Supreme Court Of India

The State Of Tripura V. The Province Of East Bengalunion Of India--Intervener

Civil Appeal No. 4989 of 2002. 12-02-2004

JUDGMENT

1. The challenge in this appeal is to the impugned order of the High Court, dated 15th March, 2002, whereby Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 26446/2001, filed by the appellants, was dismissed. In the said writ petition, the appellants had challenged the order of the Labour Court dated 25th May, 2001 whereby the application filed for restoration had been dismissed. The appellants had the grievance against the ex-parte award of the Labour Court, dated 10th March, 1999, which had been made in favour of the workman-respondent No.4 herein. By the said award, the Labour Court, noticing that several opportunities were given to the employer to submit the written statement but the same was not filed, directed reinstatement of the workman in continuation of his services since 14th March, 1997 with full pay during the period of unemployment with all benefits. A reference under Section 4K of the U.P. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to the Labour Court was made by the State Government to decide whether the termination of services of the workman in the post of plumber since 14th March, 1997 was illegal and/ or unjustified and, if so, to what relief was he entitled to and what directions were necessary in this respect. In the writ petition, another relief claimed was to set aside the order of the Deputy Labour Commissioner, dated 27th June, 2001, whereby the said officer had cancelled an earlier order dated 17th May, 2001. In the order of reference above referred the name of the employer shown was M/s. Santosh Medical College. According to the appellants the said college was run by the Managing Trustee, Maharaji Educational Trust, i.e. the appellant before us, and it was necessary to make the Chairman of the Trust as employer. On an application filed by the appellants, by order dated 17th May, 2001 passed by the Deputy Labour Commissioner, the Chairman and Managing Trustee, Maharaj Educational Trust was also added as a second employer to the reference. The order dated 17th May, 2001 was, however, cancelled, on the application of the workman, in terms of the aforenoted order dated 27th June, 2001.

2. According to the appellants, the second order dated 27th June, 2001 which had the effect of deleting the appellants from the order of reference was without jurisdiction and the High Court, without going into this question, disposed of the writ petition by holding that the application for setting aside the ex-parte order was rightly dismissed in terms of the order dated 25th May, 2001. The appellants further claimed that after the order dated 17th May, 2001, they had also filed written statement before the Labour Court. There is also some controversy about the date of the publication of the award dated 10th March, 1999.

3. After hearing learned counsel for the appellants and the workman-respondent No.4, we are of the view that ends of justice would be met if the dispute about the termination of services of workman-respondent No.4 is decided afresh by the Labour Court on merits, after giving opportunity to the appellants and the aforesaid college, i.e. M/s. Santosh Medical College, to contest the claim of the workman on merits. It would be open to the appellants to take such pleas as may be available to them in law. We may only indicate that according to the appellants, respondent No.4 was never their employee. It is strenuously disputed by the workman-respondent No.4. While permitting the appellants to contest on merits the dispute before Labour Court, it is also necessary to impose heavy costs on them so as to compensate the workman for the delay that has occurred in the last about five years.

4. In this view, it is not necessary to go into the question of the validity of the order dated 27th June, 2001. The Labour Court is directed to permit the appellants to file further written statement. It would also permit M/s. Santosh Medical College to file its written statement. The written statement and further written statement shall be filed within four weeks. The period to file the same shall not be extended under any circumstances. The appellants shall pay to the workman directly a sum of Rs. 50000/- (Rupees fifty thousand only), before the Labour Court, towards costs within a period of four weeks. In the absence of payment of costs, the award dated 10th March, 1999 in favour of the workman shall stand and it will not be open to the appellants to question the said award. On the payment of costs, the award dated 10th March, 1999 shall stand set aside and the de novo proceedings would start from the stage of filing of written statements, the statement of claim having already been filed by the workman. The workman shall file his replication to the written statements within two weeks from the date of the filing of the written statements. The parties shall be granted reasonable opportunity to produce evidence. It will be open to the appellants to plead before the Labour Court that respondent No.4 was not their employee which question will also be adjudicated on merits by the Labour Court. The Labour Court is directed to make the award expeditiously and, in no case, later than six months from today.

5. The appeal is disposed of in the above terms.

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