(1) This writ petition is to quash the award of the Labour Court, Coimbatore, holding that the order of the management, which is the petitioner in this Court, dismissing the first respondent from service was vitiated by want of good faith on its part and could not, therefore, be upheld. The labour court also directed reinstatement of the respondent with back wages.
(2) The petitioner is a knitting company. It appears that in the place of the 'Adi Pandigai day', 'May day' was, at the request of the workmen, declared a holiday. Trouble, however, seems to have started when the Adi Pandigai neared, as the workmen apparently wanted that day also to be declared as a holiday in that connection the management framed two charges against the first respondent (1) that he prevented the other workers from going to work on Adi. Pandigai day, representing to them that it was a holiday and so they need not attend the factory, and (2) That in the petition sent by the workers on or about Adi Pandigai day, he compelled certain illiterate workers to sign the same and that he also compelled the workers to become members of the Union. These charge3 were framed and served upon the first respondent on September 15, 1958. On a certain incident, which is said to have occurred on the next day, an addition. charge was framed to the effect that the first respondent. on September 16, 1958, caused loss to the management by cutting banian cloth rolls into sleeves and cuffs on the ground that there were holes in the cloth and that when the manager examined the cloth rolls, he was not able to show any holes to him. On an enquiry held on these charges, a few witnesses were examined both on the side of the management as well as the first respondent. The management eventually found that the charges were proved. The first respondent was accordingly dismissed from service by order of the management dated October 11, 1958.
(3) Because of the cause of first respondent having been espoused by the other workmen, an Industrial dispute was raised which was referred by the Government to the labour Court, Coimbatore, for adjudication. The reference was on the following questions.
1. Whether the dismissal of Muthuswami (first respondent) is justified and to what relief he is entitled?
2. To compute the relief, if any awarded, in terms of money value, (sic) it can be so computed?
The Labour Court found that the findings on the first two charges were not supported by any evidence and that, in regard to the third charge, although there was evidence of the manager to support the finding of the management, inasmuch as it was not corroborated by the evidence of any other witnesses, and since it appeared to the Labour Court that the evidence of a certain worker before the management was acceptable, the finding arrived at by the management on that charge could not be said to be proper. The labour court also came to the conc1usion that the order of dismissal suffered from want of good faith on the part of the management; and, in support' of this finding, the labour court relied upon what it called the sequence of events from the time there was agitation by the workers under the leadership of the first respondent for declaring Adi Pandigai day as a holiday, the framing of consecutive charges against the first respondent at short Interval, soon after withdrawing the notice of retrenchment, and the untenable nature of the charges which were not really acts of misconduct.
(4) In this Court the award is attacked on the ground that the Labour Court acted beyond Its jurisdiction; and dealt with the order of the management as If it were sitting in appeal over it. It seems to me that this contention has considerable force at least in, respect of the Labour Court's award as regards the finding of management on the third charge. In paragraphs 11 and 12 of the award, the Labour Court came to the conclusion that the finding of the management on the first charge was based on hearsay evidence and the finding on the second charge was based, an no evidence, so that those findings had no basis whatever.
Before dealing with the issues raised before it, on the reference, the Labour Court summarised the nature and scope of its jurisdiction in a matter like this. The Labour Court said:
'It is well established new that this Court cannot interfere, unless (1) there is want of good faith on the part of the management, (2) there is victimisation or unfair labour practice; (3) there is violation of principles of natural justice in regard to the enquiry; and (4) the findings are baseless or perverse on the materials placed before them.'
This statement of the law as to the scope of jurisdiction of 'the Labour Court is certainly correct. But the contention on behalf of the petitioner is that in applying these principles, the Labour Court exceeded the limits within which it could act in a matter of this kind. I,, dealing with the finding of the management oil the third charge, the Labour Court stated thus:
'As regards the alleged damage caused to the management since the cloth rolls were not thrown away but were utilised for cutting sleeves ' cuffs, which are also necessary for the stitching of banians, there cannot be said to he any damage to the management. The management's case, however, is that the worker concerned, after representing that there were holes in the cloth roll, cut only sleeves ;and cuffs without cutting bodies, from the same. The manager would say that on the worker's complaint about the holes in the cloth rolls when he asked him to point out the same to him, in spite of his staying with him for half an hour on 16th September, 1958, he was not able to show any holes in the clothes given to him. His evidence is not corroborated by the evidence of any other witness. On the other hand, there is evidence on the workers, side to show that there were some holes in the cloth tolls from which he cut sleeves and cuffs on 16th September, 1958. Taking the entire evidence before the enquiry officer, it cannot be stated that the management, proved damage by the worker by lit, cutting only sleeves and cuffs, from the cloth rolls giver. to him. The finding, therefore, in that respect, cannot be said to be proper.'
The above observations have only to be read for any One to be convinced that the Labour Court was in fact sitting In judgment over the finding of the management on the third charge as a court of appeal which it had no jurisdiction to do. The management accepted the evidence of the manager in preference to that of the worker. But the Labour Court considered that unless the evidence of the manager was corroborated by other witnesses, it did not deserve acceptance. The Labour Court went even further and thought that in preference to the evidence of the manager it would accept the evidence on the side of the workers to show that the averment of the management that there were no holes in the cloth rolls from which the first respondent cut sleeves and cuffs on September 16, 1958, was untenable. This manner of approach is clearly a misdirection on the part of the Labour Court in the application If the limits of its jurisdiction.
(5) In dealing with an order such as ill this case of a domestic tribunal, the power of the Labour Court is confined only to see whether in making the order the management acted mala fide or there was victimisation or unfair labour practice or violation of the principles of natural justice or the finding of the domestic tribunal is without a basis in the sense that it is entirely not supported by any evidence whatever as distinguished from sufficiency or adequacy of the evidence. Appreciation of evidence or the question of adequacy or sufficiency of the evidence is a matter pertaining to the appellate power. I have not the slightest hesitation in holding that the manner in which the Labour Court arrived at its conclusion in respect of the finding of the management on the third charge is in excess of its powers, and the conclusion is therefore, vitiated.
(6) It is, however, contended for the first respondent that, notwithstanding the fact that the conclusion of the Labour Court, In respect of the finding on the third. charge could no' be supported, the finding of the Labour Court that the management acted mala fide is based on the cumulative effect, of the sequence of events from the Adi Pandigai day, the fact of the first respondent being a leader of the workers, the framing of the consecutive charges at short interval and the untenable mature of the charges, and that as such it was unassailable.
I am unable to agree with this approach. Paragraphs 10 and 15 of the award clearly show that the finding of want of good faith on the part of the management was based upon the Labour Court's conclusion in respect of the finding of the management on the third charge as well. If the finding on the third charge by the management is upheld, it is not possible to predicate what conclusion the Labour Court would have arrived at on the question of want of good faith on, the part of the management. it is possible that even if charges 1 and 2 against the first respondent were inspired by want of good faith on the part of the management, it did, not necessarily follow that the same attitude of the management went into the third charge as well and the finding thereon.
(7) In the-above circumstances I consider that the award is vitiated.
(8) The petition is allowed and the award Is hereby quashed. The Labour Court will dispose of the reference afresh. No costs.
(9) Petition allowed.