
RespondentLabour Court and ors.
Excerpt:
.....requirements of the principles of natural justice. 5. sri choudhuri, the learned counsel for the opposite party 3, contended that the original enquiry proceedings had not been produced in the case, that, therefore, there is nothing to show what evidence had actually been given, that there was no enquiry report made and that, therefore, the enquiry must be held to be bad and that this entitled the presiding officer of the labour court to reopen the matter, invite fresh evidence and to come to his own conclusion, as he did in this case, and that his award could not, therefore, be questioned. we are satisfied that, in the instant case, there is sufficient record made by the enquiring officer giving his reasons for the decision. he has referred to the failure of the opposite party 3 to..........namely, the eastern assam tea company, ltd., the petitioner herein, dismissed one moneswar dutta, opposite party 3 in this petition, who was working as a woman mohorer in the balijan south tea estate under the petitioner. a charge was framed against moneswar dutta which stated that when the total quantity of the green leaves plucked by opposite party 3's daffa was re-weighed, a large discrepancy to the tune of 489-50 kilograms was found short against the figure shown by the opposite party 3 as representing the weight of the green leaves in question. this discrepancy indicated that the opposite party 3 had committed a grave misconduct in showing that the green leaves plucked leveled much more and payment had to toe made on that weight than what actually it was. an explanation was called.....
Judgment:

C.S. Nayudu, J.

1. In this civil rule the validity of the procedure followed by the presiding officer of the labour court in taking fresh evidence and deciding upon the case on Its merits is called into question.

2. The facts of the case may be briefly noticed. The management, namely, the Eastern Assam Tea Company, Ltd., the petitioner herein, dismissed one Moneswar Dutta, opposite party 3 in this petition, who was working as a woman mohorer in the Balijan South Tea Estate under the petitioner. A charge was framed against Moneswar Dutta which stated that when the total quantity of the green leaves plucked by opposite party 3's daffa was re-weighed, a large discrepancy to the tune of 489-50 kilograms was found short against the figure shown by the opposite party 3 as representing the weight of the green leaves in question. This discrepancy indicated that the opposite party 3 had committed a grave misconduct in showing that the green leaves plucked leveled much more and payment had to Toe made on that weight than what actually it was. An explanation was called for from the opposite party 3 on this charge. Thereafter, the manager of the establishment', Sri J. P. Knight, held an enquiry and received and recorded evidence on the charge. This evidence was recorded in the presence of the opposite party 3 who was given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses which opportunity, however, he did not avail himself of. He was given an opportunity further to offer his explanation, if any, at the conclusion of the enquiry but he had co explanation to submit explaining his conduct In respect of the charge. He further did not want to cross-examine anybody even at that stage. On the conclusion of the proceedings, taking into account the fact that the opposite party 3 had no explanation to offer at the enquiry, the enquiring officer felt satisfied that the charge had been established and this is what he Said:

Dutta, in fact, had no explanation to submit at the enquiry. The present grave offence he had committed coupled with his paat warning for an offence of a similar nature and his complete disregard of the instructions given to him In respect of green-leaf weighment by the management had rendered him liable to Instant dismissal.

Thereafter, the manager served a notice on 28 November 1961 intimating opposite party 3 that the evidence available at the enquiry established his guilt; that the verbal explanations offered by him at the enquiry were found most unsatisfactory and that he was found guilty of gross misconduct and that accordingly he had been dismissed from the service of the company with effect from 28 November 1961. In that notice It was farther stated as follows:

The reason for your dismissal Is that after due having of your case as prescribed by the standing orders, you have been found guilty of gross misconduct under the standing Order 10 (a)(2).

3. The question for consideration on the above premises is whether the domestic enquiry that was held In this case is vitiated by reason of the fact that principles of natural Justice have been violated or that the finding reached by the enquiring officer was perverse by reason of there being no evidence at all in support of it.

4. It is clear from what has been stated above that the ordinary principles of natural justice that should be followed oven in judicial or quasi-judicial enquiries have been followed In this case, in that the opposite party 3 had been served with a chargesheet, that he was given an opportunity to offer his explanation on the charge, that he was allowed to be present at the enquiry and the evidence of the witnesses was recorded in his presence, that he was given an opportunity to cross-examine these witneses, that at the end of taking evidence he was offered to make any submission he wished to make and an offer was also made to him for recalling any witness for the purposes of his cross-examination again. Having regard to the above, we are satisfied that the domestic enquiry held in this case amply satisfied the requirements of the principles of natural justice. At the end of the enquiry after an opportunity to offer any explanation had been given, the enquiring officer had considered the evidence recorded at the enquiry In the light of certain verbal submissions made by the opposite party 3 and came to the conclusion on such a consideration that the opposite party 3 was guilty of the charge and as the evidence disclosed that the offence committed by the opposite party 3 was of a serious character, he was dismissed from the service.

5. Sri Choudhuri, the learned Counsel for the opposite party 3, contended that the original enquiry proceedings had not been produced In the case, that, therefore, there is nothing to show what evidence had actually been given, that there was no enquiry report made and that, therefore, the enquiry must be held to be bad and that this entitled the presiding officer of the labour court to reopen the matter, invite fresh evidence and to come to his own conclusion, as he did in this case, and that his award could not, therefore, be questioned.

6. As regards the non-production of the original proceedings, an observation, which IB also found in the award in question, the answer is that had either the opposite party 3 or the preciding officer reasons to doubt the correctness of the copy of the enquiry proceedings produced by the management before the presiding officer, it was open to them to have called for the original proceedings. As far as we can find, there in nothing on the record to show that at any stage the record of the domestic enquiry which consisted of typed sheets of the record, had been doubted at all. If the original proceedings had been called for and they were not produced, that might have given room for further consideration in the matter. As it is, the original record made was in manuscript, according to the petitioner, the management, and the whole thing was typed out and the signatures of the witnesses were taken on it in token of the correctness thereof and It is this record that has been produced. In the absence of any special circumstances or indications to justify our doubting the authenticity of the record, we see no reason not to accept the same for purpose of considering this case.

7. As regards the report, In the instant case, It Is the manager himself that held the enquiry. It is true that the Supreme Court in the case of Powar Tea Estate v. M K, Barkataki [1965—11 L.L.J. 102], emphasize the necessity that in domestic enquiries held against Industrial employees, there should not only be an enquiry by the officer concerned, but there should also be a record of the officer's conclusion and reasons therefor, in the instant case, making of a report, which is apparently mentioned in the above-quoted case by their lordships of the Supreme Court, obviously meant furnishing the reasons for the decisions. Normally, a report is what one has to make to another to whom the report is to be made. The appropriate expression to employ here would be to make a record of his reasons for his conclusions. We are satisfied that, in the instant case, there Is sufficient record made by the enquiring officer giving his reasons for the decision. He has pointed out that the charge is grave. He has referred to the failure of the opposite party 3 to offer any explanation in spite of the opportunity given to him and his refusal to cross-examine the witnesses. He has also referred to his having considered the evidence and discueaed it and come to the conclusion that the opposite party 3 had committed a gross misconduct which merited a dismissal. We do not think that anything more can ordinarily be expected of a domestic enquiry body which is presided by a layman not acquainted with the law and jurisprudence. We are satisfied that the instant case fulfils the requirements Laid down by the Supreme Court in Powari Tea Estate v. 'M. K. Barkataki [1965—11 L.L.J. 102] (vide supra) and we see no reason to hold otherwise.

8. As there is nothing wrong with the enquiry by way of its offending the principles of natural justice and as sufficient record of the enquiry is forthcoming and also of the reasons for the conclusion reached by the enquiring officer in holding the opposite party 3 guilty of the charge and for giving the punishment that has been given to him, namely, of dismissal, the presiding officer of the labour court was not at all justified in reopening the matter and recording fresh evidence as if the domestic enquiry was bad, as Indicated above. The circumstances In which the presiding officer of the labour court could reopen a domestic enquiry and interfere with a conclusion reached therein and take fresh evidence and come to his own conclusions have been set out in more than one decision of ours wherein we made it clear that unless and until the labour court is satisfied that there has been violation of the principles of natural justice and consequential failure of justice or that the finding reached by the management is perverse on account of total lack of evidence, there would be no justification for the labour court to interfere with the finding of the management.

9. Having regard to what we have stated above, we allow this petition, set aside the award of the presiding officer of the labour court and restore the order of the management dismissing the opposite party 3 from service, but, in the particular circumstances of the case, we do not wish to make any order as to costs.


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