1. Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation having their registered office at Vahatuk Bhavan, Belassis Road, Bombay-400 008 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Corporation') by this writ petition challenges the order dated July 13, 1979 passed by the Industrial Tribunal, Maharashtra, Bombay (hereinafter referred to as 'Respondent No. 2') dismissing Application (IT) No. 50 of 1978 preferred by them under Section 33(2)(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act').
2. The short facts leading to this writ petition are that Bhansilal Ramchandra Patil (hereinafter referred to as the 'Respondent No. 1') was employed by the Corporation as a State Transport Conductor, Badge No. 376, Shahada, District Dhule. When he was on duty on bus No. 6651, en-route between Khetiya and Shahala on August 16, 1976, Assistant Traffic Inspector Y. H. Bhadage checked the bus at Brahnabpur and noticed that respondent No. 1 had not issued tickets to 4 passengers despite payment of Rs. 4.40 Ps. towards the fare. Inspector Bhadage also found that respondent No. 1 was in possession of an excess amount of Rs. 2.60 Ps. He recorded statement of the group leader to whom the passengers belonged who stated that he had paid an amount of Rs. 4.40 Ps. to respondent No. 1 but tickets were not issued to him Thereafter, respondent No. 1 was served with a charge-sheet. An oral enquiry was held into this misconduct by Divisional Traffic Superintendent. On the evidence before him the enquiry officer found respondent No. 1 guilty. A show-cause notice was served on him on March 14, 1977. He was heard and after taking into consideration all the relevant facts, he was ordered to be dismissed with effect from December 8, 1978. However, since an industrial dispute was pending before the Industrial Tribunal, being Reference (IT) No. 112 of 1977 an application was made to respondent No. 2 for approval of the action of the said dismissal by the Corporation. Respondent No, 1 was also paid a month's salary as required under Section 33(2)(b) of the Act. Respondent No. 2 came to a conclusion that this was not a case where the domestic inquiry was conducted in violation of the principles of natural justice. However, according to him there was no legal evidence before the Competent Authority to warrant dismissal of respondent No. 1. He, therefore, dismissed the Corporation's application by his impugned order. Being aggrieved by the said order the Corporation preferred the present writ petition.
3. Section 33(2)(b) of the Act reads as under : -
Section 33(2) During the pendency of any such proceeding in respect of an industrial dispute, the employer may, in accordance with the standing orders applicable to a workman concerned in such dispute, (or, where there are no such standing orders in accordance with the terms of the contract, whether express or implied, between him and the workman).
(b) For any misconduct not connected with the dispute, discharge or punish, whether by dismissal or otherwise, the workman :Provided that no such workman shall be discharged or dismissed, unless he has been paid wages for one month and an application has been made by the employer to the authority before which the proceeding is pending for approval of the action taken by the employer.
4. Now, the impugned order passed by the learned Industrial Tribunal cannot be sustained for the simple reason that, as can be seen from the record, there was sufficient and satisfactory evidence before the Competent Authority to dismiss respondent No. I. Hence, there was no difficulty for Respondent No. 2 in coming to a conclusion, that application under Section 33(2)(b) of the Act for approval of the action of dismissal of respondent No. 1 could be approved. Thus, the evidence in this regard at the domestic inquiry consisted of oral testimony by Assistant Traffic Inspector which showed that at the relevant time when he had checked the bus there were 64 passengers and a group of 4 passengers was travelling without tickets. He had questioned them and their group leader had made a statement on the spot that respondent No. 1 had not given him tickets although a payment of Rs. 4.40 Ps. was made to him. The evidence of Assistant Traffic Inspector further showed that he had found excess amount of Rs. 2.60 Ps. on the person of respondent No. 1. In addition, the Assistant Traffic Inspector referred to the way bill which showed that only 60 passengers were issued tickets although in fact there were 64 passengers in the bus from which it was clear that 4 passengers were travelling without tickets. It is true that at the domestic inquiry the group leader of the ticketless passengers was not examined by the Corporation and the said passenger was examined on behalf of respondent No. 1 and further that the said passenger had not supported the case of the Corporation and had instead stated that he had not paid any amount to respondent No. 1. But the evidence, as stated hereinabove, which was considered by the Competent Authority was quite satisfactory for respondent No. 2 to accord approval for the dismissal of respondent No. 1. At any rate, it cannot be said that there was no prima facie evidence on record to accord such approval. The learned Tribunal was swayed away by the fact that the concerned passenger, at the inquiry, did not support the Corporation by saying that he had not made payment of Rs. 4.40 Ps. to respondent No. 1. However, when he was confronted with his earlier statement that originally it was his case that he had paid money to respondent No. 1 and even then respondent No. 1 had not issued tickets, he said that such statement was obtained from him by Assistant Traffic Inspector under force and coercion. This appears to have impressed the learned Tribunal very much and it is on account of such an impression that he did not grant the application of the Corporation. There is no evidence on record that any force or coercion was used against respondent No. 1 by the Assistant Traffic Inspector. The previous statement of a passenger like the passenger in our case could also be considered in evidence in a case like the present one. It is well settled law that so long as an application under Section 33(2)(b) is concerned all that the Tribunal has to see is whether the domestic inquiry was conducted observing the principles of natural justice and whether there was prima facie legal evidence warranting the action of dismissal and that the employer had bona fide come to the conclusion that the employee was guilty of the charges levelled against him and the punishment was warranted. Unless it was proved that it was a case of unfair labour practice or victimisation on the part of the employer the action of dismissal under the circumstances as obtaining in the present case, should be approved by the Industrial Tribunal because under Section 33(2)(b) its scope is very much limited. In this matter, as stated earlier, the evidence prima facie was good enough for granting such an application approving the action of dismissal of respondent No. 1 by the Corporation. Under the circumstances, the impugned order cannot be sustained and the same is hereby quashed and set aside. Hence, the action of the Corporation in dismissing respondent No. 1 is hereby approved. Rule is made absolute accordingly. No order as to costs.
5. At this stage Mr. Sawant, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Corporation, made a statement that ever since-his dismissal respondent No. 1 has not approached the Corporation for reinstatement but if he approaches the Corporation for re-instatement the Corporation shall be ready and willing for a reference under Section 10(2) of the Act in the matter of his reinstatement.