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The Management of Sri Sivasakthi Bus Service Vs. P. Gopal and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject Labour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 1752 of 1969
Judge
Reported inAIR1971Mad434; (1971)2MLJ83
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act - Sections 33-A
AppellantThe Management of Sri Sivasakthi Bus Service
RespondentP. Gopal and anr.
Cases ReferredPhulbari Tea Estate v. Its Workmen
Excerpt:
.....and filed a few documents as well. 3. regarding the second objection of the labour court that the inquiry officer did not have the capacity or competence to hold the inquiry, it is now well settled that the management can appoint an independent person, not necessarily the one who is inside the management's activities, and, as a matter of fact the appointment of a stranger to inquire into such disputes is encouraged to a great extent. if the decision is arrived at on no evidence or evidence which is thoroughly unreliable and unacceptable and if a reasonable and well instructed person would not act upon such evidence on record, however compendious it may be, if it is acceptable and if it could be relied upon, then a conclusion arrived at in such a situation cannot be termed as a perverse..........management, however, examined four witnesses on its side and filed a few documents as well. the inquiry officer, after giving full opportunity to both sides, permitted them to file what he characterised as written arguments, and ultimately found the first respondent guilty of the three charges referred to above. the management accepted the report of the inquiry officer and dismissed the first respondent from service on 20-10-1967. thereupon, the first respondent directly filed an application before the labour court under section 33-a of the industrial disputes act questioning the report of the inquiry officer and sought for setting aside the dismissal order of the management. the labour court went into the matter, found that alangaram chettiar was not competent to issue the charge.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. The petitioner is the Management of Sri Siva Sakthi Bus Service. south Arcot Dt. The first respondent was a conductor in the service of the petitioner. One Sivalingam Chettiar was proprietor of the service. When he was alive, Alangarm Chettiar was the power of attorney agent conducting the affairs of the service. After the death of Sivalingam Chettiar, Alangaram Chettiar continued to act for the petitioner, and, as it will be shown presently, his acts were ratified by the legal representatives of the late Sivalingam Chettiar. There was a dispute between the petitioner and its workers which resulted in an industrial dispute; but the same was ultimately settled. During the pendency of the dispute, certain charges were framed against the first respondent and the charge memo was issued by Alangaram Chettiar. Interalia it is necessary to notice only the following three charges:

'1. On 28-8-1967 the first respondent who was doing duty in M.D.F. 3385 collected fares from 5 passengers but did not issue tickets.

2. He did not pay the 0.40 np to the relieving conductor Sri Sivaswami.

3. He made corrections in the duplicate of the tickets prepared by Sri S. P. Mani, the Checking Inspector.'

The petitioner, therefore, after issuing the charge memo dated 30-8-1967, constituted a domestic enquiry by appointing one Ragothama Rao, and office bearer of the Employers' Association. to conduct the inquiry. The first respondent participated in the inquiry and he was represented by the Union Secretary. He did not want to let in evidence. The Management, however, examined four witnesses on its side and filed a few documents as well. The Inquiry Officer, after giving full opportunity to both sides, permitted them to file what he characterised as written arguments, and ultimately found the first respondent guilty of the three charges referred to above. The Management accepted the report of the Inquiry Officer and dismissed the first respondent from service on 20-10-1967. Thereupon, the first respondent directly filed an application before the Labour Court under Section 33-A of the Industrial Disputes Act questioning the report of the Inquiry Officer and sought for setting aside the dismissal order of the Management. The Labour Court went into the matter, found that Alangaram Chettiar was not competent to issue the charge memo, that the Inquiry Officer was not competent to hold the inquiry and that the finding of the Inquiry Officer was perverse. It, therefore, set aside the order of the Inquiry Officer and ordered reinstatement of the worker. It is as against this award of the Labour Court that this present writ petition has been filed.

2. I heard both parties and perused the necessary records. The first objection of the Labour Court that Alangaram Chettiar was not competent to issue the charge memo, is not supported by documentary evidence. It is no doubt true that, at the time when the charge memo was issued, no written authority enabling Alangaram Chettiar to act on behalf of the petitioner was produced. But it is admitted that, when the dismissal order was issued by the Management, the proprietors of the petitioner's firm ratified the action of Alangaram Chettiar which obviously meant that they ratified the process beginning from the issue of the charge memo upto the acceptance of the report made by the Inquiry Officer. Even otherwise, it is common practice that if an agent functioning under a written authority of the principal holds himself out as such agent after the death of the principal and if persons competent to ratify his action after the death of the principal ratify the same in a manner known to law, then the agent should be deemed to have acted within the limits of authority and that he validly holds himself out as agent of the subsequent proprietors.

3. Regarding the second objection of the Labour Court that the Inquiry Officer did not have the capacity or competence to hold the inquiry, it is now well settled that the Management can appoint an independent person, not necessarily the one who is inside the Management's activities, and, as a matter of fact the appointment of a stranger to inquire into such disputes is encouraged to a great extent. I do not find that the appointment of Ragothama Rao who is an office-bearer of the Employers' Association, was in any way vitiated or against law.

4. The last and fundamental objection of the Labour Court is that the order of the Inquiry Officer is perverse and therefore it has to be set aside. The Labour Court gave certain instances to come to the conclusion that the Inquiry Officer's findings are perverse. On a closer scrutiny of the instances so given by the Labour Court, one gains the impression that what the Labour Court did was to re-assess the evidence on record, come to its own conclusion and to substitute the decision of the Inquiry Officer to that of its own. For example, the first charge against the first respondent was that he collected fares from five passengers without issuing tickets. One of these passengers was examined. But the Labour Court thought that the weight of the evidence would not be sufficient for it to agree with the Inquiry Officer. A broad dichotomy is always maintained between a decision which is perverse and the one which is not perverse. If the decision is arrived at on no evidence or evidence which is thoroughly unreliable and unacceptable and if a reasonable and well instructed person would not act upon such evidence on record, however compendious it may be, if it is acceptable and if it could be relied upon, then a conclusion arrived at in such a situation cannot be termed as a perverse order. Labour courts exercising jurisdiction under Section 33-A of the Industrial Disputes Act cannot assume the role of an appellate Court, pick holes in the evidence on record and substitute its judgment to that of the domestic inquiry officer. If otherwise the conclusion of the Inquiry Officer is reasonable, then the Labour Court ought not normally interfere with such a decision on a mere abstruse and abstract basis. This is what happened in this case. The Labour Court did not give convincing reasons to characterise the findings of the Inquiry Officer as perverse. In Tata Oil Mills Co. Ltd. v. Workmen, : (1964)IILLJ113SC the Supreme Court, following their earlier views, reiterated the principle that a domestic tribunal's findings cannot merely be brushed aside unless they are shown to be based on no evidence. the Supreme Court cited with approval the ratio in Phulbari Tea Estate v. Its Workmen, : (1959)IILLJ663SC and observed:

'The decision in the case of Phulbari Tea Estate, : (1959)IILLJ663SC proceeds on the basis which is of basic importance in industrial adjudication that findings properly recorded in domestic inquires which are conducted fairly, cannot be re-examined by industrial adjudication unless the said findings are either perverse, or are not supported by any evidence, or some other valid reason of that character'.

I have no doubt whatsoever that, in this case, the inquiry was conducted fairly and there is no violation of principles of natural justice. The domestic inquiry officer gave his findings after appreciating the evidence on record. In these circumstances. I am unable to sustain the order of the Labour Court which set aside the order of the Inquiry Officer on the main ground that it is perverse. The learned counsel for the first respondent wanted to sustain the impugned order on the same grounds mentioned by the Labour Court. I have already given my reasons as to why the decision of the Labour Court cannot be upheld. The rule nisi is made absolute. The writ petition is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.

5. Petition allowed.


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