29 March 2022 4:36 PM GMT
The Supreme Court has affirmed a Karnataka High Court judgment of 2008 which held that an employer must give proper opportunity of hearing to the workmen before deducting their wages for "go slow" approach by which they had failed to produce the agreed output. The High Court's judgment was in a case filed by Bata India Limited with respect to the "go slow" approach adopted by its workmen as...
The Supreme Court has affirmed a Karnataka High Court judgment of 2008 which held that an employer must give proper opportunity of hearing to the workmen before deducting their wages for "go slow" approach by which they had failed to produce the agreed output.
The High Court's judgment was in a case filed by Bata India Limited with respect to the "go slow" approach adopted by its workmen as part of a protest in 2001.
The High Court had held that "go slow" is nothing but sort of intentional refusal to work and that inn such a situation, the management could be justified in reducing or paying pro-rata wages. "The mere presence of the employee at work without the workmen contributing and doing work would not entitle them to wages", the High Court had held.
However, such deduction of wages can be done only after giving a fair opportunity to the workmen to defend themselves, the High Court added. The High Court refused to accept the company's argument that it had put up public notices regarding deduction of wages and that it would thus amount to fair notice. Proper opportunity should have been given to the affected parties. Therefore, the High Court directed the company to pay the workmen the deducted wages; however, the company was given liberty to take appropriate steps regarding "go slow" strategy adopted by a large section of the workmen and proceed in accordance with law.
The High Court's verdict was challenged by Bata India before the Supreme Court. A bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Sanjiv Khanna expressed agreement with the High Court's findings.
"We do not think that most of the findings recorded in the impugned judgment require any interference or even clarification", the Bench observed.
The company argued before the Supreme Court that the High Court erred in holding that enquiry should have been conducted by it before deducting wages on pro-rata basis. However, the Supreme Court endorsed the High Court's judgment as expressing a "holistic and pragmatic view".
While issuing notice on the company's petition in 2009, the Supreme Court had stayed the High Court's direction. The said stay order was vacated and the company was directed to make payment of the reduced/deducted wages within one month. This means full wages have to be paid, the Top Court clarified.
Also, the Court felt that it would not be appropriate to direct factual investigation, enquiry etc, at this belated stage. Therefore, the High Court's direction giving liberty to Bata to proceed with enquiry against the employees for "go slow" approach was modified.
The Court also noted that the respondent Union does not dispute and has accepted the findings in the impugned judgment that pro rata deduction/reduction in wages is permissible if there is a deliberate attempt to not produce or do work by resorting to "go slow" strategy.
"We perceive and believe that the impugned judgment protects the interest of the appellant and the workmen by prescribing the right procedure which should be followed in case the appellant is of the opinion that the workmen, though present on duty, are not working and are not giving the agreed production on the basis of which wages and incentives have been fixed. This would depend upon the factual matrix and have to be ascertained in case of dispute to render any firm opinion. The procedure prescribed should be followed", the Court observed.
Case Title : Bata India Ltd vs Workmen of Bata India Ltd and another
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 325
Click here to read/download the judgment