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Management of Karnataka Agro Industries Corporation Ltd. & Another v/s Vijaykumar & Others

    W.A. No. 100617 of 2017(L-TER)
    Decided On, 31 October 2018
    At, High Court of Karnataka Circuit Bench At Dharwad
    For the Appearing Parties: M.B. Kanavi, Advocate, for the Appellants; Anant P. Savadi, Advocate

Judgment Text
B.V. Nagarathna, J.

There is a delay of 62 days in filing the writ appeal. We have, however, heard respective learned counsel for the appellants as well as the respondents on merits so as to ascertain as to whether the appeal would call for any interference.

2. The legality and correctness of order dated 01.06.2017 passed in Writ Petition No. 68570/2010 has been assailed by the Management of Karnataka Agro Industries Corporation Limited in this appeal.

3. Briefly stated, the facts are that Vijayakumar Shankar Rao Basutkar (since deceased) was discharging his duties as a Messenger (Class-4 employee) in the appellant-Corporation. Contending that Vijayakumar Basutkar had committed certain acts of misconduct, he was dismissed from service by order dated 27.07.1996.

Being aggrieved by his dismissal, Vijayakumar Basutkar assailed the same by filing a claim statement under Section 10(4-A) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act', for the sake of brevity). He sought for setting aside of the order of dismissal and for reinstatement with full backwages. The Labour Court, by its award dated 21.07.2003, partly allowed the claim statement by setting aside the order of dismissal and directing reinstatement with continuity of service and all consequential benefits, but without any entitlement as to backwages.

Being aggrieved by the said award, appellant-Corporation as well as deceased employee preferred W.P. No. 44307/2004 and W.P. No. 31271/2004 before this Court. By order 03.10.2017, learned single Judge of this Court dismissed the petition filed by the claimant Vijayakumar Basutkar (since deceased) and partly allowed the writ petition filed by the Management and remanded the matter to the Labour Court for fresh adjudication.

The Labour Court at Bijapur reconsidered the matter and passed a fresh award on 05.01.2010 dismissing the claim petition filed by the employee. Being aggrieved by the said award, he preferred W.P. No. 68570/2010 before this Court. The learned single Judge, by order dated 01.06.2017, has allowed the write petition by setting aside the order of the Labour Court dated 05.01.2010 passed in KID No. 78/1996 and directed the appellant/ Corporation to pay a sum of Rs. 7.5 Lakhs (Rupees Seven Lakhs and Fifty Thousand Only) to the legal representatives of the deceased workman by three separate cheques in a sum of Rs. 1.25 Lakhs each in favour of two sons and Rs. 5 Lakhs in favour of the widow of the deceased employee, within a period of three months from that day, failing which, the compensation shall bear simple interest at 9% p.a. from 01.09.2017 till the date of actual payment and the responsible persons and officers would also be responsible to face contempt action. Being aggrieved by the order of the learned single, the appellant-Corporation has preferred this appeal.

4. We have heard learned counsel for the appellants and learned counsel for the respondents, and perused the material on record.

5. Appellants' counsel drew our attention to Ex.M-17 and Ex.M-18, copies of which have been made available to the Court, to contend that the said letters have been written and signed by the deceased employee admitting misappropriation of Rs. 51,085.75/-; he has also further stated that the said amount could be deducted from the monthly salary; that it is on the basis of the said documents that the Labour Court dismissed the claim petition filed by the deceased employee and the said order did not require any interference by the learned single Judge, however, the learned single Judge has set aside the dismissal of the claim petition and allowed the writ petition and awarded compensation of Rs. 7.5 Lakhs to be paid to the respondents herein. Learned counsel submitted that when the deceased employee in his own handwriting and with his own signature had admitted his guilt of misappropriation and when the said documents were proved by the management / Corporation (appellants herein), there was nothing further to be established by the Corporation; that the Labour Court rightly placed reliance on the said exhibits and dismissed the claim petition filed by the deceased employee; that the learned single Judge ought not to have interfered with the award passed by the Labour Court. Learned counsel for the appellants, contended that the impugned order calls for interference in this appeal.

6. Per contra, learned counsel appearing for the respondents contended that the order passed by the learned single Judge would not call for any interference as reasons have been assigned as to why Ex.M-17 and Ex.M-18 could not be relied upon and therefore, the learned single Judge, by the impugned order, has rightly set aside the award passed by the Labour Court. He submits that there is no merit in this appeal and hence, the appeal may be dismissed.

7. Having heard learned counsel for the respective parties and on a close perusal of the material on record, the impugned order as well as Ex.M-17 and Ex.M-18, which are in Kannada language, we find that the said documents viz., Ex.M-17 and Ex.M-18 have been signed by the deceased employee. No doubt, on a reading of the said documents, it gives an impression that the deceased employee had admitted misappropriation and his guilt, and had permitted the appellants-Corporation to deduct the misappropriated amount of Rs. 51,085.75/- from his salary. Be that as it may. We also notice that Ex.M-17 is not a simple communication admitting the guilt made by the deceased employee; it also bears the signature of G.B. Teggi, Manager, A.D. Gorpade, Deputy Manager and K.N. Kulkami, Manager. We do not understand as to why if the employee had admitted his guilt by virtue of his letter - Ex.M-17, the said letter should also bear the signatures of the aforesaid : three Managers. This clearly indicates that the confession of the employee is not a confession in the true sense; it is only an extracted confession at the behest of the aforesaid three Managers who have counter-signed the said confession. Further in paragraph 11 of the impugned order learned single Judge has stated that Exs.M-17 and M-18 were recorded even prior to the service of the charge sheet and his confession was procured under undue influence of the three Senior Managers who have countersigned the confession of the workman. The learned single Judge further notes that the employee was a Class-IV employee; a lowly paid and not fully qualified employee; he was only 8th standard pass and had simply surrendered to the dictates of the senior officers who procured the confession statement. In the circumstances, the learned single Judge has not placed any reliance on Ex.M-17 as well as Ex.M-18, particularly, in the absence of any corroborative evidence placed by the Corporation or for that matter any independent evidence to establish the guilt of the workman.

8. Having regard to the fact that the appellant-Corporation is not fully functional and is virtually closed, instead of remanding t

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he matter to the Labour Court for fresh consideration, the learned single Judge, in his discretion, has directed the Corporation to pay the compensation of Rs. 7.5 Lakhs in favour of the legal representatives of the deceased employee. We do not find any infirmity in the reasoning of the learned single Judge or in the direction issued by him so as to compensate the legal representatives of the deceased employee. As the learned single Judge has rightly quashed the order of the Labour Court and in a sense has allowed the claim petition filed by the deceased employee, we do not find any merit in this appeal. Hence, the writ appeal is dismissed. 9. In view of dismissal of the appeal, I.A. No. 1/2017 and 2/2017 would not survive for consideration and they also stand dismissed.