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Glaxo Smithkline Con. Health Care Ltd. v/s Jagjit Singh & Others

    C.A. No. 5812 of 2009
    Decided On, 26 February 2020
    At, Supreme Court of India
    For the Appellant: J.P. Cama, Meera Mathur, Advocates. For the Respondents: P.N. Puri, Reeta Dewan Puri, Advocates.

Judgment Text
1. The Respondents herein were temporary Workmen engaged with the Appellant-Company. Though temporary, they had intermittently worked for the Appellant for about eight years. They were paid Rs. 198 per day as Wages whenever they worked.

2. On 13.6.2005, the Management of the Appellant-Company displayed a notice for gratis payment to the temporary workers for services rendered by them from time to time. The Respondents herein submitted their individual applications opting for voluntary separation and requesting for the payment of gratis amount. Accepting such prayer of the Respondents for Settlement, the Appellant-Company settled their claims and paid the dues in full and final by entering into individual Settlements with each Workman the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Notably, the Punjabi version of these Settlement Deeds had been typed on the backside of the English version and was signed by the individual Workmen in the presence of witnesses. The amounts agreed upon under the Settlement were paid to the Respondent-Workmen by Cheque and the proceeds thereof were credited in their account and utilised. Till this day, the amount paid to the Respondents is lying with them and has not been returned by them. Notably, even the Provident Fund dues of the Respondents have been settled in full and final.

3. When the facts stood thus, on 26.8.2005, the Respondent-Workmen made a demand before the Appellant-Company under Section 2-A of the Industrial Disputes Act alleging that their services had been illegally terminated, as the Workmen junior to them were still working. In the said demand, the Respondents did not make any allegation of fraud or forgery of the Settlement. In its reply to such demand, the Appellant-Company apprised the Assistant Labour Commissioner of the fact that the Workmen had already entered into individual Settlements with the Appellant. Later, the Respondents withdrew these Demand Notices, dated 26.8.2005 on ground of some technical error.

4. This was followed by a fresh Demand Notice, dated 8.6.2006 made under Section 2-A of the Industrial Disputes Act wherein the Respondents alleged that the Settlements in question had been forged and fabricated by the Appellant-Company. The main contention of the Respondents in the said demand was that the Settlement had never taken place and their signatures had been obtained fraudulently. When the said demands were made, the Respondent-Workmen initiated Conciliation proceedings and made a representation to the Labour Commissioner, Chandigarh admitting that the amount of ex gratia Compensation mentioned in the individual Settlements had been paid to them.

5. The State Government, after considering the Conciliation Report and the documents on record declined to make a reference under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 vide Order, dated 22.12.2006. Given that the Respondent-Workmen had opted for Voluntary Retirement by entering into individual Settlements and settled their dues in full and final including withdrawal of Provident Fund accumulations, it was observed that the relationship between the parties as Employer-Employee had come to an end. In view of the same, the case was not considered fit for reference.

6. As against this Order, dated 22.12.2006, the Respondents filed a Writ Petition before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh. The Division Bench, vide the impugned Judgment, set aside the Order, dated 22.12.2006 passed by the State Government and directed the Government to consider making a reference to the Labour Court in the light of the observations made.

7. Mr. J.P. Cama, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the Appellant, took us through the material on record and submitted that the High Court was not justified in directing the appropriate Government to consider the reference signatures on their applications requesting the Appellant-Company to terminate their services in view of the Settlement, their signatures on the receipts of payment made to them in pursuance of such Settlement, and their signatures on the individual Settlement Deeds made in the presence of witnesses.

Per contra, Mr. P.N. Puri, learned Counsel appearing for the Respondent-Workmen, argued in support of the Judgment of the High Court.

Upon perusing the material on record, we are of the opinion that the conduct of the Respondent-Workmen disentitles them from getting any relief from this Court.

8. As mentioned supra, the Appellant-Company published a notice to all the Workmen on 13.6.2005 to make ex gratis payment to them. Such matter of payment to the temporary Workmen, who settled with the Company was discussed with the representatives of the Workmen in greater detail with the guidance of the local MLA, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nabha, pursuant to which the Management agreed to further improve on its earlier offer and be open to certain terms. Consequently, the Management of the Appellant-Company offered gratis payment to the temporary Workmen who would enter into Settlement with the Appellant. The Respondent-Workmen voluntarily made individual applications making it clear benefit of the gratis Compensation. Such applications were duly signed by them. Thereafter, Memorandum of Settlement was drawn between the parties and consequently, the lump-sum amount was paid to the Respondent-Workmen as gratis amount by calculating the same up to the date of Settlement (including earned Wages payment in lieu of earned leave benefits, gratis payment and so on). It was specifically agreed in the said Settlement that the Respondents irrevocably undertook and acknowledged that they would not raise any dispute or controversy, re-open, or re-agitate any matter at any point of time in future. Accordingly, the Respondents were individually paid the amount agreed to under the Settlement by the Appellant. Receipts for such payment were also signed by the Respondents individually. Thereafter, applications were filed by the Respondent-Workmen for settling Provident Fund, which were also signed by them individually. Provident Fund Settlement was then made accordingly.

9. When the situation stood thus, the Respondents strangely started making fresh demands from the Appellant. As mentioned supra, there were no allegations of forgery of the Settlement in the first demand. However, the first demand was withdrawn with liberty to file a second demand. Though such liberty was not granted by the concerned Labour Commissioner, a second demand was made by the Respondents in detail, virtually premising their entire claim on a new allegation that the Settlement was forged and their signatures thereon were also forged. In our considered opinion, even if such a contention were to

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be accepted, the case of the Respondents cannot be accepted inasmuch as undisputedly they had voluntarily filed application to settle the matter with the Management, and then accepted the amount of full and final Settlement paid by the Appellant. 10. In this view of the matter, the State Government was justified in concluding that the relationship between the parties as Employer-Employee had come to an end and no Industrial Dispute exists between them. In our considered opinion, the High Court has erred in setting aside the Order of the State Government without considering the aforementioned facts appropriately. Hence, the impugned Judgment is set aside. 11. The Appeal stands allowed. There shall be no order as to Costs.