At, High Court of Punjab and Haryana
By, THE HONORABLE JUSTICE: N.K. SODHI
For Petitioner: R.S. Bains, Advocate And For Respondents: P.S. Patwalia, Advocate
1. Services of Rajesh Kumar Dutta deceased (now represented by his legal representatives and hereinafter referred to as the workman) were terminated by his employer which gave rise to an industrial dispute and the same was referred for adjudication to the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Amritsar. The case of the workman was that he was appointed as Cinema Projector Operator on a monthly salary of Rs. 488/- per month and worked for seven years. He further alleged that his services were terminated by the management on May 22, 1980 without any notice and he, therefore, claimed reinstatement with continuity of service and full back wages. The management contested the claim of the workman and its case was that the workman had been transferred to the accounts section to maintain the accounts of booths, agencies and institutions during the period August, 1977 to November, 1977. It was alleged that one Than Singh Sapra was getting milk from the plant on credit though the practice of the management was not to supply milk to any party unless the amount was deposited in advance. It is stated that the workman did not bring this fact to the notice of the authorities and the milk was continuously supplied as a result of which the management suffered a loss of Rs. 5,641/-. It was also alleged that the workman in fact connived with that party in causing loss to the Corporation. Since the workman was guilty of misconduct he was served with a charge-sheet and a regular departmental enquiry was held against him in which he was found guilty of the charge levelled. It was thereafter that the services of the workman were terminated.
2. Before the Labour Court the workman challenged the validity not only of the order of termination but also of the enquiry proceedings that were conducted against him. After recording evidence of the parties, the Labour Court found that it was the duty of the workman to maintain the accounts correctly and to show the name of Mr. Sapra in the statement of sundry debtors but his amount was not shown in the relevant statement. The Labour Court further found that the workman has connived with Mr. Than Singh Sapra. The contention of the workman that departmental enquiry conducted against him was contrary to the principles of natural justice was also negatived by the Labour Court and it was held that the workman was afforded ample opportunity to lead his evidence in defence and also to cross-examine the witnesses that were produced by the management. It was, therefore, held that a legal and valid enquiry was held against the workman.
3. The Labour Court then examined the validity of the termination order and its justification and arrived at a conclusion that it was a case of negligence on the part of the workman and the extreme penalty of removal from service was harsh and disproportionate to the misconduct alleged against him. The Labour Court, therefore, ordered the reinstatement of the workman with continuity of service but deprived him of his back wages by way of punishment. It was further ordered that the amount of Rs. 4,641/- which was the loss suffered by the Corporation after deducting Rs. 1,000/- deposited by the workman be also recovered from him. It is this award of the Labour Court that has been impugned in the present petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution.
4. I have heard Mr. Patwalia, Advocate on behalf of the respondents and having perused the impugned award, I find no ground to interfere with the same. The Labour. Court has after properly appreciating the evidence of the parties recorded a finding that the enquiry conducted against the workman was fair and proper in which he had sufficient opportunity to defend himself. The Labour Court then exercised its power under Section 11-A of the Act and held that the punishment was excessive and that the extreme penalty of removal from service was not warranted. The workman was
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accordingly reinstated but without back wages. The Labour Court had the jurisdiction to interfere with the quantum of punishment and the back wages too could be withheld as a measure of punishment. In the circumstances, the order is just and fair warranting no interference by this Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution. In the result, the writ petition is dismissed with no order as to costs.