SC quashes a 19 Yr old Labour Court Order to re-instate a Conductor, who was terminated for not giving tickets worth ₹1638/- [Read Judgment]

SC quashes a 19 Yr old Labour Court Order to re-instate a Conductor, who was terminated for not giving tickets worth ₹1638/- [Read Judgment]

The Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court has quashed an Order of Labour Court dated 22.10.1997 directing to reinstate a Conductor, who was terminated by UPSRTC for misconduct, along with entire back wages holding that the punishment awarded him was excessive.

The respondent-employee was employed as a conductor with UPSRTC on 25.12.1988. On 08.10.1990, in the course of inspection, it was found by the inspecting team that 78 passengers were traveling without ticket while the fare had already been collected by the respondent. The worth of the said tickets was Rs. 1638/-. Against the said employees, an inquiry was conducted, but he was suspended prior to the inquiry. After the said inspection, he was terminated. On that charge, an inquiry was held and the misconduct alleged was proved against the respondent delinquent. This led to order dated 17.06.1992 by which the service of the respondent was terminated. The respondent workman raised an industrial dispute, which was referred for adjudication to the Labour Court, Meerut, U.P. being Adjudication Case No. 02/1994. The workman admitted before the labour court that the inquiry was fair and proper. In view of the said statement, the labour court held that no further discussion was necessary on the issue of fairness of the inquiry. However, the labour court, without giving any further reason except that the punishment awarded was too severe, directed reinstatement of the respondent in service without any back wages but with continuity in service and full wages from the date of award dated 22.10.1997. Though an Appeal was preferred before the High Court, it was dismissed by the High Court. No one had appeared for the Employee before the High Court. The High Court in its order dated 27.8.2008, held as follows;

“The labour Court has recorded a finding that it was a first misconduct of the respondent no. 3 and there was nothing material available on the record to show that earlier also he had misconducted. Further the labour Court has relied upon the statement of the witness appeared on behalf of the workman, who has stated that the workman / respondent no. 3 is a poor man and his children are on the verge of starvation. After relying upon the aforesaid statement and due to first misconduct of the workman / respondent no.3, the Labour Court has directed the reinstatement of the respondent no. 3 along with entire back wages”.

Against the Order of High Court, the Corporation approached the Supreme Court in 2011. In spite of service of notice, the workman has not entered appearance.

It is argued for UPSTRC ,that the Labour Court was not justified in interfering with the punishment awarded as the misconduct alleged was of serious nature. What was alleged against the workman is that he had collected fare from 78 passengers and did not issue the tickets to them, which amounted to criminal breach of trust. Once such a misconduct was proved, reinstating the workman could not be justified. It was submitted that though the labour court may, in an appropriate case, interfere with the punishment awarded, but only when such punishment is not otherwise justified.

The Bench comprising of Justices A.K.Goel and A.M.Khanwilkar has allowed the Appeal relying on U.P. State Road Transport Corporation, Dehradun v. Suresh Pal, (2006) 8 SCC 108 and quashed the Orders of High Court and Labour Court

“We find merit in the submission of learned counsel for the appellant particularly in view of the law laid down by this Court in the case of Suresh Pal (supra), which is clearly applicable to the case in hand. Accordingly, we allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and order passed by the High Court as well as the award of the labour court and restore the order of punishment”said the Bench.

Read the Judgment here.