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Madras High Court Affirms Labour Court’s Orders From 1996 for Royal Enfield Employee 

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A Royal Enfield employee suffered injuries in a fire the factory suffered in 1975. He was later dismissed by his employers owing to unauthorized absenteeism from work for brief periods for a consecutive 7 years. The employee moved to Labour Court which decided in his favour and directed the Employers to award him Rs 2 Lakh. The employers filed a Writ Petition in Madras HC to quash the order of the Labour Court.  The case was heard and decided upon by Chief Justice A.P. Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy. 

Facts of the Case

Sivan joined as a Junior Grade Operator on completion of his training at Royal Enfield Motors. He sustained injuries in a fire the factory suffered in 1975. He was absent from work for 50-120 days every year since 1985-91. violation of clause 12(c) of the certified Standing Orders of the second Respondent which, if proved, would constitute misconduct within the meaning of clause 15(viii) of the Standing Orders. The employers dismissed him from the service. The appellant moved to the Labour Court against his dismissal. The Labour Court gave the verdict in the appellant’s favour and further directed the employers to award the appellant a sum of Rs. 2 lakhs. The employers in the present case have filed a Writ Petition to quash the decree passed by the Labour Court.

Arguments before the Court

The counsel for the Appellant argued that the single judge from the Labour Court should not have examined the award as if it were a court of appeal. The counsel cited apropos paragraphs of Indian Overseas Bank v. IOB Staff Canteen Workers Union (2000) 4 SCC 245 and Krushnakant B. Parmar v. Union of India (2012) 3 SCC 178. In the first case, it was maintained by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that ‘A tribunal Judge cannot exercise appellate jurisdiction over the passing of any Award’. In the second case, it was said that: 

 “In a departmental proceeding, if an allegation of unauthorised absence from duty is made, the disciplinary authority is required to prove that the absence is wilful, in the absence of such finding, the absence will not amount to misconduct”

The fact that willful absenteeism was not proved in this case and the Labour Court still went on to give a decree and a direction to pay a two- lakh rupee sum. Thus, the Order of the Labour Court ought to be set aside and the award be restored. 

The counsel for Mr S. Sivan submitted that the Court would be justified in setting aside the perverse order, however, the Court must consider the enquiry officer and medical consultant’s report. It was only after considering these, that Mr S. Sivan was dismissed by the Appellants.

The learned counsel submitted that the Labour Court arrived at a conclusion, which had no basis in evidence, and that the Labour Court proceeded to conclude that his absenteeism in the year 1988 to 1991 was justifiable merely because the Appellant had sustained injuries during the fire accident in 1975. Therefore, he submitted that the award of the Labour Court is clearly perverse and that the order of the learned single Judge was, therefore, justifiable. 

Court’s Observations

The Court observed that the principal issue here was whether the Award of the Labour Court warranted interference under Article 226 of the Constitution. 

The Court further observed that the award of the Labour Court can be interfered with if it were perverse. 

Upon perusal of the enquiry report, the Court noted that the charge pertained to unauthorized and not wilful absenteeism. The Appellant did not provide any evidence to prove that his absence from work between 1988 and 1991. 

The Court further noted that the award of the Labour Court, in this case, satisfied the test of perversity and made out a case for interference by the writ court. 

The Court cited apropos paragraphs of Madurantakam Cooperative Sugar Mills Limited v. S.Viswanathan, (2005) 3 SCC 193 in this regard. 

The Court observed that the ends of justice warranted the payment of compensation to Mr Sivan. However, given that he did not actually work during this period, it would not be justifiable to pay full wages for such period as compensation. 

Court’s Orders

The Court affirmed the order of the Labour Court with a minor modification. 

It directed the employers of Mr S. Sivan to pay him Rs 2.5 lakhs. This is 50% amount of his salary for the years of 1996 to 2005, a total of nine years until his retirement, that he would have been working if he had been reinstated into his services.

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