6 Jun 2023 9:42 AM GMT
The Madras High Court recently observed that use of abusive language is not of such a serious nature so as to impose the "capital punishment" of dismissal from service.The bench of Justice S Vaidyanathan and Justice R Kalaimathi interfered with an order of single judge who had set aside the labour court order for reinstating the workman with backwages.The court was dealing with the plea filed...
The Madras High Court recently observed that use of abusive language is not of such a serious nature so as to impose the "capital punishment" of dismissal from service.
The bench of Justice S Vaidyanathan and Justice R Kalaimathi interfered with an order of single judge who had set aside the labour court order for reinstating the workman with backwages.
The court was dealing with the plea filed by one S Raja, who was Secretary of the Hindustan Lever Limited Tea Workers’ Welfare Union. Raja submitted that the disciplinary action was taken against him claiming that he used abusive language against the Executives and the Manager, and scolded the Executive and also intimidated him by holding his shift collar.
The court was also informed that after an enquiry, he was dismissed from service. It was also informed that when an industrial dispute was filed before the labour court, the labour court observed that dismissal of service for the conduct of the workman was grossly disproportionate and invoking its power under Section 11-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the punishment imposed on the Workman was converted into the one of reinstatement with continuity of service and 50% back wages.
Raja informed the court that when the management filed a petition against the order, a single judge had found that the labour court had passed the order mechanically and held that the order was not in consonance with the established legal principles.
The division bench observed that the power exercised by the Labour Court under Section 11A cannot be curtailed by any court unless it is found to be perverse.
"Similarly, the Labour Court is empowered to interfere with the punishment, if it is found that the punishment is grossly disproportionate and the power exercised by the Labour Court under Section 11-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 cannot be curtailed by any Court, unless the finding of the Labour Court is perverse. Hence, the Labour Court, based on the materials on record, arrived at a different conclusion than the one arrived at by the Management," the court said.
The court noted that while awarding punishment, the management has to take into account the gravity of the offence and the previous record of the workman along with other circumstances. The court also noted that though disciplinary action had been taken against the workman in 2001, the present incident has taken place after almost a decade and thus it could not be said that he was engaging in this behaviour frequently.
"In this case, the Workman was imposed with a punishment in the year 2001 and the present incident has taken place after a decade. It cannot be construed that the Workman has been indulging in exhibition of such misbehaviour frequently. As stated earlier, the usage of abusive language may not be a serious one to impose a capital punishment of dismissal from service."
The court also noted that what induced the workman to behave in such a manner should also be looked into though the same would not justify his conduct.
"We cannot expect a low-level employee to behave like Jesus so as to turn his other cheek for getting a voluntary slap. The disputed question of fact cannot be gone into in this Appeal. This observation does not mean that we justify the act of the employee and approve his misconduct," the court said.
Noting that mere absolvation of charges would not make the workman realise his mistake, the court also thought it fit to modify the labour courts order and thus ordered for reinstatement of the workman without backwages. The court also said that the entire period be taken as a continuous one for the purpose of terminal benefits but also noted that the management need not pay PF during this period.
Case Title: S Raja v M/s.Hindustan Unilever Ltd and another
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 161