V. Kameswar Rao, J. (Oral)
1. The challenge in this writ petition is to the award dated July 12, 2012 passed by the Labour Court in LCA No. 28/2010. The short issue which arises for consideration in this writ petition is whether the petitioner is entitled to the enhancement of interest from 6% to 18% on the amount of Rs.2,07,0 86/- from the date of resignation.
2. The case of the petitioner before the Labour Court was that he was employed with the respondent and he resigned from service on November 21, 1986.
3. He filed the claim petitioner under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) with a prayer for computation of his entitlement in terms of the agreement executed between them to the tune of Rs.2,07,086/- which included arrears of salary from March 01, 1985 to November 21, 1986 and bonus along with interest @ 18% and interest pendentelite.
4. The respondent contested the claim petition, by filing a reply, on the ground that the claim is without any cause of action, justification and the same is not maintainable. The respondent also took an objection that the claim is barred by principles of resjudicata.
5. Two issues were framed by the Labour Court, the first one being whether the application is not maintainable in view of preliminary objection taken by the management and the second being whether the applicant is entitled to the amount as claimed in the application along with 18% interest.
6. On the issue No.1, the Labour Court held that the application under Section 33(C)(2) of the Act is maintainable. Insofar as the issue No.2 is concerned, the Labour Court allowed the claim of the petitioner for an amount of Rs.2,07,086/- along with interest @ 6% since the filing of claim till the date of award.
7. Learned counsel for the petitioner states that the petitioner has filed the present petition seeking the benefit of interest from the date of resignation @ 18% instead of 6% granted by the Labour Court from the date of filing of the claim. He would submit that the petitioner was pursuing a remedy before the Civil Court. According to him, the Civil Court has inter-alia held that the petitioner being a workman, the suit is not maintainable. It is thereafter that the petitioner has filed the claim petition before the Labour Court which culminated in the impugned award.
8. On the other hand, learned counsel for the respondent would urge that the claim of the petitioner for enhancement of interest in this petition is not maintainable inasmuch as the proceedings before the Labour Court under Section 33(C)(2) being in the nature of execution proceedings, the Labour Court could not have granted any interest. He would rely upon the judgment of this Court reported as (1984) FJR 16 Union of India vs. Central Government Labour Court, Delhi & Anr., (2003) LIC 1789 Payal Electronics vs. Arun Vasant Pawar & Anr., (2008) 3 SCC 394 State of Punjab & Ors. vs. Harvinder Singh, (2010) 127 FLR 568 Director of Transport vs. General Secretary, State Transport Employees Union.
9. Having considered the rival submissions on behalf of the parties, insofar as the power of the Labour Court in granting interest in a claim filed under Section 33(C)(2) of the Act is concerned, the same is no more res integra. In terms of the judgment of the learned Single Judge of this Court in CGIT case (supra), Bombay High Court in Payal Electronics case (supra) and Calcutta High Court in Director of Transport case (supra), it was held that the said Section does not confer jurisdiction to the Labour Court to grant interest. In fact in a latest judgment the Division Bench of this Court reported as (2013) ILR III Delhi 1724 Bhim Singh Bajeli vs. P.O, Central Government Industrial Tribunal, has held that a plain language of Section 33(C)(2) of the Act does not clothe the Labour Court or the concerned Industrial Tribunal with the jurisdiction to direct any payment in excess of what was directed by the award.
10. Even though the Division Bench held so, in the facts of that case the Division Bench has also held as under:
'7. As previously mentioned, even though the structure of Section 33C(2) does not confer jurisdiction to the Labour Court to grant interest, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the fact remains that the employee had approached this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, complaining that his rights had been defeated by non-implementation of substantive award and subsequent award. At least in these proceedings, it was open for this Court to have directed payment of interest even if it were of the opinion that the Tribunal did not possess the primary jurisdiction to do so. Although the management has relied upon the decision of this Court in Central Government Industrial Tribunal (supra), at the same time, the Court is mindful of certain other decisions of the Bombay High Court in Mrs. Prabhavati Ramgarib B. vs. Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway Manager, 2010 (5) SLR 683 (W.P.(C) 5529/2009) and of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in State of Haryana v. Hisam Singh & Anr., 1999 (2) LLJ 335, where the Court relied on a larger equitable principle, as well as the public interest underlying Section 3 of the Interest Act and drawing analogy from Section 34 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), and upheld the jurisdiction of the authority under Section 33C(2), to award interest, having regard to the circumstances.
8. This Court is of the opinion that without entering into the merits or in any manner going into the correctness of the reasoning of the learned Single Judge in Central Government Industrial Tribunal (supra), which was followed in the impugned judgment; at least in the facts of this case, the High Court, in a proceeding under Section 226 of the Constitution of India, could certainly have invoked the substantive and restitutionary jurisdiction, to direct payment of interest. The learned Single Judge, in the impugned order, in paras 12-13 was conscious that the other Writ Petition No. 78/1998 was also being heard for disposal by the common impugned order. However, in view of the conclusions arrived at by him in respect of the jurisdiction of the Labour Court, the relief was denied in entirety.
9. In view of the above discussion, the Court is of the opinion that the impugned judgment cannot be sustained. The direction to pay interest @ 15% is, however, modified to the extent that the rate of interest shall be 9% with effect from the date of application under Section 33C(2), till the date of the award, i.e. 13.08.1996. We make it clear that this direction has been made by the Court in exercise of its powers under Article 226. The appeal is allowed to the above extent. No order as to costs.'
11. Holding that the Labour Court had no power to grant interest, since the petitioner has approached this Court for seeking relief of enhancement of interest on the amount of Rs.2,07,086/- with effect from the date of resignation i.e. November 21, 1986, this Court in exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India surely be within its right to consider the relief and grant the same in the facts.
12. I note that the petitioner was pursuing his remedy immediately after his resignation. He had approached the Civil Court which had non-suited him on the ground of maintainability of the Civil Suit, being a workman. The petitioner immediately thereafter filed a claim before the Labour Court. It is a case where the petitioner was pursuing a wrong remedy, but surely was vigilant in pursuing his remedy and not sleeping over his rights.
13. Further the respondents had not challenged the award dated July 12, 2012 of the Labour Court. I have been told that even the principal amount of Rs.2,07,086/- has not been paid to the petitioner only on the ground that this writ petition is pending consideration before this Court. I don’t see any justification. Be that as it may, since the petitioner has been denied the benefit of Rs.2,07,086/- from the date of his resignation i.e. November 21, 1986, for a period of almost 28 years, as has been held by the Division Bench of this Court in Bhim Singh Bajeli’s case (supra) coupled with the fact that the petitioner approached has approached this Court by filing the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constituti
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on of India, this Court would be within his right to enhance the interest granted by the Labour Court from 6% to 9% with effect from November 21, 1986 i.e. the date from which the petitioner has resigned. It is ordered accordingly. 14. Insofar as the judgments relied upon on behalf of the respondent are concerned, the position of law that the Section 33(C)(2) of the Act does not clothe the Labour Court with power to grant interest is well settled. I do not dilate much on that aspect any further as these judgments reiterate the said position. 15. In view of my above discussion, I allow the writ petition. The petitioner shall be entitled to interest @ 9% p.a on the amount of Rs.2,07,086/- with effect from November 21, 1986 till the date of realization. The aforesaid payment shall be made within a period of 4 weeks from today. 16. The writ petition is accordingly disposed of without any order as to costs.