3 Oct 2022 7:15 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday, while hearing an appeal filed by a workman under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 ('Act'), held that High Courts cannot interfere with awards passed by Tribunals by re-appreciating evidence already considered and examined by such Tribunals, unless the order passed by the Tribunal was wholly perverse and unless such order was a result of having acted on...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday, while hearing an appeal filed by a workman under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 ('Act'), held that High Courts cannot interfere with awards passed by Tribunals by re-appreciating evidence already considered and examined by such Tribunals, unless the order passed by the Tribunal was wholly perverse and unless such order was a result of having acted on no evidence whatsoever.
The facts of the case were that the appellant workman was engaged under the respondent company as a driver, without having been issued any appointment letter. During the course of his appointment, the worker alleged that he was illegally terminated without any notice, such termination being unjustified and bad in law. The dispute came before the Industrial Tribunal, where the respondents in the present case argued that the appellant was not an employee under the management, but was a personal driver who was privately employed by a certain manager.
The Industrial Tribunal after considering the evidence adduced by both the parties, passed an award holding that the workman was in fact an employee of the company and accordingly passed an award for the re-instatement of the appellant with back wages and consequential benefits. Being aggrieved by the award, the respondent company filed a writ petition before the High Court, which subsequently set aside the order passed by the Industrial Tribunal. Being aggrieved by that order, the appellant workman filed the present appeal.
The appellant argued that the Court erred in law in interfering with the award passed by the Tribunal when the said award was not perverse. Furthermore, it was argued by the appellant that facts were not appreciated by the Court which dealt with the writ petition.
The respondent company maintained that the appellant workman was not an employee or workman of the management and that he was merely a personal driver of one of the managers. Reliance was placed by the respondent on the decision in Employers in relation to Punjab National Bank v. Ghulam Dastagir, 1978 LLJ P 312.
Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury, delivering the judgment for the Court, observed that since the vehicle which was driven by the appellant was owned by the company, the normal presumption would be that the driver was in fact an employee of the company, unless the contrary is proved by the company. Furthermore, the court observed that merely because one of the managers of the company was being driven using that vehicle, it could not be presumed that the driver was engaged by that manager in personal capacity, unless the company proves so to have been the case.
Regarding the power of the High Court to have interfered with the award passed by the Tribunal, the Court held that unless the approach used by the Industrial Tribunal is wholly perverse in the sense that the Tribunal acted on no evidence, the High Court under Articles 226 or 227 is not justified in interfering with the award, nor is it permitted to re-appreciate the evidence already adduced at the stage of the Tribunal proceedings. The Court relied on the Supreme Court decisions in Krushna Narayan Wonjori v. Jai Bharti Shikshan Sanstha Henganghat through its Secretary and Another, (2018) 2 SCC (L and S) 386 and Indian Overseas Bank v. I.O.B. Staff Canteen Workers Union and Another, 2000 II CLR 268 SC.
Justice I. P. Mukerji, while passing his concurring opinion, relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Bank of Baroda v. Ghemarbhai Harjibhai Rabari, 2005 II CLR 279, to hold that the appellant had discharged his evidentiary burden and that the presumption that the appellant was in fact an employee of the company was one which had to be rebutted by the company with appropriate evidence, which the company failed to do. Justice Mukerji added that the High Court was not correct in re-appreciating the evidence which had already been properly weighed, analysed and evaluated by the Industrial Tribunal.
Case Title: Upendra Choudhury v. M/s J. K. Industries Limited and Others
Case No: APO 526 of 2015 with WPO 878 of 2003
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 318
Coram: Justice I. P. Mukerji and Justice Biswaroop Chowdhury
Click Here To Read/Download the Order