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Management of Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Delhi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Appeal No. 447 of 1971
Judge
Reported in9(1973)DLT191; 1973LabIC771
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 10
AppellantManagement of Municipal Corporation of Delhi
RespondentThe Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Delhi and ors.
Advocates: D.N. Vohra,; R. Dayal and; Sharda, Advs
Cases ReferredCentral Bank of India Ltd. v. Parkash Chand Jain
Excerpt:
.....of workman and directing management to pay them half wages from date of suspension - findings of enquiry officer not based on any legal evidence - such findings based on hearsay evidence - evidence adduced before labour court justified - no reason to interfere with order passed by labour court - petition liable to be dismissed. - - bhadawaj had been clearly proved against each and every one of the four respondents. it is well settled that even if enquiry has been held properly and in accordance with the principles of natural justice the tribunal still has jurisdiction to interefer with the findings of the enquiry officer in two circumstance. thus where the findings of a domestic tribunal like the enquiry officer dealing with disciplinary proceedings against a workmen are not based..........enquiry could not be struck down on any grounds. he, however, held that the findings of the enquiry officer were not based on any legal evidence and were based on hearsay evidence and in the circumstances he held that the findings of the enquiry officer were perverse and the order of removal of the workmen based thereon is not sustainable. he accordingly set aside the removal and directed their reinstatement with continuty for service and also directed that half the wages be paid to the respondents from th; date of their suspension up to the lime when they are taken back in service it is against this award that the present petition has been filed by the municipal corporation. (4) the finding that the enquiry before the enquiry officer was not vitiated on the ground of natural.....
Judgment:

Rajinder Sachar, J.

(1) This is a petition under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India against the award given by the respondent Labour Court by which he set aside the removal of respondents Nos. 2 to 5 workmen and directed their reinstatement with continuity in service and further directed the management petitioner to pay them half wages from the date of their suspension up to the time they are taken back in service.

(2) Respondents Nos. 2 to 5 were employees of the management of Delhi Fire Service and were working at S P. Mukarjee Marg Fire Station, Delhi. On 27th of September. 1966 respondents Nos 2 to 5 were charge sheeted on the a legation that they while functioning at S. P Mukherjee Marg Fire Station attacked and beat Station Officer Shri R. K.Bhardawaj of the said fire station at 23.15 hours on 28th of July, 1966 while the said Shri R.K. Bhardawaj was sleeping alone in the open terrace above his flat at the said fire sation and inflicted injurios on the body of the said Shri Bhardawaj The respondents 2 to 5 denied the charge and maintained that they were completely innocent. An enquiry was thereafter ordered to be held by Shri Manohar Lal, Director of Enquires, who by his report dated 20th of October, 1968 held that the charge of gross indiscipline and misbehavior leveled against respondents Nos. 2 to 5 which is based on their act of physically assaulting and beating the Station Officer Shri R. K. Bhadawaj had been clearly proved against each and every one of the four respondents. The management thereafter issued a show cause notice and then the disciplinary authority by its order dated 21st of February, 1969 inflicted upon the respondents 2 to 5 the punishment of 'removal from service which shall not be a disqualification for future employment'. This led to an industrial dispute and ultimately the Lieutenant Governor by his order No. F. 24 (80)/70-LAB/9870 dated the 9th of April, 1970 referred the matter to the Labour Court respondent No. 1 on the following terms of refernce:-

'WHETHERthe termination of services of Sarvshri Prabbu Dayal, Jai Narain, Rohtas Singh, Mahabir Singh, is illegal and or unjustified and if so. to what relief are they entitled and what directions are necessary in this respect'.

(3) The respondent No. 1 by his order dated 2nd of February, 1971 has held that no rules of natural justice were violated in the proceedings and, thereforee, the domestic enquiry could not be struck down on any grounds. He, however, held that the findings of the Enquiry Officer were not based on any legal evidence and were based on hearsay evidence and in the circumstances he held that the findings of the Enquiry Officer were perverse and the order of removal of the workmen based thereon is not sustainable. He accordingly set aside the removal and directed their reinstatement with continuty for service and also directed that half the wages be paid to the respondents from th; date of their suspension up to the lime when they are taken back in service It is against this award that the present petition has been filed by the Municipal Corporation.

(4) The finding that the enquiry before the Enquiry Officer was not vitiated on the ground of natural justice has not been challenged before me by the counsel for the respondent Mr. Ramehwar Dayal. It, thereforee, has to be held that the domestic enqiry held by the management is not open to challenge onground But that is not the end of the matter so far as the jurisdiction of the Labour Court to enquire into the validity of the removal of the workmen is concerned. It is well settled that even if enquiry has been held properly and in accordance with the principles of natural justice the Tribunal still has jurisdiction to interefer with the findings of the Enquiry Officer in two circumstance. Thus where the findings of a domestic Tribunal like the Enquiry Officer dealing with disciplinary proceedings against a workmen are not based on legal evidence or are such as no reasonable person might have arrived at on the basis of material before the Tribunal the findings are treted as perverse and it is open to the Tribunal to set aside the removal in such case vide Central Bank of India Ltd. v. Prakash Chand Jain. In the present case, thereforee, what has to be seen is whether the conclusion of the Labour Court that the findings arrived at by the Enquiry Officer were preverse can be sustained. It is true that when an application for permission for dismissal is made on the allegation that the workmen has been guilty of some misconduct for which the management considers dismissal the apporpriate punishment, the Tribunal has only to satisfy itself that there is a prima facie case for such dismissal, vide Bharat Sugar Mills Ltd. v Jai Singh and others' It has also been held that on Industrial Tribunal while adjudicating on an industrial dispute relating to dismissal of a workman for misconduct, has not to decide turn itself whether the charge framed against the workman concerned has been established to its satisfaction, it has only to be satisfied that the management was justified in coming to the conclusion (in bona fide and proper domestic enquiry) that the charge against the workman was well founded, vide Bahpara Tea Estate v. lts workmen'. The Industrial Tribunal no doubt will not examine the evidence to decide as to whether the evidence on record conclusively proves the guilt of the concerned worknan but it is entitled to enquire if it finds that the material on record is such that no reasonable person could have come to the conclusion as regards the workman's misconduct, vide Banglore Wollon, Cotton and Silk Mills Company Ltd. v.DaSoppa (B) (Binny Mills Labour Union) and othes But even if the enquiry has beer, properly held that order of dismissal passed against the employee as a result of such anenquiry can be challenged if it is shown that the conclusions reached at a departmental enquiry were preverse.........in such a case the whole issue as is at large before the Tribunal vide Rits Theatre (Private) Ltd. Delhi v. Its workman. That a finding of the industrial Tribunal can only be charaterised as preverse only if it is shown that such a finding is not supported by any evidence and is entirely opposed to the whole evidence adduced before it. A finding cannot be held to be preverse simply because the conclusion of the Enquiry Officar is contrary to the view which the Tribunal is inclined to take vide 0m Parkash Sharma v. Industrial Tribunal. Punjab and a other. These are the principles which govern the dispute of the case by Tribunal in, the matter of taking disciplinary action against the workman and there is no difference whether the matter comes before the Tribunal under Section 33 of the industrial Disputes Act or by a reference under Motipur Sugar Factory (Private) Ltd. v. Motipur Sugar Factory( Private) Ltd

(5) The first question, thereforee, arises is whether it can be said that. the findings of the Enquiry. Officer were perverse as has been found by the Labour Court. The charge in short against respondents Nos 2 to5 was that on 28th of july. 1966 they want to the place where R.K. Bhardawaj was sleeping and physically assaulted him The Enquiry Officer found that this charge had been proved against the respondents Nos. 2 to 5. It is this finding which has been characterised as praverse by the Labour Court. A numberof witnesses had been examined by the Management in support of this charge. But the most important and the only relevant witness namely R..K. Bhardawaj who is said to have been assaulied was not examined before the Enquiry Officer. Enquiry Officer even noticed this basic defect in his report. He, however, in spite of this defect found that there was enough evidence to prove the charge against the respondents Nos 2 to 5. it is not disputed before me that the only alleged eye witness of the assault.was R.K, Bhardawaj. There is no other witnass examined before the Enqiary Officer who has deposed to seeing any of the respondendts Nos. 2 to 5 beating or taking part in aasult of R.K Bhardawaj

(6) The nearest deposition that any of the witnesses namely Sharma Pw 1, Janki Dass Public Witness Public Witness 4, Khajan Singh Public Witness Public Witness 6. Chief Fire officer Public Witness Public Witness 7 and Fire Officer Public Witness . 8 before the inquiry Officer had made about the implication of respondents 2 to 5 was.in their own statement wherein they slated that R K. Bbardawaj had told them that respondents 2 to 5 had taken part in assaulting him and that R.K. Bhardawaj had indentified the persons at the parade as the ones who had beaten him. On this part of evidence of the said witnesses, reliance was placed by Mr. Vohra to contend that there was evidence before he Enquiry Officer on the basis of which he could have found respondents 2 to 5 guilty. Now if the alleged statement of R. K Bhardwaj made to these witnesses was legal evidence there would be no doubt that the Enquiry Officer could act on the: basis of it and base its finding. The Labour Court, however, has held that this part of evidence of these witnesses is hearsav and, thereforee, there was no legal evidence connecting responden's 2 to 5 with the alleged assault Mr Vohra, the learned counsel for the petitioner, however, contended that this part of the evidence of these witnesses is not hearsay, in my opinion, there is no merit in this contention. Admittedly, none of these witnesses had himself seen the occurrence and was.not deposing to anything seen by him. Now Section 60 of the Evidence Act provides that oral evidence must i.n all cases be direct, that is to say, if it refers to a fact which could be seen. it must be the evidence of a witness who says that he saw it. Evidence of a witness as to what was, said to him by another person is not admissible unless that person himself deposes to,that fact as a, witness because oral evidence must always be.direct and hearsay is no evidence. Ii is true that domestic tribunals like an Enquiry Officer axe not bound by technical rules about evidence contained in the Indian Evidence Act but it has nowhere been laid down that even a substantive rule which would form part of the principles of natural justice can be ignored by the domestic Tribunal. As was observed by the Supreme, Court in Central Bank of India Ltd. v. Parkash Chand Jain, that the Principle that a fact sought to be proved must be supported by statements made in the presence of the person against whom the enquiry is held and that statements rnade behind the back of the person charged are not to be treated as substantive evidence,,is one of the basic principles which can not be ignored on the mere ground that domestic tribunals are not bound by the technical rules of procedure contained in the Evidence Act. In fact, learned counsel for the appellant Bank, was, unable to point out any case at all where it may have been held by this court or by any other Court that a domestic tribunal will be justified in recording its findings on the basis of hearsay evidence without having any direct or circumstantial evidence in support of those findings.' The facts in the Supreme Court case are quite apposite here as the question of what is hearsay evidence was discussed there. One of the elements of the charge that had to .be proved by the Management in that Case was whether a sum of money was paid to the workman concerned by the Assistant Cashier Nand Kishore in support of its conclusion, the Enquiry Officer had relied Ob the evidence of one Mr. Vazifar who had deposed that a statement had been made to hirn by Nand Kishore to the effect that Nand Kishore had paid the sum. of money to the workman concerned. The Enquiry Officer had accepted this part of evidence of vazifdar though Nand Kishore who had appeared as a witness had not so stated. The Tribunal held that this evidence of vazifdar was hearsay and that the decision of the Enquiry Officer given on that basis was not sustainable and was thus perverse. The Supreme Court agreed that this was hearsay evidence and that this view of the tribunal was fully justified. Applying, the ratio of that decision to the pr,e?ent also it is clear that evidence given by the various witnesses to the effect that R. K. Bhardawaj had told them that respondents Nos, 2 to 5 had assaulted him was hearsay and could not be relied on in the absence of Bhardawaj having himself appeared as a witness. Now if this part. of the evidence given by the various witnesses about the alleged statement made by Bhardawaj to them is not legal evidence, being merely a hearsay, it is clear that there-was no material which implicated respondents Nos. 2 to 5 with the alleged assault on R. K Bhardawaj. It is no doubt true that evidence was led to show that R. K. Bhardawaj was bleeding immediately after the alleged oceurrence and that various witnesses, deposed to at. having seen him bleeding The fact of bleeding by .itself is a natural circumstance and does not by itself prove that respondents 2 to 5 had taken part in assault. For this charge to be proved evidence of assult had to be given which is lacking in the present case. Mr. Vohra tried to make much of the fact that one of the witnesses Mr. Sharma had named respondent Prabhu Dayal. But evidence of Sharma shows that he was not present at the time of the alleged incident and only got up after bearing noise. He saw a few people running, towards the road from the office and could not recognise anyone excepting Prabhu Dayal, but it was from back. The other person who has named Prabhu Dayal is Dharam Pal who stated that he saw a number of persons at 10.45 p.m. and heard Prabhu Dayal saying 'Bachna Nahi Chhahaye.'. This witness thereafter states to have gone to his own house and only got up when the fire alarm was rung at 11.40 p.m. He also, thereforee, cannot depose to Prabhu Dayal's participating in the alleged assault on Bhardawaj. An effort was also made to show by the counsel for the petitioner, that there was evidence connecting respondent No. 3 Jai Narain and respondent No. 5 Mahabir Singh with the incident. In this coanection my attention has been drawn to the evidence of Shaima who had deposed that one chappal was fourd lying in the stair case where the incident was supposed to have taken place and that this chhapal belonged to respondent No. 3 Jai Narain. Similarly, another witness S K. Bhardawaj had also deposed that chappal which was found at the stair case belonged to Jai Narain. My attention was also drawn to the evidence given by Janak Dass who had stated that at the terrace one chappal was found which belonged to Jai Narain and one cap was also found which belonged to Mahabir' Singh. It is partinent, however, to notice that in the cross-examination of janaki Dass he admitted that the cap was tried before the Enquiry Officer and fitted other persons also including the defense witness Mahabir Singh. He also admitted that the chappal which was tied on the right foot of Jai Narain was short in size. This evidence, thereforee, of chappal and cap is such on the basis of which no reasonable man can come to the conclusion that the charge of beating Bhardawaj had been established against these two respondents. The real difficulty in the way of the petitioner is that it has for reasons completely unexplained withheld the most material witness, namely, Station Officer Bhardawaj who was alleged to have been beaten by respondents 2 to 5. It is not as if the management was not made aware of this vital lacuna during the course of the enquiry. The workmen had filed written arguments dated 29th of July, 1968 before the Enquiry Officer and one of their main grievance was that the prosecution had relied upon the alleged statement of Ram Kishan Bhardawaj though it failed to produce him as a witness to corroborate the story of the prosecution and thus the workmen had been denied opportunity to cross-examine him Again in reply to the show cause notice issued to the workman the same grievance had been reiterated as is clear from the reply filed by Prabhu Dayal wherein it is stated that by not producing the material primary evidence for the non-production of which no Explanationn has been given. the workmen had been denied of the valuable right to cross-examine the wilness Thus the gTieva.nce was being made repeatedly that there was no evidence connecting respondents-workmen and the statement alleged to have been made by R. K. Bhardwaj was not legal evidence and could rot be relied upon unless K. K. Bhardawaj had been produced for crossexamination. The management still did not choose to produce R. K. Bhardawej The result, thereforee, is that in the absence of R. K. Bhardwaj having been produced as a witness any alleged statement made by him to any other wilness implicating respondents 2 to 5 was a mere hearsay evidence and could not be acted upon. thereforee, there was no legal evidence before the Enquiry Officer on the basis of which he could have come to the conclusion that respondents 2 to 5 were guilty of the charges made against them. No doubt, the Enquiry Officer has slated that the prosecution had proved by producing fully corborated and cir- cumstantial evidence that the respondents physically assaulted R. K.. Bhardwaj. But I fail to see what are the circumstances which even Prima facie prove the guilt of respondents 2 to 5. Mr. Vohra made a grievance of the fact that the Labour Court was wrong in proceeding on the basis that the circumstantial evidence must prove the case against the workmen beyond reasonable doubt. Stated as a proposition of law it is correct that the Tribunal cannot examine the evidence to decide as to whether the evidence on record conclusively proves the guilt of the concerned workmen. But it has only to satisfy itself that there is a Prima facie case for such dismissal. In the present case however, the circumstances do not even show that the charges were prima facie established against the respondents. Rather the material on record is such that no reasonable person could have come to the conclusion as regards the workman's conduct and the case, thereforee, clearly falls within the ratio of the decision in the cafe of Central Bank of India Ltd (supra) I would, thereforee, agree with the Labour Court in holding that the findings of the Enquiry offfer were prevence and could not be upheld.

(8) No doubt it was open to the management to have led additional evidence apart from the enquiry proceedings before respondent No. 1 (Labour Court) to show that the respondents 2 to 5 were guilty of the charges alleged against them and if that evidence had been led, respondent No 1 was bound to give his independent finding as to whether the charges had been proved or not. But no effort was made by the petitioner to lead any additional evidence before the Labour Court and it depended only on the evidence before the domestic enquiry held by it. On the findings by the Labour Court that the findings of the enquiry officer were perverse there was no option left to the Labour Court but to set aside the order of removal passed by the disciplinary authority.

(9) The next contention of Mr. Vohra was that the Labour Court had ordered the reinstatement of the workmen mechanically and had not applied its mind to the consideration, whether compensation should not have been paid in lieu of reinstatement. My attention was drawn to M/s Hindustan Steels Ltd. v.A.K. Ray & others. In my opinion this case does rot assist the petitioner All that was laid down in that case was that the Tribunal has the discretion to award compensation instead of reinstatement if the circumstances of a particular case are exceptional so as to make reinstatement inexpendient or improper and that the Tribunal has to exercise the jurisdiction judicially and in accordance with the well recognised principles in that regard and has to examine carefully the circumstances of each case and decide, whether such a case is one of those exceptions to the general rule. It is clear from this authority that the general rule is that once dismissal is found to be unjustified, reinstatement will be directed unless there are exceptional circumstances. In the present case, however, there are no exceptional circumstances shown which would have disentitled respondents 2 to 5 to get an order of reinstatement in their favor No material was produced before the Labour Court to show that in case the removal was held to be unjustified reinstement was not the proper relief. In the statement of claim filed before the Labour Court if was never the pleading of the management that even if the removal was to be set saide the workmen should be entitled only to compensation and not reinstatement. No material was also placed before the Tribunal to show that there was any hazard or prejudice to the interests of the industry to retain the workmen in the service on the ground of security. As a matter of fact, I find, as is clear from the report of the enquiry officer, that even during the pendency of the enquiry, respondents 2 to 5 had been reinstated by the management ilself, obviously, in that view, it cannot be contended by the petitioner with any justification that the reinstatement of respondents 2 to 5 would in any manner he prejudicial to the interests of the service as it had itself chosen to reinstate them during the pendency of the enquiry. This action of the management itself shows that this was not a case where the claim of the workmen to the normal rule of reinstatement could be defeated by any exceptional circumstances. In this connection it is also relevant to note that the disciplinary authority inflicted upon the respondents the punishment of 'removal from service which shall not be disqualification for future employment' The order thus clearly shows that the disciplinary authority has not taken the view that employment of respondents 2 to 5 in the department will in any manner be hazarduous or prejudicial to the interests of service. When the disciplinary authority itself has not chosen to put a ban on their future employment, it is not understood how it can be argued with any justification that reinstatement is not the proper relief to be granted to respondents 2 to 5. If in spite of the order of the disciplinary authority it was open to respondents 2 to 5 to be employed in future, in the department. Labour Court was surely taking a consistent and proper view when on the finding that the removal was unjustified, directed their reinstatement. In my opinion, thereforee, there is no merit in the contention of the counsel for the petitioner that the Labour Court misdirected itself in directing the reinstatement of respondents 2 to 5.

(10) The result of above discussion is that there is no merit in the petition and the same is, thereforee, dismissed but in the circumstances of the case with no order as to costs.


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