1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution praying that the order of the Labour Court, Madurai, holding that there was no retrenchment of the worker involved which would give him any rights under' the Industrial Disputes Act be quashed as erroneous In law.
2. The petitioner was in the employ of the second respondent management,. He claimed by a petition Under Section 33-C that he was entitled to retrenchment compensation. The respondent management denied the claim con tending that there was no retrenchment at all but that the petitioner voluntarily stayed away. According to the evidence let in by the management, the petitioner had been in the employ of the management for over thirty years. He however did not choose to do the work in a particular capacity as accountant when duties of that nature was assigned to him. That is said to be the reason why he voluntarily stayed away. The question which the Labour Court had to consider was whether the petitioner was retrenched from service. Evidence was taken on both sides and the lower Court was not satisfied that there was any retrenchment at all. It is the complaint of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the approach of the Labour Court to the question that was before it was wholly erroneous. 'According to the learned counsel what the Labour Court should have first of all determined was whether the petitioner represented surplus labour and whether the action of the management showed that there was an attempt to discharge this surplus labour. It has been urged that the onus is upon the management and that onus has not been properly discharged.
A decision in Madurai Mills Co. v. Meenakshi Ammal, 1963 I LLJ 1 (Mad), has been referred to as laying down that the onus always rests on the management. What happened in that case was that the management did not deny that the petitioner was discharged from service. The case was set up that the employee therein had become physically unfit for further work. For the employee it was urged that there was a retrenchment and that such compensation as retrenchment, called for should have been granted to her. Jagadisan, J. observed that the expression 'retrenchment' should be understood and interpreted' in its ordinary sense of discharge of employees because of surplus in the staff of the employer. He also noticed that the fact whether the employee was one of the surplus staff of the petitioner is peculiarly within the know. ledge of the petitioner. According to the learned Judge, the employer should in that case have pleaded that the employee was not surplus staff and that in discharging the employee from service, no retrenchment was effected. Apparently there was no such plea. The learned Judge understood the position to be that the employer Madurai Mills Company had really conceded that the respondent would be entitled to the retrenchment compensation. It seems to me that the facts of that decision are wholly different from those herein. There, there was virtually a concession of the eligibility to retrenchment compensation, while here the question did not arise in that manner.
3. The issue that was framed by the Labour Court was whether the petitioner was retrenched from service. It must be remembered that this is a claim which was put forward by the employee and normally it is for the person putting forward the claim to establish the facts and circumstances supporting the claim. The employer let in evidence to rebut the claim and that evidence was to the effect that because the employee was displeased with the altered nature of work entrusted to him, he chose to stay away.
4. Mr. Ramaswami for the petitioner argues that if that was so, the employer should have issued a notice of some description to the employee. am unable to see how for want of any such notice issued by the employer to the employee, who voluntarily stayed away from work, it ought to be assumed without anything more that it was not a case where there was a voluntary stoppage of work. The matter is one which turns upon the evidence and on appreciation of evidence. I am satisfied' that on the evidence before it the Labour court was entitled to reach the conclusion it did and if it was satisfied that the evidence on behalf of the employer was worthy of credit, this court cannot substitute its opinion in the matter.
5. It has been argued that during the four or five months preceding the alleged discharge of the employee, the employer had in fact been dispensing with the service of one employee per month and this is indicated as. showing that the employer was gradually retrenching his staff. Apparently this circumstance was placed before the Labour Court. But the Labour Court declined to draw the inference principally for the reason that in subsequent months the employer had been engaging additional staff. Even on this point, I am unable to see how the conclusion of the Tribunal below is tainted by any error of law.
6. The petition fails and it is dismissed.