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Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation Vs. Addl. Labour Court-cum-industrial Tribunal, Hyderabad and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 6267 of 1981
Judge
Reported in(1984)ILLJ128AP
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 10(1) and 11A
AppellantAndhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation
RespondentAddl. Labour Court-cum-industrial Tribunal, Hyderabad and anr.
Excerpt:
.....travelling without ticket from madhavapur to gandhari, ex-stages 17 to 15. (b) for your failure to issue tickets to a lady passenger and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from lingampally to gandhari, ex-stages 19 to 16 though having collected the requisite fare of 0.85 p. (c) for your failure to collect fare and issue tickets to 9 adults and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from madhavapur to gandhari ex-stages 17 to 16. (d) for your failure to close the tray numbers at stage no. the labour court, in paragraph 10 of its order, observed that as the 2nd respondent was having stomach pain and sensation of motion and was not feeling well, he could not discharge the duty of collecting the fares and issuing the tickers, and that in view..........travelling without ticket from madhavapur to gandhari, ex-stages 17 to 15. (b) for your failure to issue tickets to a lady passenger and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from lingampally to gandhari, ex-stages 19 to 16 though having collected the requisite fare of 0.85 p. from them at the boarding point itself. (c) for your failure to collect fare and issue tickets to 9 adults and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from madhavapur to gandhari ex-stages 17 to 16. (d) for your failure to close the tray numbers at stage no. 17. (e) for violating the rule issue and start.' an enquiry was conducted by the competent authority in accordance with the procedure prescribed by regulation 12 of the a.p.s.r.t.c. employees (c.c.a.) regulations,.....
Judgment:

1. In this writ petition, the petitioner the District Manager, A.P.S.R.T.C., Nizamabad Bus Depot, seeks the issue of a writ of certiorari calling for the records relating to the award darted 27th April, 1981 made by the Additional Industrial Tribunal-cum-Additional Labor Court, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, in Industrial Dispute No. 165/80 and to quash the same.

2. The relevant facts are as follows :

The 2nd respondent, Sri G. S. K. Reddy, was employed as a Conductor in the Nizamabad Bus Depot of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (hereinafter called 'the Corporation'). On 9th June, 1972, while the 2nd respondent was the conductor of the bus bearing No. APZ 4803 plying on the route Kamareddy to Gandhari, the Checking Squad of the Corporation exercised check at Stage No. 17/16 and found 12 passengers without tickets and also other irregularities. The following charges were framed against the 2nd respondent for the said irregularities :

'(a) For your failure to collect fare and issue ticket to an adult passenger who was found travelling without ticket from Madhavapur to Gandhari, ex-stages 17 to 15.

(b) For your failure to issue tickets to a lady passenger and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from Lingampally to Gandhari, ex-stages 19 to 16 though having collected the requisite fare of 0.85 p. from them at the boarding point itself.

(c) For your failure to collect fare and issue tickets to 9 adults and a chargeable child who were found travelling without tickets from Madhavapur to Gandhari ex-stages 17 to 16.

(d) For your failure to close the tray numbers at stage No. 17.

(e) For violating the rule issue and start.'

An enquiry was conducted by the Competent Authority in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Regulation 12 of the A.P.S.R.T.C. Employees (C.C.A.) Regulations, 1963 and the charges were found to be proved. On the basis of the said findings, the 2nd respondent was ordered to be removed from service by order dated 28th December, 1972. The appeal preferred by the 2nd respondent and the review petition filed by him were rejected.

3. Long after the said orders were passed, the 2nd respondent raised a disputes and moved the Government for making a reference of the industrial dispute to the Labour Court under S. 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act. By G.O. Ms. No. 464 Labour, Employment and Technical Education (Labour-I) Department dated 9th July, 1979, the following dispute was referred to the Labour Court, Hyderabad, for adjudication :

'Whether removal of Sri G. S. K. Reddy, Ex-Conductor, E-41153, from service by the District Manager, A.P.S.R.T.C., Nizamabad is justified ?

If not, to what relief the workmen is entitled ?' Before the Labour Court, the 2nd respondent filed a claim statement challenging the validity of the enquiry and the findings on the charges and the punishment of removal imposed on him. The Corporation filed a counter traversing all the allegations made by 2nd respondent in his claim petition. The learned representative for the 2nd respondent filed a memo before the Labour Court stating that he was not questioning the validity of the domestic enquiry conducted against the 2nd respondent, and that he might be permitted to advance arguments on the quantum of punishment imposed on the 2nd respondent. The only question that was considered by the Labour Court was, whether the order of removal from service of the 2nd respondent was shockingly disproportionate. The Labour Court, in Paragraph 10 of its order, observed that as the 2nd respondent was having stomach pain and sensation of motion and was not feeling well, he could not discharge the duty of collecting the fares and issuing the tickers, and that in view of his sickness it was not possible for him to discharge his normal duties, and that service record of the 2nd respondent was not satisfactory, and that it was a fit case for the Labour Court to exercise the discretion conferred by S. 11A of the Industrial Disputes Act, and that the extreme penalty of removal appeared to be shockingly disproportionate, and that the order of removal was illegal, and that the ends of justice would be met by ordering the reinstatement of the petitioner into service forthwith continuity of service and 75% of full back wages. Accordingly, the Labour Court, by the impugned award, passed an order setting aside the order of removal passed by the District Manager against the 2nd respondent, and directing the reinstatement of the 2nd respondent for the it with continuity of service and 75% of full back wages.

4. In this writ petition, Sri C. Ananda Rao, the learned counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the Labour Court is not justified in interfering with the punishment imposed, particularly, when it was found that the charges framed against the 2nd respondent were grave in nature, and that they were found to have been established by the material on record by the Enquiry Officer after holding a proper enquiry. Further, the validity of the enquiry was not challenged before the Labour Court and, therefore, it was not open to the Labour Court to interfere with the punishment imposed.

5. On the other hand, it is contended by Sri C. Venkataramulu, the learned counsel for the 2nd respondent, that there were no grave charges against the 2nd respondent, and that the punishment of penalty of removal was not warranted or justified, and that the Labour Court validly exercised the power under S. 11A, and the award directing reinstatement of the 2nd respondent with 75% of full back wages was valid and there are no grounds for interfering with the same in a writ petition.

6. The only question for consideration in the writ petition is, whether the Labour Court has validly exercised the power under S. 11A in interfering with the order of punishment of removal imposed by the Corporation and directing reinstatement of the 2nd respondent with 75% of full backwages.

The ticket issuing procedure is laid down as follows :

'35.05. Conductor shall issue tickets to all passengers at the boarding place before signaling to the driver to start the bus from each stage. Conductors in case of passenger services shall punch all tickets at the boarding stage at the time of issuing the tickets to passengers.'

Under Regulation 28, Clauses (XVII) and (XXXII) of the A.P.S.R.T.C. Employees (Conduct) of the Regulations of 1963, any contravention of the instructions in Regulation 28 amounts to misconduct. The said Regulation 28 reads as follows :

'28. General Provisions - Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing regulations, the following acts or omissions shall be treated as misconduct. .......

(XXXII) Violating any other specific rule or instructions of the Corporation in force.'

7. The charges framed against the 2nd respondent, which have already been set out, show that the 2nd respondent had failed to collect fares and issue tickets or failed to issue tickets and also failed to close the tray numbers as require by the instructions. The main and principal duty of a Conductor is to issue tickets and collecting the fares, and if a Conductor is found to have failed to discharge the main or principal duty of issuing tickets and collecting the fares, it amounts to misconduct within the meaning of the Conduct Regulations, and there cannot be a graver charge against a conductor than the failure to issue tickets and collect fares. In the domestic enquiry which was validly and properly conducted, it was categorically found that all the charges framed against the 2nd respondent were proved, and as the charges to be grave in nature and amounted to misconduct, the management imposed against the 2nd respondent the penalty of removal from service on 28th December, 1972, and the same was confirmed on appeal by the appellate authority. It was nearly seven years after the order of removal was passed, the 2nd respondent sought to approach the Government for making a reference of the dispute to the Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act, and the Government by G.O. Ms. No. 564 dated 9th July, 1979, referred the dispute for adjudication to the Labour Court. Before the Labour Court, a memo was filed by the representative of the 2nd respondent that he was not challenging the validity of the domestic enquiry conducted against the 2nd respondent and confined his argument only to the quantum of punishment. The Labour Court should have, therefore, confined itself only to the question, whether the penalty of removal imposed on the 2nd respondent was unwarranted and unjustified in the circumstances of the case. The Labour Court considered the explanation of the petitioner and the claim statement of the 2nd respondent and observed that on account of sickness of the 2nd respondent due to stomach pain and sensation of motion, he could not discharge his normal duties and, therefore, there was sufficient reason and reasonable cause for the 2nd respondent in not performing his normal duties of issuing tickets and collecting the fares from the passengers and, therefore, the penalty of removal was illegal, and in that view, set aside the said order of removal and directed reinstatement of the 2nd respondent with 75% of full back-wages.

8. It was held by the Supreme Court in Workmen of Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. v. The Management, [1973-I L.L.J. page 279 at 296] :

'Even where the dismissal of a workman by an employer on ground of misconduct is preceded by a proper and valid domestic enquiry, S. 11-A now empowers the Labour Court or Tribunal to reappraise the evidence and examine the correctness of the finding thereat. Section 11-A further empowers it to interfere with the punishment and alter the same.'

9. In the instant case, the 2nd respondent filed a memo before the Labour Court stating that he was not questioning the validity of the domestic enquiry conducted against him. It was not, therefore, open to the Labour Court to interfere with the findings recorded at the domestic enquiry on the several charges framed against the 2nd respondent. Thus, the 2nd respondent was precluded from challenging the validity of the enquiry or the findings recorded on the charges framed against him or the material on which the said findings were recorded at the domestic enquiry. The only limited question that could be gone into by the Labour Court was, whether on the findings recorded on the charges framed, the punishment or removal was unwarranted or unjustified The 2nd respondent's explanation that he was sick due to stomach pain and sensation of motion, was held to be not established at the domestic enquiry and the charges were held to be proved. In view of the memo filed by the 2nd respondent, the Labour Court could not go into the validity of the findings recorded on the charges. As already mentioned, the main and principal duty of a conductor is to collect the fares and issue tickets, and the charges framed against the 2nd respondent relate only to his failure to discharge the said main and principal duty cast on him by the Conduct Regulations, and failure to discharge the same would amount to misconduct and the punishment or removal can validly be imposed in accordance with the C.C.A. Regulations. When once the charges are found to be established by the material on record and the explanation of the 2nd respondent was rejected, and the 2nd respondent has filed a memo before the Labour Court that he was not challenging the validity of the domestic enquiry conducted against him, it was not open to the Labour Court to go into the validity of the findings recorded on the charges or act upon the explanation of the 2nd respondent which was held to be not proved at the domestic enquiry. It so, it follows that it was not open to the Labour Court to act or accept the explanation of the 2nd respondent that on account of sickness on the day of check he was not able to discharge his normal duties and that constituted reasonable cause for not imposing the penalty or removal on him. The Labour Court, in the circumstance of the case, committed a patent error in holding that the penalty of removal was shockingly disproportionate or that it was illegal, as the 2nd respondent failed to perform the primary and basic duty cast on him with regard to issue of tickets and collecting the fares.

10. No doubt, under S. 11-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, even in a case where a Tribunal upholds the findings of misconduct recorded by the management at the domestic enquiry, the Tribunal can interfere with the punishment awarded by the management and alter the same. But, in exercising the discretionary power conferred on the Tribunal by S. 11-A to interfere with punishment, the discretion should not be exercised in an arbitrary manner but it should be exercised in a judicial and judicious manner. Before interfering with the punishment imposed by the management, the Tribunal must take into consideration all the relevant facts and factors and can interfere with the punishment imposed by the management only when it comes to the conclusion that the punishment imposed is extremely harsh and unjust and wholly disproportionate to the misconduct proved. The altered punishment imposed by the Tribunal, however, should not amount to absolving the employee of the misconduct or make the punishment merely illusory and allow the employee to go scot-free, particularly when the charges are found to be grave in nature. In the instant case, the 2nd respondent employed as a Conductor, was fond to be guilty of the grave charged of failure to issue tickets and collect fares, and that amounted to misconduct. The award of the Labour Court altering the punishment of removal to reinstatement with 75% of full back wages is wholly disproportionate to the misconduct of the employee and it more or less allows the 2nd respondent to go unpunished. In the circumstances, I do not think the Labour Court has exercised the discretion conferred by S. 11-A in a judicious or reasonable or proper manner. This is a case where the Labour Court ought not to have interfered with the punishment awarded by the management but taking into consideration the fact that the 2nd respondent is aged 36 years now and that it may not be possible for him to seek alternate employment at that advanced age and taking into consideration the long delay of nearly seven years in seeking reference of the dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act to the Labour Court, I think the ends of justice would be met by quashing the impugned award of the Labour Court; and that the punishment of removal imposed against the 2nd respondent by the management should be set aside and he should directed to be reinstated into service with continuity of service but with 75% of full back wages only from 27th April, 1981, the date of passing of the impugned award.

In the result, the writ petition is allowed. The award dated 27th April, 1981, in Industrial Disputes No. 165/81 of the Additional Industrial Tribunal-cum-Additional Labour Court, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, is quashed and the order of removal dated 28th December, 1972, passed by the District Manager A.P.S.R.T.C., Nizamabad Depot against the 2nd respondent, Sri G. S. K. Reddy, is set aside and the petitioner, the District Manager, A.P.S.R.T.C., Nizamabad Depot, is directed to reinstate the 2nd respondent into service with continuity of service and 75% of full back wages with effect from 27th April, 1981. The writ petition is ordered accordingly, but, in the circumstances, without costs.


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