The Bombay High Court last week partly allowed a petition filed by Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra and decided to cut 60% back wages of Prakash Yashwantakar, a former employee of FDCM who was dismissed from service for absenteeism and for exerting pressure on the management through certain politicians.
Justice RV Ghuge of Aurangabad bench held that mobilizing politicians in order to exert pressure on the management is undesirable and decide to cut 60% of the back wages of Prakash between 2005 and 2007.
Labour Court allowed the complaint filed by Prakash after his dismissal in a judgement dated February 5, 2007 and later the Industrial Court dismissed a revision application filed by FDCM. Thereafter, aggrieved by both the judgements, FDCM moved High Court.
The High Court had passed a detailed order on the said matter in 2007 itself. Court had admitted the said petition and observed that the back wages granted by the Labour Court to the respondent would be stayed.
In view of the said order dated April 18, 2007, the respondent employee was reinstated in service in May 2007. Thereafter, he was also granted promotion as a 'Forester'. He superannuated from employment on August 31, 2019.
Presently, Justice Ghuge considered whether Prakash would be entitled to full back wages in light of the facts of the case.
FDCM's lawyer PL Shahane submitted that the respondent employee does not deserve to be granted back wages for the reason that the Labour Court has not assigned any justification for granting back wages. He further argued that Prakash was dismissed from service on account of unauthorized absenteeism for a period of about 45 days and the fact that he attempted to exert pressure on the management of FDCM certain politicians.
Whereas, respondent employee's advocate PG Deshmukh referred to the Labour Court's order and said that the punishment of dismissal was found to be illegal and therefore his client should be paid full back wages. Also, if a termination of an employee is found to be illegal, the management should not be rewarded by depriving the employee of the back wages.
Court noted that Labour Court had considered the conclusions of disciplinary enquiry that was instituted and resulted in the respondent employee's dismissal from service. Justice Ghuge said-
"In view thereof, the charges held to be proved by the findings of the Enquiry Officer vide his report, are deemed to have attained finality. In this backdrop, the only scope for judicial review, in the complaint, by the Labour Court was as to whether the punishment awarded to the employee was shockingly disproportionate."
However, Labour Court ventured into considering the legality of the enquiry by framing issue as to 'whether the misconduct as alleged, is proved in the departmental enquiry' and had answered the issue in the negative.
"This could not have been done, being impermissible after the enquiry and the findings of the Enquiry Officer, are sustained. The Labour Court has thus erred" Court said.
Finally, Court observed-
"The absence of 45 days cannot be said to be so long an absence that the Court could conclude that the employee has lost interest in employment and does not desire to continue with his employment. The period of remaining absent for 45 days would therefore not amount to a grave and serious misconduct, in the facts of this case, so as to warrant the punishment of dismissal from service.
However, mobilizing politicians to exert pressure on the Management of the Corporation, is undesirable. It would be quite harsh to cause interference in such matters, keeping in view of the law laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Kum.Pushpa Ramdas Zatake Vs. The Divisional Controller, MSRTC decided on July 09, 2018. Nevertheless, if the employee is deprived of a percentage of back wages, it would amount to a commensurate punishment to the respondent."
Apart from cutting 60 % of the back wages, Court set aside the Labour Court's conclusion to declare unfair labour practices against the said employee under Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 (MRTU & PULP Act).
Click here to download the Judgment