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Civil Court Lacks Jurisdiction To Entertain A Suit Structured On Provisions Of Industrial Disputes Act: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
9 Oct 2021 9:26 AM GMT
Civil Court Lacks Jurisdiction To Entertain A Suit Structured On Provisions Of Industrial Disputes Act: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that a civil court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a suit structured on the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.In this case, the plaintiff, who was a daily wage employee under the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board, challenged his termination by filing a suit before a civil court. The suit was decreed ordering reinstatement of the plaintiff with back...

The Supreme Court observed that a civil court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a suit structured on the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.

In this case, the plaintiff, who was a daily wage employee under the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board, challenged his termination by filing a suit before a civil court. The suit was decreed ordering reinstatement of the plaintiff with back wages. This decree was upheld by the Appellate Courts.

In the execution petition filed by the decree holder, the court passed order directing the Board to give effect to the decree. Challenging this order before the High Court by filing a civil revision petition, the  Board contended that the civil court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate a claim arising out of the ID Act and relief for the aggrieved employee could have been granted, only by the industrial court. The High Court allowed the revision petition and set aside the decree.

Challenging this High Court judgment, the plaintiff approached the Apex Court essentially contending that even when relief is claimed based on the provisions of the ID Act, the jurisdiction of the civil court is not entirely barred. On the other hand, the Board contended that the jurisdiction of the civil court is ousted when claimed relief is founded on the ID Act.  When the civil court had no jurisdiction, the decree is nothing but a nullity and no relief on the basis of such void decree can be claimed by the plaintiff, it contended.

The issue thus considered by the Apex Court was whether the suit before the civil court at the instance of the terminated employee, was maintainable?

At the outset, the bench observed:

13...The civil courts may have the limited jurisdiction in service matters, but jurisdiction may not be available to Court to adjudicate on orders passed by disciplinary authority. The authorities specified under the ID Act including the appropriate government and the industrial courts perform various functions and the ID Act provides for a wider definition of "termination of service", the condition precedent of termination of service. The consequence of infringing those, are also provided in the ID Act. When a litigant opts for common law remedy, he may choose either the civil court or the industrial forum.

The court noted that the plaintiff clearly founded his claim in the suit, on the provisions of the ID Act and the employer therefore is entitled to raise a jurisdictional objection to the proceedings before the civil court. While upholding the High Court judgment, the court said:

16. As can be seen from the material on record, the challenge to the termination was founded on the provisions of the ID Act. Although jurisdictional objection was raised and a specific issue was framed at the instance of the employer, the issue was answered against the defendant. This Court is unable to accept the view propounded by the courts below and is of the considered opinion that the civil court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a suit structured on the provisions of the ID Act. The decree favouring the plaintiff is a legal nullity and the finding of the High Court to this extent is upheld.



Case name and Citation: Milkhi Ram vs. Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board LL 2021 SC 557

Case no. and Date: CA 1346 OF 2010 | 8 October 2021

Coram: Justices R. Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy

Counsel: Adv Ajit Singh Pundir for appellant, Adv Naresh K. Sharma for respondent

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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