30 March 2022 2:00 PM GMT
The Madras High Court has recently directed reinstatement of a workman, working with a bank and belonging to the Scheduled Caste Community, who was dismissed from service after an incident of hanging Dr. BR Ambedkar's photo in the Bank premises, without prior permission.The bench of Justice M. Duraiswamy and Justice J. Sathya Narayana Prasad stated that the single Judge, which had allowed...
The Madras High Court has recently directed reinstatement of a workman, working with a bank and belonging to the Scheduled Caste Community, who was dismissed from service after an incident of hanging Dr. BR Ambedkar's photo in the Bank premises, without prior permission.
The bench of Justice M. Duraiswamy and Justice J. Sathya Narayana Prasad stated that the single Judge, which had allowed the Management's appeal against the Tribunal's order of reinstatement, failed to consider the amendments made to the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 vide Section 11A.
Section 11A provides that if the Labour Court/ Tribunal is satisfied that the order of discharge or dismissal was not justified, it may set aside the same and direct reinstatement of the workman or any other relief as it deems fit.
The Division Bench was considering the appeal filed by one M. Gowrishankar. The case of the appellant was that he was working in the State Bank of India and belongs to the Scheduled Caste Community. While he was working as sub-staff in Adyar Branch, on 15.07.2004, he left the Bank premises without prior permission from his Superior Officer and returned with the outsiders. When he came back, with the help of the outsiders, he hit nails on the wall panel and hung a portrait of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, without prior permission from the management.
On the basis of the above and for other reasons, the Disciplinary Authority (Assistant General Manager, Mylapore Branch), passed an order dismissing the workman/appellant from service. In appeal, the punishment of dismissal was modified into one of removal from service with superannuation benefits by showing leniency. Later the matter was referred the matter to the Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, Chennai. The tribunal had passed an award to reinstate the workman into service without backwages, but with continuity of services and all other attended benefits by invoking powers under Section 11A of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 observing that the workman/appellant should be given some chance to correct himself and repent his past thereby enabling him to be a righteous person. The Bank management's appeal against this order came to be allowed by the single bench of the High Court. Hence, the present appeal was preferred.
The court held that the Central Government Industrial Tribunal recorded a categorical finding that the workman/appellant did not face the charge of heinous misconduct and only based on such findings, the Central Government Industrial Tribunal interfered with the punishment of removal. The court also agreed with the Central Government Industrial Tribunal rejecting the submission of Bank of loss of confidence.
"The Central Government Industrial Tribunal has correctly held that the principle of loss of confidence could be invoked only when the workman holds the position of trust and confidence. Admittedly, in this case the workman/appellant is a last grade servant and there is no allegation of any misappropriation against him. Hence, the question of loss of confidence, as pleaded by the Bank before the Central Government Industrial Tribunal, is not sustainable."
The court also held that the Single Judge had wrongly interpreted that the Central Government Industrial Tribunal had interfered with the punishment of removal from service solely on the ground of sympathy. The tribunal had in fact exercised power under Section 11A of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947. Section 11A of the Act is reproduced herewith -
"11-A. Powers of Labour Courts, Tribunals and National Tribunals to give appropriate relief in case of discharge or dismissal of workmen: Where an industrial dispute relating to the discharge or dismissal of a workman has been referred to a Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal for adjudication and, in the course of the adjudication proceedings, the Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, is satisfied that the order of discharge or dismissal was not justified, it may, by its award, set aside the order of discharge or dismissal and direct reinstatement of the workman on such terms and conditions, if any, as it thinks fit, or give such other relief to the workman including the award of any lesser punishment in lieu of discharge or dismissal as the circumstances of the case may require."
The court thus stated that the single judge had failed to consider the amended law and considered the law before Section 11A came into effect.
The court also stated that the charges levelled against the appellant/workman will amount to a minor misconduct as per clause 7 of the Bank Settlement and warrants the punishment mentioned in the settlement. He did not face the charges of grave misconduct, which warrants the punishment of removal from service as contented by the bank.
Accordingly, it set aside the single judge order and granted relief to the appellant/ workman.
Case Title: M. Gowrishankar v. The Deputy Manager (SME) & Ors.
Case No: W.A.Nos. 116 & 117 of 2016
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 127
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