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General Electric Company of India Ltd. Vs. Kedia (B.K.) and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1968)ILLJ731P& H
AppellantGeneral Electric Company of India Ltd.
RespondentKedia (B.K.) and ors.
Cases ReferredSangram Singh v. Election Tribunal
Excerpt:
.....tribunal went into the merits of the case and on reappraisal of the evidence led before the enquiry officer and the additional evidence which be bad himself taken, held that the findings of the enquiry officer could not be sustained and none of the charges stood proved against the respondent, kedia. of course, the case would have been different if the petition had been heard on merits and leave to appeal bad been refused by their lordships of the supreme court. 260. it was held that an industrial tribunal will interfere with the finding of the enquiry officer when there is want of good faths, when there is victimization or unfair labour practice, when the management has been guilty of basic error or violation of the principals of natural justice, or when on the material the..........by post was also placed on record. after due consideration of the material placed before him. the enquiry officer held that the following three charges relating to respondent kedia's misbehaviour were proved;(1) that he disobeyed the order of sri g.s. chadha by not typing his letter on 19 jane 1962.(2) that he failed to deliver back the railway receipt to sri g.s. chadha before leaving the office, although he was explained the urgency of typing the letter on that day.(3) that he, on 23 june 1962, misbehaved towards sri g.s. chadha and shouted at him and insulted him by using the words 'jo kerna hai kar lo, tom mera kiya bigar sakte ho (in hindi).by the branch manager's letter, dated 8 august 1962, kedia was informed that the charges of misconduct having been proved against; him, he.....
Judgment:

Gurdev Singh, J.

1. In title petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, General Electric Company of India, Ltd., New Delhi, seeks a writ in the nature of certiorari, quashing the award of the industrial tribunal, Delhi, dated 18 Jane 1964, under which the petitioner-company is required to reinstate Its discharged stenographer, B.K. Kedia (respondent 1) with half back-wages for the period of his unemployment.

2. The dispute relating to these proceedings has arisen in the following manner.

3. On 19 June 1962, while the branch manager of the petitioner-company was away on leave, Sri G.S. Chadha, one of its senior officers, called the respondent, B.K. Kedia, a stenographer employed in that office, for taking down certain urgent letters. According to the petitioners case, Kedia asked him to first obtain the permission of Sri. S.N. Kohli, another senior officer of the company, but when Sri G.S. Chadha, explained to him that no such permission was necessary and some urgent letters had to be typed, he took dictation of a letter relating to the despatch of railway receipt No. 61687 of 16 June 1962. Daspits the fact that Kedia was informed of the urgency of the matter, he however, did not type out the letter, and sometime later when Sri Chadha went to his desk to enquire if the letter was ready, Kedia, behaving towards him in an insubordinate manner, very rudely told him that he was not bothered about the typing of the letter. Shortly afterwards, B.K. Kedia left the office without typing the letter or returning the relevant railway receipt to Sri G.S. Chadha.

4. On the following day, when B.K. Kedia did not turn up, Sri G.S. Chadha went to his desk, and on the search of his holder recovered the railway receipt in question. Thereupon, he dictated the latter to another stenographer, Sri Baldev Raj.

5. On 23 June 1962, when B.K. Kedia, respondent, returned to duty, Sri G.S. Chadha asked him why he had not typed out the letter, and why he had left the office without making over to him the railway receipt. Kedia, respondents, thereupon, got into rage and addressing Sri Chandha shouted' Jo karna hai kar lo, tum mera kiya bigar sakte ho' (in Hindi).

6. On 27 June 1962, when the branch manager, Sri I.L. Das, returned from leaves, Sri G.S. Chandha complained to him about the respondent B.K. Kedia's misbehaviour. The same day, the branch manager called upon the respondent, Kedia's, to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for his rude behaviour towards Sri G.S. Chadha and his refusal to carry out his instructions relating to typing out or a letter as complained by Sri Chadha Replying to this notice, on the following day, Kadia merely wrote to the branch manager that he had never refused to carry out the instructions of Sri G.S. Chadha nor had ever been rude to him. He, however, added that if there was any complaint from Sri G.S. Chadha, a copy of the same be supplied to him for suitable reply as the allegations conveyed to him ware vague. In response to this request, on 30 June 1962, a detailed chargesheet was served upon the respondent, Kedia, under the signatures of Sri I.L. Das, director and branch manager of the company. Even then, Kedia did not submit his detailed explanation, and on 2 July 1962, merely wrote back:

The allegations and the story narrated in your letter under reference were not in existence in your memo, dated 27 June 1962. As such, the allegations and the story in your memo under reply are nothing but mere afterthoughts.

7. In this connexion, he pointed out that his request for a copy of the complaint made by Sri G.S. Chadha had not been heeded to. The very next day (3 July 1962), the branch manager wrote back to the respondent, Kedia, that the details of the allegations had been communicated to him in the charge-sheet, dated 30 June 1962. and though he had failed to reply to them. he was being given one more opportunity to render his explanation. Kedia again replied that the question of his admitting the allegations did not arise as the written report of Sri G.S. Chadha had not been supplied to him. On 6 July 1962, the branch manager wrote to Kedia that his explanation had not been found to be satisfactory and an enquiry into the charges that had already been communicated to him on 30 June 1962 would be held by Sri S.N. Kohli, a senior officer of the company, before whom be should appear on 10 July 1962. He was permitted to be represented by another co employee and to adduce all such oral and documentary evidence which he may consider necessary for his defence.

8. The enquiry against the respondent, Kadia, was duly conducted by Sri S.N. Kohli, in the course of which, besides recording the statements of Sri G.S. Chadha and the respondent, Kadis, evidence adduced by both the sides was taken. The written statement submitted by Kedia by post was also placed on record. After due consideration of the material placed before him. the enquiry officer held that the following three charges relating to respondent Kedia's misbehaviour were proved;

(1) That he disobeyed the order of Sri G.S. Chadha by not typing his letter on 19 Jane 1962.

(2) That he failed to deliver back the railway receipt to Sri G.S. Chadha before leaving the office, although he was explained the urgency of typing the letter on that day.

(3) That he, on 23 June 1962, misbehaved towards Sri G.S. Chadha and shouted at him and insulted him by using the words 'Jo kerna hai kar lo, tom mera kiya bigar sakte ho (in Hindi).

By the branch manager's letter, dated 8 August 1962, Kedia was informed that the charges of misconduct having been proved against; him, he merited dismissal, but the management had decided to discharge him, and he would be paid one month's salary in lieu of the notice besides other does including provident fund to which he was entitled under the terms and conditions of his employment in the case of discharge from Service. The cause of the workman, B.K. Kedla, was taken up by the Mercantile Employees Associatior, New Delhi, and his dispute with the petitioner company was referred to the industrial tribunal at Delhi for adjudication under the orders of the Chief Commissioner, Delhi, dated 4 October 1962. On behalf of Kedia, It was pleaded before the tribunal that the entire story with regard to the incident of 23 June 1962, was a fabrication concocted by Sri G.S. Chadha to cover up his default in prompt dispatch of the relevant railway receipt, and that the respondent, B.K. Kedia, bad never refused to take dictation from Sri G.S. Chadha that day, nor had be ever been rude or insubordinate to him. It was farther pleaded that the allegations contained in the chargesheet, dated 30 June 1962, were an afterthought, and the respondent, Kedia, had been victimized on account of the fact that he was the secretary of the G.E.O. Unit of the Mercantile Employees Association, New Delhi. The learned tribunal went into the merits of the case and on reappraisal of the evidence led before the enquiry officer and the additional evidence which be bad himself taken, held that the findings of the enquiry officer could not be sustained and none of the charges stood proved against the respondent, Kedia. Paragraph 33 of the award in which he had summed up his conclusions runs thus:

Considering the evidence as a whole, my conclusion is that the management's version of what happened on 23 June is entirely one-sided, and if there was some mutual recrimination, Kedia may not be solely to blame. I have already held that nothing serious appears to have happened on 19 June and the story about diction of letter. Ex. M 1, to Kadia and its aftermaths stands unsubstantiated. I am, therefore, constrained to hold that none of the charges against Kadia have been substantiated and his discharge was unjustified particularly considering his past record. There is, however, no evidence to show that it was a on case of victimization on account of Kadia being the unit secretary.

9. As a result of his findings, the learned tribunal by his award, dated 18 June 1984, directed that the respondent, B.K. Kedia, be reinstated in the post of a stenographer which he held before his discharge with continuity of service and back wages for the period of unemployment at the rate of half of the wages last drawn by him.

10. In assailing the validity of this award, the petitioner-company, besides contending that the findings arrived at by the learned tribunal were not borne out by the material on record, has pleaded:

(1) that the tribunal had no Jurisdiction to interfere with the finding of fact recorded by the enquiry officer and to reappraise evidence in absence of any finding of mala fide, victimization or unfair labour practice;

(2) that the award suffers from an apparent error as the tribunal has dealt with the case as if it was a Court of appeal;

(3) that there is no basis for the finding that the enquiry conducted by the enquiry officer was not in consonance with the rules of natural justice; and

(4) that in any case there was no justification for directing reinstatement of the workman concerned.

11. Before dealing with these contentions, It is necessary to dispose of a preliminary objection that has been raised on behalf of the respondent, it is urged that since the petitioner-company had earlier made a petition under Article 136 of the Constitution seeking special leave of the Supreme Court to appeal against the impugned award of the industrial tribunal and the leave was not granted, this Court will not be justified in interfering with the award in exercise of its Jurisdiction under Article 826 of the Constitution. A petition for special leave to appeal against the award of the industrial tribunal was no doubt made to their lordships of the Supreme Court, but, as admitted by the respondents them-selves, it was never heard or disposed of on merits, having been withdrawn. The withdrawal of that petition, in my opinion, does not in any way stand in the way of the petitioner-company to approach this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution if a proper case is made out for relief under that provision. Of course, the case would have been different if the petition had been heard on merits and leave to appeal bad been refused by their lordships of the Supreme Court.

12. I do agree with the respondents' learned Counsel, as held in Sangram Singh v. Election Tribunal, Kotah, and Anr. (1950) 2 S.C.R. 1, that this Court; does not Act as a Court of appeal or revision and would not go into the correctness or otherwise of the findings of fact recorded either by the industrial tribunal or the enquiry officer, but once it is brought to its notice that the industrial tribunal had acted without Jurisdiction or in excess of it ignoring the limitation placed on its powers, as urged by the petitioner, the Court will not hesitate to interfere. Sri C.B. Aggarwal, learned Counsel for the petitioner, has strenuously argued that the learned industrial tribunal had acted without Jurisdiction in reopening the findings of fact recorded by the enquiry officer and deal with the case as if it was dealing with an appeal from the finding of the enquiry officer. The extent and the nature of the jurisdiction that vests in an industrial tribunal came up for consideration before their lordships of the Supreme Court in a number of cases. In Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. and Anr. v. their workmen in 958-I L.L.J. 260. It was held that an industrial tribunal will interfere with the finding of the enquiry officer when there is want of good faths, when there is victimization or unfair labour practice, when the management has been guilty of basic error or violation of the principals of natural justice, or when on the material the finding is completely baseless or perverse. It was then observed that the a management of a concern has power to direct its own internal administration and discipline and though that power is not unlimited, in case of dismissal on misconduct the tribunal does not, however, act as a Court of appeal and substitute its own judgment for that of the management. In India General Navigation and Railway Co. Ltd., and Anr. v. their workmen 1960-I L.L.J. 13, it was ruled (at p. 21) that in the absence of any finding that the order of the dismissal of a workman was actuated by mala fide or was an act of victimization, the tribunal misdirects itself if it looks into the sufficiency of proof led before the enquiry officer as if it was sitting in appeal on the decision of the employers. Again, in Rite Theatre (Private), Ltd., Delhi v. its workmen 1962-II L.L.J. 498 it was observed at p. 501:

It is well-settled that if an employer serves the relevant charge or charges on his employee and holds a proper and fair enquiry, it would be open to him to Act upon the report submitted to him by the enquiry officer and to dismiss the employee concerned. If the enquiry has been properly held, the order of dismissal passed against the employee as a result of such an enquiry can be challenged if it is shown that the conclusions reached at the departmental enquiry were perverse or the impugned dismissal is vindictive or mala fide, and amounts to an unfair labour practice, In such an enquiry before the tribunal, it is not open to the tribunal to sit in appeal over the findings recorded at the domestic enquiry. This Court has held that when a proper enquiry has been held. It would be open to the enquiry officer holding the domestic enquiry to deal with the matter on the merits bona fide and come to his own conclusion.

13. Proceeding further. Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was), speaking for the Court referred to the cases in which the tribunal would be justified in interfering with the findings of the enquiry officer, and said:

It has also been held that if it appears that the departmental enquiry held by the employer is not fair in the sense that proper charge had not been served on the employee or proper or full opportunity had not been given to the employee to meet the charge, or the enquiry has been effected by other grave irregularities vitiating it, then the position would be that the tribunal would be entitled to deal with the merits of the dispute as to the dismissal of the employee for itself the same result follows if no enquiry had been hold at all. In other words, where the tribunal is dealing with a dispute relating to the dismissal of an industrial employee, if it is satisfied that no enquiry has been held or the enquiry which has been held in not proper or fair or that the findings recorded by the enquiry officer are perverse, the whole issue is at large before the tribunal....

14. The principle that emerges from the various authorities on the point is the one that is stated in Indian Iron and Steel Co. case 1958-I L.L.J 260 (vide supra), It is this: The tribunal does not Act as a Court of appeal and would not substitute its own Judgment for the findings of fact recorded by the enquiry officer. It will, however, interfere where there is want of good faith, when it finds that it is a case of victimization or unfair labour practice, when the enquiry officer had committed a basic error or acted in violation of the principles of natural Justice, and when on material the findings recorded by the enquiry officer are completely baseless or perverse. In the case in hand, the learned tribunal has itself rejected the plea of victimization. It has not found that there had been any unfair labour practice or want of good faith on the part of the management. The only ground on which the learned tribunal proceeded to reopen the findings recorded by the enquiry officer is that the enquiry had not been in consonance with the principles of natural Justice. The reasons given in support of this finding are:

(i) that the allegations contained in the branch manager's letter, dated 27 June 1982, addressed to Kedis, respondent, calling upon him to render explanation for his misbehaviour towards Sri G.S. Chadha were vague and indefinite and no copy of Sri G.S. Chadha'e complaint referred to therein was supplied to the workman;

(ii) that though the subsequent letter of the branch manager, dated 30 June 1962, contained details of allegations against Kedla, respondent, this was not of any consequence ' as there should not have been a second chargesheet on the same subject-matter after the first had already been issued ';

(iii) that a copy of the complaint made by Sri G.S. Chadha on 27 June 1982, against respondent, Kedia, was not supplied to him, and even the enquiry officer did not call for this basic document;

(iv) that the date 23 June 1962, in the opening portion of the statement of Miss D' Silva recorded by the enquiry officer appeared to be an interpolation;

(v) that the enquiry officer had made contradictory reference to the shorthand notebook produced by Kedia, respondent, and

(vi) that Baldev Raj, another stenographer, employed by the company was not examined at the enquiry.

15. It has never been suggested that the enquiry officer, Sri S.N. Kohit, had any personal bias against; Kedia, respondent, and there is no complaint that proper and full opportunity for defence was ever denied to this workman. The record discloses that whatever evidence Kedia wanted to adduce was taken, and in the course of the enquiry he was assisted by one of his co-employees. I agree with the petitioner's learned Counsel, Sri C.B. Aggarwal, that the mere fact that the enquiry officer did not of his own accord summon the original complaint of Sri G.S. Chadha or examine Baldev Raj in no way effects upon his impartiality or fairness. It was open to the parties to summon each evidence, oral or documentary which they considered necessary, and if one or the other party omitted to summon a witness or a document, the enquiry officer cannot be blamed for it, nor is the enquiry rendered defective or unfair on that account.

16. The charges on which the enquiry was held against Kedia, respondent, were communicated to him by the branch manager in his letter dated 30 June 1962. The details of all the allegations are set out therein and admittedly there is no vagueness about them. The mere fact that the detailed allegations were not given in the first letter that was addressed to Kedia, respondent, on 27 June 1961, calling upon him to render explanation for his misbehaviour towards Sri G.S. Chadha, in no way vitiates the enquiry held by Sri S.N. Kholi. There is no warrant for the learned tribunal's view that the details of the charges contained in the management's letter, dated 30 June 1962, were of no consequence as it was in the nature of second chargesheet, and that could not be issued once Kedia had been called upon to render explanation by the management's letter of 27 June 1962. As rightly pointed out by Sri C.B. Aggarwal, the details of the charges and allegation against Kedia contained in the management's letter, dated 30 June 1962, were communicated to him before the enquiry cammenced. He had thus accepted notice of the charges he had to meet and, in fact, in the course of the enquiry he did his best to meet those charges by adducing evidence.

17. The interpolation of the date in Miss Silva's evidence, to which the learned tribunal has referred, was explained by the enquiry officer in the course of his statement. He has stated on oath that this date was added by him as a correction after he had gone through the statement of Miss Silva immediately after recording it, and that the allegation that the interpolation was made later was incorrect. On reference to the statement in question, I find that the explanation given by Sri S.N. Kohli is quite plausible.

18. I thus find that there is no basis whatsoever for the learned tribunal's opinion that the enquiry conducted against Kedia, respondent, by Sri S.N. Kohli was unfair or in any way in violation of any rules of natural Justice. Thus, the very basis on which the learned tribunal proceeded to reopen the findings recorded by the enquiry officer it lacking. There being no finding of victimization, unfair labour practice, want of good faith on the part of the management or absence of any material to support the findings of the enquiry officer, the learned tribunal had no jurisdiction to reopen the case and to sit in judgment over the findings of the enquiry officer as if it were a Court of appeal. His award thus suffers from an error of law apparent on the face of the record, and thus cannot be sustained. I, accordingly, accept the petition and direct that the necessary writ shall issue quashing the award of the industrial tribunal, Delhi, dated 18 June 1964, The parties are left to bear their own costs.


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