1. The petitioner, Motor Industries Company Ltd., an industrial establishment within the meaning of the Industrial Disputes Act, has presented this writ petition aggrieved by the order of the Labour Court, Bangalore, in Reference No. 66 of 1976 dated 29th March, 1977, holding that the domestic enquiry held by the petitioner-management against respondent 1, workman, was invalid.
2. After holding a domestic enquiry the petitioner removed respondent 1 from its service. The State Government, by its order dated 14th April, 1976, referred the dispute involving the question of legality of the removal of respondent 1 from service to the Labour Court. Before the Labour Court respondent 1 raised an objection that the domestic enquiry conducted against him is invalid on the ground of violation of the principles of natural justice. The two grounds in support of the above submission made before the Labour Court were as follows :
(i) The enquiry was conducted in the absence of respondent 1; and
(ii) The person who presented the case was one A. Fernandes, the Security Officer of the petitioner and he was also the complainant against respondent 1 in respect of the misconduct alleged against him.
3. The Labour Court accepted the submission made on behalf of respondent 1 and held that the domestic enquiry was invalid.
4. The case of the petitioner is that on both the grounds the order of the Labour Court suffers from patent error of law.
5. According to the petitioner, after framing charges against respondent 1 enquiry notice was dispatched by registered post to the address of respondent 1, but the same was returned and thereafter the petitioner got published a notice regarding the enquiry to be held against respondent 1 in Kannada daily 'Kannada Prabha' dated 25th January, 1974, and also in English daily 'Indian Express' of the same date (exhibits C and D respectively). The case of the petitioner is that even thereafter respondent 1 remained absent and, therefore, it had no other alternative than to proceed with the enquiry ex parte. Hence, it cannot be said that the petitioner denied any opportunity to respondent 1, but, on the other hand, respondent 1 failed to avail of the opportunity given to him.
6. The above facts are not disputed by respondent 1. In spite of the above facts, the Labour Court has come to the conclusion that the enquiry is vitiated just because the enquiry was held in the absence of respondent 1. I am of the opinion that the Labour Court was clearly in error in holding that the enquiry was vitiated just because respondent 1 was absent. The principles of natural justice require that notice of a proposed enquiry to be held should be given to the concerned person. They do not require that even after giving notice, if the concerned person remains absent, the enquiry should not be held in his absence.
7. Coming to the second question, there is no principle of natural justice which requires that a person who has lodged a complaint cannot be a presenting officer and a prosecutor in a domestic enquiry. In support of the submission that a person in the position of a complainant can also be a presenting officer, the petitioner had relied upon the decision in N. N. Rao v. Greaves Cotton & Co., [1973-I L.L.J. 81 (Bom)]. The relevant paras read as follows :
'12. It was then objected that throughout the proceedings G. G. Naik, the personnel manager of the cone plant, was present and that his presence intimidated the witnesses of the petitioner who did not come forward to give evidence. G. G. Naik's position more or less was that of a complainant in the case, because K. G. Naik the aggrieved worker had immediately gone to him and had told him the entire story of intimidation and it was G. G. Naik who informed the manager. We do not see how G. G. Naik could have been asked not to take part in the proceedings under these circumstances. He was, in our opinion, entitled to be present and to lead such evidence as he chose to substantiate his complaint.
14. The final argument has been that G. G. Naik has not only given evidence as a witness but has acted as the prosecutor. We do not see anything strange in this conduct nor any failure to observe any rule of natural justice .......'.
8. I am in entire agreement with the view expressed in the above judgment. A person who is in the position of the complainant cannot be a prosecutor is not one of the principles of natural justice. Therefore, the Labour Court was in error in coming to the conclusion that Mr. A. Fernandes who was in the position of a complainant had been made the prosecutor and, therefore, the domestic enquiry stood vitiated on that ground.
9. For the aforesaid reasons, the rule is made absolute and the order of the Labour Court dated 29th March, 1976, (exhibit P) is quashed. The Labour Court will proceed with the reference on the basis that the domestic enquiry held against respondent 1 is valid. No costs.