K. Veeraswami, C.J.
1. This is an appeal from an order made in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution declining to interfere with an order of the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Madurai. A reference of an industrial dispute as to the propriety of the non-employment of one Thangaraj, an employee of the Pioneer Estate, Velayathavayal, was made for adjudication. He was a tapper, who was kept under suspension on the allegation that he and two others, on July 29, 1967, obstructed an estate lorry which carried rubber sheets. It is stated that unless the rubber sheets are subjected to further processing the entirety of the stock would become useless, A domestic enquiry was held which culminated in a finding that the charge against Thangaraj was proved and his dismissal from service. Before the Presiding Officer, one of the workman's defences was that the enquiry was conducted in his absence on September 2, 1967 and that he had no notice of the enquiry. He relied on Section 25 of the standing orders which required service by registered post at his residential address, he being a non-resident worker. He came to know about the enquiry only on September 3, 1967, and requested the management to give him an opportunity to participate in the enquiry. According to him, the management denied him such an opportunity, and dismissed him from service on September 4, 1967, with effect from August 6, 1967. The further averment of the workman was that by this process of charge and enquiry he was victimised, as he was an executive member of the labour union. The management asserted service of notice and that the enquiry was according to the standing orders and the principles of natural justice. The Presiding Officer, after an elaborate consideration of this point, ended up with a finding that Thangaraj had no proper notice. On that main ground he came to the conclusion that the non-employment of Thangaraj was not justified and directed his reinstatement with back wages from August 6, 1967. The management sought to have this order quashed, but unsuccessfully. The learned Judge observed thus :
In this case the management did not invite the Labour Court to take evidence in support of the charge framed against the first-respondent so that the Labour Court itself might consider the charge with reference to the evidence placed before it. It is not the case of the petitioner that at any stage of the enquiry before the Labour Court, it requested the Labour Court to permit it to produce evidence and that the Labour Court refused to do so. Consequently there is no substance in this contention either.
This observation was made by the learned Judge in respect of the contention that although, when the Presiding Officer found that the domestic enquiry was held without notice to Thangaraj and when the Presiding Officer found it to be so, it should have itself given an opportunity to the management and the workman as well to place their respective evidence in respect of the charge and the Presiding Officer should have considered the entire matter in the light of such evidence. In cases like this where a Presiding Officer finds that a domes, tic enquiry ending in a punishment of the workman was defective for any reason, it is the duty of the Presiding Officer to satisfy himself about the legality and validity of the eventual order in the domestic enquiry. In order to satisfy himself that way, he has to give an opportunity to the employer and the employee to adduce evidence for the first time justifying the action. That this is the law has been pointed out by the Suprcme Court in Eait India Hotels v. Their Workmen, (1973) 45 FJR 11. There it was observed (at p 15);.Even if no enquiry has been held by an employer or if the enquiry held by him is found to be defective, the Tribunal, in order to satisfy itself about the legality and validity of the order, has to give an opportunity to the employer and employee to adduce evidence before it. It is open to the employer to adduce cvideoce for the first time justifying his action. Once misconduct is proved, either in the enquiry conducted by the employer or by the evidence placed before the Tribunal for first time, the punishment imposed cannot be interfered with by the Tribunal except in cases where the punishment is harsh and oppressive...
To the same effect is the position in law as has been restated in Cooper Engineering Ltd. v. P.O. Mundhe 1975 11 L.L.J. 379 ; (1975) 48 F.J.R. 152. In Writ Appeal, No. 385 of 1971, Allied Industries Steel Rolling Mill a, Madras v. Labour Court, Madras, to which one of us was a party the same view was expressed.
2. The learned Judge, who disposed of the writ petition, was not unaware of this position. As has been stated by us, he was under the impression that the management did not call upon the Presiding Officer to lead evidence in support of the charge. On looking into the record we find that this statement is not accurate. Evidence was directed by the management before the Presiding Officer in support of the charge and Thangaraj, who is the respondent, participated in the enquiry and cross-examined the witness deposing for the management. In such circumstances, when evidence was directed in respect of the charge, it was the duty of the Presiding Officer to go into that evidence and see whether the action taken at the domestic enquiry by the management was correct or not. That has not been done in this case. Instead, the Presiding Officer, once he found that no notice went to Thangaraj, straightaway set aside the order of the domestic Tribunal and directed rein, statement with buck wages.
3. In the circumstances, therefore, we allow the appeal and quash the order of the Presiding Officer. The effect of this is, he has to dispose of the reference after hearing both the parties and giving such further opportunity to the parties as may be necessary under the law. No costs.