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Navnath Siddhappa Koli Vs. Siddheshwar Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Limited and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 507 of 1981
Judge
Reported in(1981)83BOMLR470; 1981MhLJ888
ActsMaharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 - Sections 28 and 44; Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946 - Sections 85
AppellantNavnath Siddhappa Koli
RespondentSiddheshwar Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Limited and ors.
Appellant AdvocateR.S. Kulkarni, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateB.N. Shrikrishna, Adv. for respondent No. 1
Excerpt:
.....as to whether this point was urged or not have been the subject-matter of the allegation in the petition as well as of the affidavit filed in reply to the petition. if the industrial court had proceeded to interfere with the finding, if there was a finding of the labour court in favour of the petitioner, than one could have legitimately complained that the industrial court has exceeded the jurisdiction vested in it. in the result, this petition must fail......court. as i have already mentioned above, the order of the labour court was not sustainable on the finding the labour court itself gave. if the industrial court had proceeded to interfere with the finding, if there was a finding of the labour court in favour of the petitioner, than one could have legitimately complained that the industrial court has exceeded the jurisdiction vested in it. the revisional jurisdiction of the industrial court under section 44 of the pulp act, which is analogous to its jurisdiction under section 85 of the industrial relations act, does invest the industrial court with the power to examine the legality of the order passed by an authority below it whenever the record of the case is before it. in shree talkies, kamptee v. industrial court, maharashtra, 1970.....
Judgment:

R.A. Jahagirdar, J.

1. The facts leading to this petition must be mentioned before the points of law and of jurisdiction which have been raised can be appreciated. The petitioner was at the relevant time working with the first respondent, hereinafter referred to as 'the respondent', as a watchman. He has been described as a round watchman which means I am told, that he has to take rounds of the premises of the respondent and not merely to do the watchman's at a single place. There was discovered in the premises of the respondent a theft of ten coconut trees in the early hours of 1st of November, 1977, and since immediately preceding the discovery of this theft the petitioner was on duty as around watchman. It was alleged that he was guilty of negligence in the discharge of his duty. On this basis, a charge-sheet was served upon him and on being found guilty in an enquiry about which no grievance has been made either in the Court of first instance or later, a discharge order was passed on 7th of December, 1977. This order has been referred to at several places as the dismissal order.

2. The petitioner thereafter filed an application being Application No. 22 of 1977, before the Labour Court at Solapur under section 28 of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, hereinafter referred to for brevity's sake as the 'PULP Act' . The application specifically contended that the order of dismissal passed by the respondent was for patently false reasons. It was not the case of the petitioner that the enquiry which was conducted was in contravention of any rules of natural justice or that it was vitiated by any other reasons. The application was resisted by the respondent by pointing out that the petitioner has been discharged after a legal and valid enquiry which was held and after finding that he was guilty of negligence in the discharged of his duty.

3. The learned Judge of the Labour Court raised the following issues on the pleadings of the parties :---

(1) Does the applicant prove that he has been wrongfully dismissed by the Opponent ?

(2) Is the applicant entitled to reinstatement?

(3) Is the applicant entitled to back wages?

She answered all the issues in the affirmative in favour of the petitioner. This She did by her judgment and order dated 7th of August, 1980. A direction for reinstatement was accordingly incorporated in the order.

4. This order of the Labour Court was challenged by the respondent in a revision application, being Revision Application (ULP) No. 33 of 1980, under section 44 of the PULP Act before the Industrial Court at Bombay. The learned President of the Industrial Court by his judgment and order dated 13th of December, 1980, set aside the order passed by the Labour Court below by holding that the foundation of fact which could have enabled the Labour Court to give the relief which the Labour Court ultimately gave did not exist in the instant case. Exercising the revisional powers of the Industrial Court, the learned President found that the finding of the Labour Court itself disclosed patent error of law leading to error of jurisdiction. It is this order of the Industrial Court that is challenged in this petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.

5. It has been contended by Dr. Kulkarni, the learned Advocate appearing in support of the petition, that the President of the Industrial Court has exceeded the jurisdiction vested in him by interfering with what was essentially a finding of fact recorded by the Labour Court. According to Dr. Kulkarni, the question as to whether the order of dismissal was justifiable or not was within the competence of the Labour Court to decide on the basis of the material which was placed before it by both the parties and if in exercise of that jurisdiction the Labour Court came to a finding, then that finding was not as enable to any interference at the hands of the Industrial Court under section 44 of the PULP Act. Before I appreciate the arguments of Dr. Kulkarni, it will be appropriate for me to mention in the first place what the finding of the Labour Court is.

6. I have already mentioned above the facts which led to the filing of the application by the petitioner in the Labour Court. I have also taken pains to mention that it was the specific case of the petitioner that the order of discharge passed on 7th of December, 1977 was illegal and void as he had been dismissed 'for patently false reasons'. The dismissal or discharge of a workman for patently false reasons is an unfair labour practice under Schedule IV Item 1(d) of the PULP Act. I have also mentioned that he had not made a grievance that the order of dismissal was based upon a perverse finding recorded in the domestic enquiry. It was not his case also that the domestic enquiry itself had become vitiated for any other reason. It could be said that at the highest his case was that the order of dismissal was wrong though he used the language of Schedule IV Item 1(d).

7. The Labour Court itself has not recorded that the finding given in the domestic enquiry was patently false. Indeed, it has not even recorded that the finding given by the domestic enquiry officer about the negligence of the petitioner is erroneous. However, appreciating the evidence which was led before it the Labour Court mentioned as follows :---

'Therefore it is possible and plausible that the theft might have occurred after he took the round. There is nothing on record to show that he had notice of the theft. I, therefore, held that the applicant cannot be held responsible for negligence resulting in the theft of the opponent's trees.'

In my opinion, the Labour Court misdirected itself on the scopes of the enquiry to which it had to address itself. The question before the Labour Court was whether the order of discharged passed by the respondent was 'for patently false reasons.' In the judgment the Labour Court at some point mentions that there is no evidence on record to show that the watchman who detected the theft had informed the petitioner about the theft and the petitioner had ignored it. This was totally irrelevant to the determination of the question to which the Labour Court had to address itself.

8. The ground on which the petitioner was dismissed was not that he was aware of the theft and suppressed the information about the theft. The charge against him was that some coconut plants had been stolen while he was on duty indicating that he was negligent in the discharge of his duty. This charge is found to have been proved by the domestic enquiry held by the respondent. No grievance has been made that the domestic enquiry was in any way erroneous or it was in utter disregard of the principle of natural justice. Nor is there any grievance that the domestic enquiry suffered from any other vice. The Labour Court could not have given relief to the petitioner unless in the first place the contention of the petitioner that the dismissal was for patently false reasons had been proved. The word 'patent' means 'plain', 'obvious'. This is the meaning in which this word is used in this Act though it may have different meaning in other contexts or legislation. I have not accepted the submission of Dr. Kulkarni based upon Sanderson v. National Coal Board, 1961(3) W.L.R. 73. In other words, without a total examination of the correctness or otherwise of the allegation if it is found that the allegation is false then it can be said to be patently false. For example if no theft had taken place at all or if it had been found that the theft had been committed when the petitioner was not on duty, when probably it could have been said that the allegation was patently false. This was indeed in the mind of Dr. Kulkarni for some time during the course of his argument because he more than once told me that the theft had been committed when the petitioner was not on duty. When we went through the judgments of the two courts below and also the other material which is in the petition, Dr. Kulkarni was constrained to admit that the theft had been in fact committed during the time when the petitioner was on duty. We are not concerned with the question whether the petitioner was directly concerned with the theft that was committed. The question is, as I have mentioned above, whether the petitioner was guilty of negligence during the hours of duty when the theft was committed.

9. Dr. Kulkarni, however, insists that it is open to the Labour Court to examine the correctness of the finding recorded in the domestic enquiry and if it comes to the conclusion that the finding is erroneous the order of discharge or dismissal can be said to be for patently false reasons. It is impossible to accept this contention. Where two views are possible if the domestic Enquiry Officer takes one view, the order passed pursuant to that view cannot be said to be ' for patently false reasons'. The reliance placed by Dr. Kulkarni on Chairman, Brooke Bond India v. Chandranath, : (1969)IILLJ387SC , is of no assistance because section 22 of the Bihar Shops and Establishments Act, 1954 gave jurisdiction to the Labour Court to hold after itself recording evidence, that the employee 'was not guilty of any misconduct as held by the employer'. The jurisdiction under section 22 of the Bihar Act, the Supreme Court said, was not limited as that of the Industrial Court or Labour Court under section 334 of the Industrial Disputes Act. In my opinion, the jurisdiction of the Labour Court under the PULP Act is more skin to the latter.

10. Before I proceed to examine the question raised by Dr. Kulkarni relating to the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court under section 44 of the PULP Act, it would be better to dispose of another point which he has with some perseverance urged. Dr. Kulkarni mentions that another watchman who was also charged with the act of negligence in connection with the same theft has been dismissed. The order of dismissal of that Watchman, one Basanna Bhimsha Changale, has been upheld by the same Labour Court in Complaint No. 21 of 1977. According to Dr. Kulkarni, the fact that one watchman was found to be guilty of negligence must exclude the possibility of the other watchman also being guilty of negligence. I have not a moment's hesitation in rejecting this argument. There was more than one watchman on duty. It is not impossible to hold that both or either of them is guilty of the Act of negligence when it is found that a theft has been committed. Moreover, it is found that the other watchman in Complaint No. 21 of 1977, was on stationary duty while the petitioner was a round watchman. So, merely because the other watchman has ultimately accepted his guilt and has been accordingly dealt with, it does not preclude the negligence on the part of the petitioner. There is nothing in law which precludes the possibility of two persons being guilty of an act of negligence.

11. Thereafter Dr. Kulkarni assailed what he regarded as the illegal exercise of jurisdiction in an illegal manner by the President of the Industrial Court. It is the contention of Dr. Kulkarni that the Industrial Court decided the revision application on a point which was not argued before it. It is suggested that it was not argued before the Industrial Court that the order of the Labour Court could not have been passed in the absence of a finding of the patently false order of dismissal. The question as to whether this point was urged or not have been the subject-matter of the allegation in the petition as well as of the affidavit filed in reply to the petition. The petition has been sworn by the petitioner himself; the affidavit in reply has been filed by a person who was said to be present during the course of the arguments. Neither the petitioner's representative who argued the appeal before the President of the Industrial Court nor the representative of the respondent who argued on behalf of the respondent has sworn an affidavit. I, therefore, refrain from deciding the correctness or otherwise of the allegation as to whether in fact this particular point was specifically argued before the Industrial Court on the basis of the affidavits which are before me. It would, however, be hazardous to accept a mere statement that the point was not argued and the President of the Industrial Court unnecessarily proceeded to decide the point. The presumption is that if a point has been decided after discussion at length in the judgment, it must have been necessarily argued. This presumption, in my opinion, has not been rebutted in this case.

12. Moreover, the grounds which were taken in the memo of revision before the Industrial Court do contain sufficiently the seeds of the point which was ultimately decided by the Industrial Court. In may opinion, therefore, the Industrial Court has not committed any error in the exercise of its jurisdiction when it proceeded to examine the correctness of the order passed rather than the finding given by the Labour Court. As I have already mentioned above, the order of the Labour Court was not sustainable on the finding the Labour Court itself gave. If the Industrial Court had proceeded to interfere with the finding, if there was a finding of the Labour Court in favour of the petitioner, than one could have legitimately complained that the Industrial Court has exceeded the jurisdiction vested in it. The revisional jurisdiction of the Industrial Court under section 44 of the PULP Act, which is analogous to its jurisdiction under section 85 of the industrial Relations Act, does invest the Industrial Court with the power to examine the legality of the order passed by an authority below it whenever the record of the case is before it. In Shree Talkies, Kamptee v. Industrial Court, Maharashtra, 1970 Lab.I.C. 1354, the extent of the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court under section 85 of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act has been described. In passing the impugned order the Industrial Court has not overstepped the limits set by the aforesaid judgment. In the instant case the Industrial Court has found, and in my opinion rightly, that the order of the Labour Court was wholly unsustainable in the absence of the finding that the order passed by the respondent was 'for patently false reasons.' In other words, the order of the Labour Court is found to be without jurisdiction. I have , therefore, no hesitation in holding that the Industrial Court was fully justified in passing the order by which it set aside the order of the Labour Court.

In the result, this petition must fail. Rule is discharged with no order as to costs.


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