1. The petitioner has presented this writ petition praying for quashing the order of the State Government refusing to refer the dispute between him and the Management of K. Devappa Naik and Sons about the imposition of penalty of dismissal from service against the petitioner for industrial adjudication.
2. The petition has come up of preliminary hearing after notice to the respondents. By consent of counsel appearing for the parties, it is taken up for final hearing.
3. The facts of the case in brief are as follows : The petitioner was Conductor in a Motor Transport Undertaking of the third respondent. A charge sheet dated 10th June, 1982 was issued to the petitioner alleging that on 8th June 1982 he allowed some passengers travelling in Bus No. MEG 4462 from Manipal to Mangalore to get down at Hampanakatta but did not allow two others to do so and then he had also misbehaved with a passenger. The third respondent appointed an Enquiry Officer to enquire into the charges levelled against the petitioner. In the enquiry, the petitioner was found guilty of the charges. By order dated 30th November, 1982 (Annexure-A), the petitioner was dismissed from service. The petitioner thereafter raised an industrial dispute before the jurisdictional Conciliation Officer. The Conciliation ended in failure. The failure report was submitted by the Conciliation Officer to the State Government. On consideration of the records, the State Government made the order dated 11th January, 1948 and communicated the same to the petitioner. The relevant part of it reads :
Subject : I.D. between the workmen and the management of M/s. K. Devappanaik and Sons, Proprietor, Mahabaleshwara Bus Service, Kankandy, Mangalore, regarding alleged dismissal of service of Sri Srikantha Rao, Conductor, with effect from 30th November, 1982.
With reference to the above subject, I am directed to state that Government consider that the demand/dispute in question has no prima facie case for reference for adjudication, for the reason that the action of the management in dismissing the service of the workmen is legal, proper and justified. Sufficient opportunity has been given and principle of natural justice has been followed.'
Questioning the validity of the said order, the petitioner has presented this writ petition.
4. The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted as follows. The fact that a departmental enquiry had been held and the prescribed procedure had been followed itself could not constitute a valid ground for the State Government refusing to make the reference of adjudication before the Labour Court/Tribunal the Workman could plead and prove that the findings recorded were perverse or that the punishment imposed was actuated by malafides or by way of victimization and further that even if the finding that the Workmen was guilty of the charge was based on evidence, that the punishment imposed was totally disproportionate to the gravity of the charges. Further, the State Government cannot deprive the petitioner of the opportunity of proving of those grounds before the Labour Court/Tribunal by refusing to make a reference.
5. Sri S. G. Sundaraswamy, learned counsel for Respondent-3, however submitted that once it is established that the State Government had applied list mind to the question as to whether the dispute merit reference and had passed an order stating that the inquiry was held in accordance with law, this Court cannot set aside such an order and direct the Government to reconsider the matter. He also submitted that the grounds, which according to the petition he could urge before the Labour Court or Tribunal on reference were irrelevant for a decision under S. 10 and that if only a reference is made, then only the Workman could urged those grounds before the Labour Court/Tribunal.
6. Learned Counsel for the petitioner however relied on the Judgment of the Supreme Court in Syndicate bank Employees Assn. v. Government of India [1985-I L.L.J. 93] in support of his submission.
7. In the above case, the Supreme Court considered the validity of an order of the Central Government refusing to refer a dispute between the workmen of Syndicate bank and its Management. The order of the Supreme Court reads : at page 94.
'We are of the view that the ground on which the Government of India has refused to refer the dispute relating to the imposition of punishment of stoppage of three increments on Sri Murugavelu the Industrial Tribunal is not a valid ground. It would not be right for the Government of India to refuse to make the reference on the ground that the charges of misconduct against the worker were proved during a duly constituted departmental inquiry and penalty was imposed on the worker after following the required procedure. If such a ground were permissible it would be the easiest thing for the management to avoid a reference to adjudication and to deprive the worker of the opportunity of having the dispute referred for adjudication even if the order holding the charges of misconduct proved was unreasonable or perverse or was actuated by mala fides or even if the penalty imposed on the worker was totally disproportionate to the offence said to have been proved. The management has simply to show that it has held a proper inquiry after complying with the requisite procedure and that would be enough to defeat the worker's claim for adjudication. Such a situation cannot be countenanced by law. We must, therefore, set aside the order dated 2nd April, 1981 passed by the Government of India declining to make a reference of the industrial dispute for adjudication to the Industrial Tribunal. We would direct the Government of India to reconsider the question of making reference of the industrial dispute for adjudication without taking into account the aforesaid irrelevant ground which seems to have prevailed with them in declining to make a reference and the ground on which such Reference is declined is improper or irrelevant, it would be open to the Court under this appeal and for this purpose, we give liberty to the appellants to apply. The Government of India will give its decision on the question whether the industrial dispute should be referred or not within 45 days from today.
2. The appeal is accordingly disposed of but with no order as to costs.'
8. The above judgment of the Supreme Court furnishes the answer to the contention raised by the petitioner in his favour. Therefore, the State Government should be directed reconsider the matter in the light of the aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court.
9. In the result, I make the following order :
i) Writ petition is allowed;
ii) the impugned order dated 11th January, 1984 is set aside;
iii) The State Government is directed to reconsider the question of making the reference afresh in accordance with law and in the light of the judgment of the Supreme Court extracted in para. 7 of this order.
iv) Prepare a carbon copy of this order and furnish it to the learned counsel for the respondents.
10. Shri N. Devadas, learned High Court Government Pleader is permitted to file his memo of appearance for respondents within four weeks from today.