1. The matter in dispute in this writ petition lies in a narrow compass. One Janardhanam Naidu was a driver under the petitioner-motor transport company. His service was terminated, after a domestic enquiry by the management. The charge against him stated that he was asked to take a parcel containing a certain document from the Tirupattur branch office of the company, to be delivered to the partner of the company at Vellore on 25 May 1963; but the driver failed to do so, and when questioned about the fact at Vellore, he replied that by oversight he had left the parcel at his house on the way, and that he would go back and bring the parcel. At that stage the partner at Vellore directed the driver to go himself and bring the document. But what the driver did was this; he sent the document through another employee of the company by a bus which arrived at Vellore on the day afterwards. The memorandum of charges proceeded to state that this conduct of the driver would show that he was careless and negligent in the matter. After holding an enquiry, the management found that be had disobeyed their order and was negligent in carrying out his duty as well as their instructions and terminated his service.
2. The labour union took up the case of the driver as an industrial dispute and it was referred by the Government to the labour court, Madras, for adjudication. In its award passed in Industrial Dispute No. 50 of 1963, the labour court came to the conclusion that the order of dismissal of the worker was a punishment out of all proportion to the mistake or fault committed by him, and seeing that the worker was an active office-bearer of the union, the labour court held that it would be an irresistible inference that the management acted In a spirit of victimization In terminating his services. The labour court directed the management to reinstate the worker with back-wages. The present writ petition is filed by the management, under Article 226 of the Constitution, to quash the award of the labour court by a writ of certiorari.
3. Learned Counsel for the management-petitioner urges that it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the management at the domestic enquiry, to come to a conclusion both about the guilt of the worker as well as the quantum of the punishment to be awarded. It was also urged by him that an inference of mala fides or victimization should not be arrived at on the basis of mere speculation, but should be on the basis of adequate evidence for supporting such inference, and that such evidence was lacking In this case. He cited the decisions of the Supreme Court in Burn & Co., Ltd, v. their workers 1959 I L.L.J. 450; Ananda Bazaar Patrika v. their employees : (1963)IILLJ429SC ; Bengal Bhatdee Coal Co. Ltd. v. Ram Probesh Singh : (1963)ILLJ291SC . The first two decisions do not directly deal with the point now in issue. In the third decision, there was an order of the management, dismissing certain workers for obstructing other workers at the time of strike; the Supreme Court found that this act of theirs amounted to serious misconduct and observed that there was no question, in such a case, of considering the punishment to be out of all proportion to the fault or misconduct proved. But, In the present case, the worker from the very beginning, had admitted his fault in not bringing the document from Tirupattur to Vellore and attributed It to forgetfulness on his part, and when directed to bring back the document in person, be appears to have considered it sufficient to send the document through another employee travelling by one of the buses of the management, instead of bringing it back himself. Apparently, he did not attach much Importance to the direction that his own band should bring it, because the purpose would be equally served by sending It through another employee. Therefore, the observation that he had wantonly disobeyed the orders of the superiors has no basis at all on the evidence. On the other hand, there was a data which showed that he had a continuous service of seventeen years as a driver without any adverse remarks and that he was receiving wages of Rs. 97 per month at the time when the above punishment was inflicted. Therefore, for a relatively trivial fault of one day's delay in transmitting a parcel containing a paper from a branch office of the company to the head quarters, a fault which he admitted from the very beginning and pleaded forgetfulness In extenuation, the punishment of removal from service is so grossly out of proportion, that the labour court was justified in Its view that the management had really used the occasion of the commission of a trifling fault, for getting rid of his services in view of his position as an active officebearer of the workers' union.
4. Learned Counsel for the respondent referred in this connexion to the decision of the Supreme Court in Hind Construction and Engineering Co. Ltd. v. their workmen : (1965)ILLJ462SC , where the Supreme Court observed that where the punishment is shockingly disproportionate, regard being had to the particular conduct, and the past record, or is such as no reasonable employer would ever Impose in like circumstances, the tribunal may treat the imposition of such punishment as Itself showing victimization or unfair labour practice. This is the principle which the labour court applied in this case, and in my opinion, the circumstances of this case warrant the application of that principle.
5. The writ petition is, therefore, dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.