The Gujarat High Court has reiterated that a person working in "supervisory" capacity cannot raise an industrial dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
The Bench comprising Justice AY Kogje further made it clear that while deciding whether such person is a workman or not, the Labour Court ought to carefully consider the evidence placed on record and there is no exhaustive list of work to differentiate between the workman and the management employee.
Primarily, the Petitioner Company averred that the Respondent was working in the non-workman category and engaged in the 'supervisory category', drawing salary of more than INR 1600. Thus, the dispute was not an industrial dispute within Sec 2(s) of the Act.
The Respondent insisted that he had worked with the company as a Maintenance Engineer and the duties assigned to him were of the nature of a workman's duties as per the ID Act. He was wrongly terminated by way of termination and without any procedure established by law and as such, was entitled backwages.
The High Court took into consideration the Respondent's appointment letter and witness depositions regarding the nature of work performed by him to conclude that the Respondent was indeed discharging duty of Maintenance Engineer in Grade-9. The depositions also specified the hierarchical grading in the petitioner-company as per which, the employees above Grade-7 were of the Management Cadre.
In this backdrop, the High Court observed,
"The Labour Court has completely disregarded this evidence, which according to this Court is most relevant for the purpose of deciding the status of workman...the Labour Court has proceeded that the petitioner-company ought to have produced evidence in the nature of whether the respondent-workman has sanctioned any leave, sanctioned any overtime or prepared any gate passes for employees to go home or has made any appointment or ordered dismissal. When the Labour Court, instead of referring to this evidence already on record to establish the nature of work of the respondent, has decided to chase the evidence which is not on record and then on the basis that such evidence not being on record, concluded the workman will be covered in the definition of workman, this is where, in the opinion of the Court, perversity has crept in."
Accordingly, the impugned order was quashed. However, seeing the passage of time, the High Court held that the allowances paid u/s 17B of the Act should not be recovered by the Petitioner company.
Case No.: C/SCA/28475/2007
Case Title: GUJARAT INSECTICIDES LTD. & 1 other(s) v/s PRESIDING OFFICER & 2 other(s)
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Guj) 312