The Supreme Court reiterated that the relief of reinstatement with continuity of service can be granted where termination of service is found to be invalid.
The appellant was appointed as a Watchman by the respondent society, and lastly, he was working as a watchman at the Shirai Dam at the Beraja Village of Mundra Taluk, Gujarat, with the respondent.
After rendering continuous employment, he was terminated from the services for no cause, without notice and without following the procedure prescribed by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. His request for reinstatement was negated; consequently, the industrial dispute.
The management disputed the claim on the basis that the appellant worked in a purely temporary basis and could not claim the benefit of Section 25B of the Industrial Disputes Act,1947 as he had not worked for a continuous period of 240 days in any given year. However, his employment as a workman since 1992 was not denied.
The appellant contended that the Labour Court and the single Judge concurrently ruled that sufficient material had been brought on record to show that 63 labourers were working with the respondent management, many of whom were junior to the appellant.
He submitted that the workman appellant had moved the Labour Court to direct the management to produce all relevant service particulars of its employees’ muster roll, pay register, and bonus register.
He argued that the appellant had been unfairly kept out of employment, despite the fact that the award was made in 2010, and the single judge endorsed it in 2011.
The respondent argued that the petitioner had been out of employment for over 20 years and in the circumstances, directing reinstatement was not in the interest of justice.
The division bench of The Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said that it discerns no material to establish the proposition put forth by the appellant.
“In the circumstances, given the fact that the direction of the Labour Court was only to reinstate but not pay backwages, the Division Bench’s substitution of that relief is not based on any known principle” the court added.
The bench opined that the appellant workman could not have been made to suffer on account of the management’s obdurate attempt to have the relief set aside.
“Therefore, the direction to substitute the relief of reinstatement with one for lumpsum payment was not warranted in the circumstances of this case” the court said.
The bench found no perversity or unreasonableness on the part of the Labour Court and the single judge in directing the appellant’s reinstatement.
It was further observed that had the respondent management chosen to accept the verdict, the appellant would have been spared the agony of waiting for more than 10 years. In such circumstances, the denial of backwages, has resulted in punishing him, although the delay is attributable to the judicial process.
The court held that the appellant shall be entitled to backwages for a period of two years immediately preceding.
It further held that the appellant workman shall be reinstated in the services of the respondent within six weeks and directed the respondent management to pay the backwages at current rates.
Case title: Jeetubha Khansangji Jadeja v/s Kutchh District Panchayat
Citation: Civil appeal no.6890 of 2022