Overruling a Kerala High Court full bench judgment, the Supreme Court in KA Annamma v The Secretary, Cochin Co-operative Hospital Society Ltd, has held that the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act and the Industrial Disputes Act both possess and enjoy the concurrent jurisdiction to decide any service dispute arising between the Co-operative Society’s employee and his/her employer.
A bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice AM Sapre upheld the minority view expressed in Chirayinkeezhu Services Cooperative Bank Ltd v Santosh, 2015(4) KLT 163(LB) and observed that it is the choice of the employee concerned to choose any one forum out of the two forums available to him/her under the two Acts (the KCS Act and the ID Act) to get his/her service dispute decided.
The bench was considering an appeal against Kerala High Court order wherein it set aside the award by labour court by relying on the full bench judgment which held that the service dispute arising between the Co-operative Society’s employee and the employer (Co-operative Society) is triable only by the forum prescribed under the KCS Act, 1969, and the jurisdiction of the ID Act is excluded and barred to try such service dispute.
With regard to the majority judgment relying on the dictum in the court in Dharappa v Bijapur Coop Milk Producers Societies Union Ltd, the court said: “[W]hen this Court in Dharappa’s case has interpreted the language of Section 70 of the Karnataka CS Act, the questions involved herein should have been examined by comparing the language employed in Section 69 of the KCS Act with the language employed in Section 70 of the Karnataka CS Act rather than to compare with the repealed provisions.”
The court said that the interpretation of Dharappa’s case, in our view, would squarely apply to the provisions of the KCS Act if Section 69 is also suitably amended by the State of Kerala by making Section 69 at par with amended Section 70 of the Karnataka CS Act. As on date, it is not so, the bench said while setting aside the high court judgment.