Concession By Lawyer On Mixed Questions Of Law And Fact Cannot Bind Party : SC [Read Order]
"Where a question is a mixed question of fact and law, a concession made by a lawyer or his authorised representative at the stage of arguments cannot preclude the party for whom such person appears from re-agitating the point in appeal".
The Supreme Court has observed that concessions made by a lawyer on mixed questions of fact and law cannot bind the party.
The bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran was deciding an appeal filed by Bharat Heavy Electronics Ltd against the judgment of High Court refusing to quash a Labour Court's award, which had directed reinstatement of certain retrenched employees.
BHEL's contention was that the employees were contractual labourers and hence were not 'workmen' as per the definition in UP Industrial Disputes Act.
The Labour Court decided that they were 'workmen' based on a concession made by the representative of BHEL that it had direct control and supervision over them. Though BHEL filed a review petition denying having made such a concession, the Court dismissed it. The challenge against the award in High Court met with no success, as it observed that the fact that the workmen were direct employees of BHEL was undisputed.
Considering BHEL's appeal against this, the SC bench observed that "concessions on mixed questions of fact and law cannot decide cases as the evidence as a whole has to be weighed and inferences drawn therefrom".
The bench referred to the SC precedent Swami Krishnanand Govindananad v. Managing Director, Oswal Hosiery (Regd.) (2002) 3 SCC 39, which held that a concession by a lawyer of a fact which has been disputed in the written statement cannot bind the respondent.
"can the statement made by the learned counsel of a party across the Bar be treated as admission of the party? Having regard to the requirements of Section 18 of the Evidence Act, on the facts of this case, in our view, the aforementioned statement of the counsel for the respondent cannot be accepted as an admission so as to bind the respondent", the SC had observed in that case.
The bench also added that "where a question is a mixed question of fact and law, a concession made by a lawyer or his authorised representative at the stage of arguments cannot preclude the party for whom such person appears from re-agitating the point in appeal".
The precedent C.M. Arumugam v. S. Rajgopal (1976) 1 SCC 863 was referred in this context.
On that basis it was observed, "It would be perverse to decide based only on a concession, without more, that a direct relationship exists between the employer and the workmen".
This decision in the case Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd v Mahendra Prasad Jakhmola has also discussed the tests for determining whether contract labourers are direct employees.