1. This writ appeal is instituted by the management of the Mahalakshmi Textile Mills, Pasumalai, from the judgment of Karnachanara Iyer J. (as he then was ) in w.p. No. 482 of 1959, before the learned Judge. Since the facts are very simple, and not in dispute for the most part, it is sufficient for us to be quite brief. The contesting res. pendent (S. M. Subrarnaniam Chettiar) was working as a clerk in the Time Keeper's office of the Mills. He was on leave, which expired on 3rd February 1958. But without rejoining duty, he absented himself without leave, any without taking steps to obtain the sanction of the management, for a period of nearly two months thereafter till. 13-4-1958.
2. In its relationship to employees, in matters of discipline, the management is governed by certain Standing Orders framed for mill operatives. Under Section 18(f) of these Standing Orders,
'habitual absence without leave or absence without leave for more than ten consecutive days' constitutes 'misconduct'.
The management framed charges under Section 18 (f), and issued notice to the worker. An enquiry on the basis of the charge followed, and it is the admitted case that the worker (respondent) absented himself, and did not participate in the enquiry. The management held that the charge had .been established, and issued an order of dismissal, which was communicated to the worker by letter dated 6-5-1956.
3. The matter went up before the Labour Court, which, in effect, allowed the appeal by the worker, set aside the order of dismissal, and directed the reinstatement of the worker. It was the propriety of this judgment of the Labour Court in I.D. No. 36 of 1958, which was canvassed before the learned Judge. The learned Judge (Ramachandra Iyer J.) was himself embarrassed by the fact that the Labour Court had, in more than one context of its somewhat lengthy judgment, held that the misconduct was proved, and that the dismissal from service of Subramaniam Chettiar (respondent) was justified, in that sense. It has to be frankly conceded that the judgment of the Labour Court presents difficulties in interpretation, as several passages are inconsistent with each other. Further, as the learned Judge (Ramachandra Iyer J.) himself emphasises, it is well settled that the Labour Court has no jurisdiction to canvass the severity or otherwise of the punishment awarded by the management, unless it touches a question of victimisation or bona fides. However, the learned Judge interpreted the judgment of the Labour Court, in substance and effect, as amounting to a conclusion or finding that the punishment was invalid, because relevant matters had not been taken into consideration by the management in awarding punishment.
4. This view of the learned Judge appears, if we may say so with respect, to be perfectly justified in terms of Standing Order 19. This order specifically provides that, in awarding punishment for misconduct,
'The management shall take into account the gravity of the misconduct, the previous record, if any, of the workman, and any other extenuating or aggravating circumstances that may exist.'
Admittedly, in the order of dismissal, the previous record and the gravity of the misconduct etc. which are all relevant factors, were not taken into account. Section 19 is mandatory in its terms and there is no option or choice left with the management to neglect these relevant factors.
5. For this reason, the conclusion of the learned Judge declining to issue a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Labour Court is justified, and has to be sustained. But we must make it clear that the order of dismissal is set aside, but the matter of the misconduct is thereby released, entirely to be dealt with by the Management at their option, according to the rules. That it is open to the management even now, to pursue the charge, by conducting a fresh enquiry after due notice to the workman, and to deal with the workman points out that the very setting aside of the order of dismissal has the automatic effect of reinstating the workman in service. Vide observations of the Supreme Court in Ritz Theatre (Pr) Ltd. v. Its Workmen, : (1962)IILLJ498bSC . Apart from this, we have also definite order of the Labour Court directing the reinstatement. Hence the writ appeal is dismissed, but with the clarification that the matter is now thereby released and at large, and that it is theoretically open to She management to pursue the charge further, upon the alleged misconduct, to hold a fresh enquiry after notice to the employee, and to deal with the employee on that basis. In doing so, the management, of course, should conform to the requirements of Standing Order 19 that we have earlier cited. The parties will bear their own costs.