25 April 2023 8:48 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has said that in cases where employer expresses loss of confidence in the workman, the Labour Court or the Industrial Tribunal, would have to consider the said contention in light of the surrounding facts and circumstances and ascertain if such a suspicion is based on objective set of facts or on the basis of any extraneous factor. A single judge bench of Suraj...
The Karnataka High Court has said that in cases where employer expresses loss of confidence in the workman, the Labour Court or the Industrial Tribunal, would have to consider the said contention in light of the surrounding facts and circumstances and ascertain if such a suspicion is based on objective set of facts or on the basis of any extraneous factor.
A single judge bench of Suraj Govindaraj dismissed the petition filed M/s TVS motor company (the employer) seeking to set aside Labour court's order by which it set aside the punishment of dismissal imposed by the company and directed reinstatement of the workman. It also allowed the petition filed by workman Rudresh and set aside punishment of withholding two increments imposed by the Labour court.
The employer had challenged the order of the Labour court and sought for continuation of the dismissal order. It was contended that once the employer contends that the employer has lost confidence in the services of the workman, the Labour Court ought not to have reinstated the workman into service of the employer.
Rejecting the said contention the bench said “There cannot be such a straight jacket formula in all cases of dismissal, whether wrongful or otherwise, if the employer were to plead loss of confidence.”
“If that were to be accepted, then in all cases, the employer would come before the Labour Court and/or Industrial Tribunal and contend that the employer has no confidence in the workman resulting in the Labour Court and/or the Industrial Tribunal being prevented from ordering reinstatement in all matters...Though loss of confidence is a subjective feeling and an individual reaction, it is only when an objective set of facts and motivations give rise to loss of confidence, that the same would have to be considered by the Labour Court.”
It added, “The aspect of the employer losing confidence in the employee would have to be taken into consideration if all actions taken by the employer are proper and correct and the actions of the workman give rise to suspicion.”
Rudresh is an Ex-Serviceman who worked in the Army for 17 years having discharged combat duty in Kargil and other forward sectors and had received ‘Long Service and Good Conduct Medal’ in the year 1999. He joined the service with the employer as a Security Guard.
In August 2006, a complaint was filed by a Security Officer alleging that Rudresh did not show respect to him in the canteen by not saluting him. It was also alleged that when Rudresh was on duty at the main gate, he allowed a truck to pass with one additional two wheeler loaded. Show cause notice then came to be issued alleging negligence in work and for not giving respect to his superior.
A domestic enquiry was conducted in respect of both notices and the Enquiry Officer submitted his report holding that all the charges against Rudresh had been proved. Following which a second show cause notice came to be issued calling upon him to show cause why he should not be dismissed from service.
After receiving his reply, the Disciplinary Authority proceeded to accept the report of the Enquiry Officer and imposed the punishment of dismissal. Aggrieved, Rudresh challenged the order of punishment which was set aside by Labour Court. Hence, the present proceedings.
The workman opposed the plea claiming that vehicles are loaded in the warehouse where a security guard is stationed; the number of loaded vehicles is supervised by the Supervisor and certified by the Supervisor and cross-checked by the security guards and certified. Thus, he was not responsible.
It was further claimed that entire disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him solely on account of the security officer being unhappy with him for not saluting in the canteen. "The action taken against the workman has nothing to do with excess loading otherwise. The number of vehicles loaded is mentioned as 51 and subsequently, the same has been overwritten reducing the number to 50,” he submitted.
On going through the records the bench said “The employer having let go of the Supervisor and the security guard as also the contract labourers who had loaded the vehicles into the truck who are primarily responsible for loading the extra vehicle in my considered opinion could not have proceeded only against the workman.”
The bench accepted the submission made by Rudresh that on account of him not saluting the security officer in the canteen this allegation (of negligence) had been made.
Noting that even on earlier occasions there was no physical checking of the number of vehicles loaded in the truck which pass through the main gate, the bench said “The manner in which the proceedings have been conducted, the over writing in the ledger, the expectation of the employer and the statements made during the enquiry as also before the Labour Court, I am of the considered opinion that there is a victimisation of the workman by the employer when no action has been taken against the supervisor and the security guard at the loading area.”
Further it held “The award passed by the Labour Court is not proper and correct inasmuch as the Labour Court in the award could not have come to a conclusion that there is negligence on part of the workman by permitting a vehicle in excess to go through the main gate having come to a conclusion that the workman was not responsible for loading the same and it is in that background that the Labour Court could not have come to a conclusion that the punishment of dismissal was harsh and shockingly disproportionate to the misconduct committed by the workman and thereafter imposed a punishment of reducing 2 annual increments.”
Finally it held that “Having come to a conclusion that there is no negligence on part of the workman and that there is no loss of confidence which can be objectively pleaded by the employer, I am of the considered opinion that there can be no misconduct said to have committed by the workman requiring any punishment to be imposed on him. Though not relevant, there is also no allegation against the workman of having enriched himself by way of misconduct and the vehicle has also been accounted for by the dealer.”
Accordingly it allowed the petition filed by the workman and set aside the labour court order and directed that employer to settle all the dues of the workman who has superannuated as if no punishment had been imposed on the workman with continuity of service and with consequential benefits as also 25% back wages within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of copy of this order.
Case Title: Rudresha And The Management of M/s TVS Motor Company.
Case no: WRIT PETITION NO.52668 OF 2014 (L-RES) C/W WRIT PETITION NO.37496 OF 2014.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 160
Date of Order: 05-04-2023
Appearance: Advocate Abhinay Y T for petitioner.
Senior Advocate K. Kasturi for Advocate Shubha Ananthi for Respondent.
Click Here To Read/Download Order