1. This writ petition coming on for hearing on this day upon perusing the petition and the affidavit filed in support thereof the order of the High Court dated 8th January, 1981 and made herein and the records relating to the order in I.D. No. 294/79 dated 26th August, 1980 on the file of the second respondent and comprised in the return of the 2nd respondent to the writ made by the High Court, and upon hearing the arguments of Mr. Sanjay Mohan for M/s. King and Partridge, Advocates for the petitioner, and of Mr. G. Nagarajan, Advocate for the first respondent the Court made the following order :
This writ petition filed by the management of Indian Steel Rolling Mills Limited, Nagapattinam, is directed against the award passed by the First Additional Labour Court, Madras, directing reinstatement of the first respondent in I.D. No. 294 of 1979. The First Respondent herein was a crane driver under the petitioner-Management. On 5th June, 1978 at about 5 p.m. a memo was served on him alleging that one Simonraj, the Watchman, had given a report to the management stating that when he checked the first respondent while he was going out of the mill premises he found in possession of the first respondent 4 brass fixed jaws of 100 amps fuse carrier and a round copper rod piece belonging to the petitioner. The first respondent gave an explanation and an enquiry was conducted in relation thereto and as a result of the domestic enquiry the first respondent's service were dispensed with. Thereafter the first respondent raised an industrial dispute and the matter came before the second respondent herein in I.D. No. 294 of 1979. Before the Labour Court the first respondent raised two contentions, namely, (i) that the search made by Simonraj at the time of the first respondent leaving the mill premises was not proper and was not in accordance with the provisions contained in standing order No. 14 of the Petitioner-Management and therefore there is no proof of the charge of theft and (ii) that one Veeriah cited by the first respondent as a witness could not be examined on account of the pressure by the management. The Labour Court went into the first question and found that the search made in this case was not in accordance with standing order No. 14. As for the non-examination of one Veeriah by the first respondent, the Labour Court found that the allegation that he could not be examined on account of the pressure by the management has not been established. On the ground that the search was not in accordance with standing order 14 in that it was not signed by two independent witnesses but it was signed only by one witness, the Labour Court Proceeded to conclude that the charge levelled against the first respondent had not been proved and therefore the order of dismissal had to be set aside and the first respondent had not been proved and therefore the order of dismissal had to be set aside and the first respondent had to be reinstated. The said order of the Labour Court is being challenged in this writ petition.
2. The main submission of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the Labour Court is in error in not considering the evidence adduced at the domestic enquiry in proof of the charge of theft levelled against the first respondent merely on the ground that the search was not in accordance with standing order 14. According to the learned counsel for the petitioner even if the search was not in accordance with standing order 14, the allegation levelled against the first respondent could be proved by other evidence and that in this case it has been proved by the oral evidence adduced at the domestic enquiry and therefore the Labour Court is in error in not considering the other evidence on record adduced by the petitioner at the domestic enquiry. The learned counsel for the first respondent, on the other hand, contends that since the only charge against the first respondent was that he was in possession of certain articles belonging to the management at the time when he was leaving the mill premises on 5th June, 1978 and the articles are said to have been taken from his person by the watchman and if the search is found to be violative of standing order 14, then the entire charge must fail. In this case the charge against the first respondent is that he was in possession of the articles belonging to the management when he was leaving the mill premises. It is no doubt, true that the management, at the domestic enquiry as also before the Labour Court, relied on the search made on the person of the first respondent by the watchman as a strong piece of evidence to prove the charge of theft. However, now that the Labour Court has found that the search is not in accordance with standing order 14, the alleged search cannot be relied on as a piece of evidence. But even if the search is found to be not in order as has been held by the Labour Court, still the management can prove the case of theft by other evidence and in this case, the learned counsel for the management says, three witnesses, namely, Simonraj, T. Ganesan and R. Neelakantan were examined at the domestic enquiry to speak of the theft committed by the first respondent and their evidence established the charge of theft levelled against the first respondent. It is seen from the award of the Labour Court that it has not considered the other evidence in any detail. It merely says that there is no other evidence to establish that the first respondent committed theft of the articles belonging to the management. In view of the fact that oral evidence has been adduced at the domestic enquiry, the Labour Court has to consider that oral evidence and find whether the charge of theft is established by that evidence. If the oral evidence is not sufficient to establish the case of theft, then, it is open to the Labour Court to set aside the order of dismissal passed by the Petitioner-Management against the first respondent and to give such relief as it considers necessary. Since the Labour Court has failed to consider the oral evidence adduced at the domestic enquiry, the order of the Labour Court is set aside and the matter is remitted and the Labour Court is set aside and the matter is remitted and the Labour Court is directed to consider the oral and other evidence adduced at the domestic enquiry and give its finding as to whether the charge of theft has been proved by other evidence in the case.
3. The writ petition is allowed accordingly. There will be no order as to costs.