(Prayer: Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuance of a Writ of Certiorari, to call for the records of the order passed by the 1st respondent in Approval Petition in A.P.No.515 of 2012 dated 26.05.2014 and to quash the same.)
The writ petition has been instituted, questioning the award passed by the first respondent in Approval Petition in A.P.No.515 of 2012 dated 26.05.2014.
2. The petitioner is the Management of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai Limited). The petitioner states that the 2nd respondent/Thiru.B.Balachandar was working as a Conductor at Saidapet Depot in Petitioner's Corporation. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the second respondent/workman and an enquiry was conducted. Based on the enquiry report, the competent disciplinary authority imposed the penalty of dismissal from service. The petitioner Management filed an Approval Petition before the first respondent seeking an Approval under Section 33(2)(B) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as 'ID Act'). The said application was rejected by the 1st respondent on the ground that the petitioner Management has not marked the enquiry proceedings along with the Approval Petition and in the absence of such enquiry proceedings, the first respondent could not able to form an opinion that the procedures as contemplated for conducting an enquiry was followed for imposing penalty on the second respondent/workman.
3. The learned counsel for the petitioner made a submission that the procedures as contemplated were scrupulously followed in the case of the second respondent / workman. He was granted with the opportunity of defending his case during the enquiry proceedings and he also defended his case. However, there was a mistake on the part of the officials, who attended the Labour Court in furnishing the copy of the enquiry proceedings, which resulted in rejection of Approval Petition and therefore, the writ petition is to be considered.
4. The learned counsel for the second respondent/workman objected the said contention by stating that there are two circumstances - (i) The petitioner Management had not furnished the copy of the enquiry proceedings and (ii) Without conducting any enquiry, they have imposed the penalty. In the event of not conducting the enquiry, which is the finding in the present order passed by the first respondent, the penalty imposed cannot be sustained and therefore, the Approval Petition is in order and consequently, the writ petition is to be rejected.
5. Every dispute is to be adjudicated in the manner known to law. The departmental disciplinary proceedings are to be conducted in accordance with the procedures as established. Once a charge memorandum has been issued against a workman, an opportunity as contemplated is to be provided. Thus, an enquiry proceedings are to be filed before the competent authority along with the application filed seeking Approval under Section 33 (2) (B) of the ID Act. In the present case, the writ petitioner Management states that it was not furnished by mistake and the officials, who attended the Labour Court, had failed to furnish the same. Thus, the Labour Court drew an inference that the enquiry proceedings have not been established and consequently, the petition was rejected.
6. The learned counsel for the 2nd respondent/workman made a submission that the wages were not paid in accordance with law.
7. Thus on that ground also, the first respondent rejected the Approval Petition. However, all these issues are to be adjudicated on merits and with reference to the documents and evidences available. High Court cannot conduct an enquiry in respect of the disputed issues in this regard. The Approval Petition was rejected on the ground that the enquiry proceedings were not marked as documents along with the Approval Petition filed by the writ petitioner Management under Section 33 (2) (B) of the ID Act. This being the factum, this Court is of an opinion that the case is to be remanded back for fresh trial on merits and in accordance with law.
8. It is brought to the notice of this Court that a large number of such disciplinary proceedings against the workmen are irregularly dealt with by the officials of the Transport Corporation either willingly or on account of corrupt practices due to the collusion between the workmen and the officials. In this regard, an enquiry is to be conducted by the appropriate Authority to cull out the manner through which the decisions are taken by the competent authority. In some cases, they allow the Labour Courts to pass orders, granting 100% backwages or for payment of 17(b) wages for a longer period without filing an appropriate application or petition before the competent Courts. All such cases are to be reviewed and appropriate actions are to be initiated and the Government in this regard have to issue guidelines to the Corporations to minimize the financial loss to the State Exchequer and in the event of violations, strict actions are to be initiated against the higher officials, who all are responsible and accountable. It is also brought to the notice of this Court, when the Conductors and Drivers and the other workmen are committing certain misconducts, disciplinary proceedings are initiated immediately. However, no disciplinary proceedings or prosecutions are initiated in respect of such serious misconducts and offences committed by the higher officials of the Transport Corporations and the Government in this regard has to look into the lapses, negligence and offences on the part of the higher officials and initiate all appropriate actions.
9. Before parting with this writ petition, this Court is of an opinion that on account of lapses, dereliction of duty and negligence on the part of the officials of the writ petitioner Management, such cases are unnecessarily prolonged and protracted and public money is being wasted. The responsible officials, who all are filing an Approval Petition before the competent Court, must file such petitions with complete details along with all required documents. In the event of not filing the necessary documents, sometimes willingly or on account of negligence, lapses or dereliction of duty or on account of collusion or due to corrupt practices with the workman or otherwise, the writ petitioner Management is bound to institute disciplinary proceedings against the officials, who have committed such lapses. When the workmen are facing the departmental disciplinary proceedings for their lapses and misconduct, equally the officials, who are filing such cases before the Labour Court without following the procedures and committing an act of negligence of duty, are also bound to be prosecuted under the Discipline and Appeal Rules. Therefore, whenever the Court made a finding that the relevant documents were not marked or pleadings were not properly made by the Transport Corporations, then the Transport Corporation authorities are bound to conduct an inquiry and institute disciplinary proceedings against the concerned officials of the legal department or the establishment department, who committed the act of dereliction of duty, negligence and lapses in this regard and they are liable to be prosecuted for the financial losses caused due to such dereliction of duty, negligence or lapses. Thus, the Transport Corporations are bound to issue appropriate Circular to all the officials, who all are responsible and accountable for establishment or administration in accordance with the procedures and Rules.
10. In this regard, the Principal Secretary to Government, Transport Department, Fort St.George, Chennai – 600 009 has been suo motu impleaded as 3rd respondent in the present writ petition for the limited purpose of issuing circular to all the Transport Corporations for initiating action against the responsible officials, who all are committing lapses, negligence and dereliction of duty, collusion or corrupt activities in the matter of dealing with such disciplinary matters against the employees of the Transport Corporations across the State.
11. The learned Government advocate takes notice on behalf of the impleaded 3rd respondent.
12. Accordingly, the impleaded 3rd respondent/Principal Secretary to Government, Transport Department, Fort St.George, Chennai – 600 009 is directed to issue Circular in this regard to all the Transport Corporations across the State of Tamil Nadu for initiation of appropriate disciplinary actions and recovery proceedings against the officials, who all are responsible and accountable for such negligence, lapses and dereliction of duty, financial
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loses etc., A comprehensive circular is directed to be issued within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. 13. In view of the facts and circumstances, the order impugned passed by the first respondent in Approval Petition in A.P.No.515 of 2012 dated 26.05.2014 is quashed and the matter is remanded back to the first respondent for fresh consideration. The writ petitioner is permitted to file all the relevant documents. The first respondent is directed to adjudicate the issues on merits and in accordance with law and by affording opportunity to all the parties concerned and dispose of the same as expeditiously as possible and preferably within a period of six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. 14. With these directions, the writ petition stands allowed. No costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petition is closed. 15. Post the matter 'For Reporting Compliance' on 12.10.2022.