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Res Judicata Principle Also Applicable To Labour/Industrial Proceedings, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
11 April 2019 1:39 PM GMT
Res Judicata Principle Also Applicable To Labour/Industrial Proceedings, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]
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"State had no jurisdiction to make a reference to the Labour Court to reexamine the question of age reduction made by the PSU."

The Supreme Court has reiterated that principle of Res Judicata defined in Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure also applies to the labour/industrial proceedings. In 2004, the Government of Kerala made the following reference to labour court: Whether the action of the management of FACT, Ltd. Udyogamandal in having reduced the age of superannuation of pre 1978 workers from 60...

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The Supreme Court has reiterated that principle of Res Judicata defined in Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure also applies to the labour/industrial proceedings.

In 2004, the Government of Kerala made the following reference to labour court: Whether the action of the management of FACT, Ltd. Udyogamandal in having reduced the age of superannuation of pre 1978 workers from 60 years to 58 years is justifiable or not? Answering the reference, the Labour Court held that this question was already dealt with in the earlier round of litigation by the High Court (which had dismissed the challenge against age reduction) and the Supreme Court and the same having attained finality consequent upon the dismissal of the SLPs by the Supreme Court, and thus barred by the principle of res judicata.

The High Court, on the plea by Trade unions, held that this reference made by the State to the Labour Court was not barred by res judicata. The single bench awarded 30% of the wages payable to each employee instead of granting them a relief of reinstatement in service. This order was upheld by the division bench of the High Court.

The bench comprising Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Indu Malhotra referred to three old judgments of the Apex Court to hold that principle of res judicata applies to the labour proceedings or not, remains no more res integra.

In this case, the court noticed that the Kerala High Court had adjudicated the issue in relation to reduction of age from 60 to 58 years which was raised by the Trade Unions/ in the first round of litigation by filing the original petitions before the High Court. Thus the State had no jurisdiction to make a reference to the Labour Court under Section 10 of the ID Act to reexamine the question of age reduction made by the PSU. Allowing the appeal the bench said:

"In our opinion, no judicial forum at the instance of any party to the Lis had jurisdiction to try these issues again on its merits. It was barred for being tried again by virtue of principles of res judicata contained in Section 11 of the Code, which has also application to the labour/industrial proceedings."

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