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Indian Case Summary

Raghubir Singh vs Gen.Manager,Haryana … on 3 September, 2014 – Case Summary

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In the case of Raghubir Singh vs General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Hisar, the Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgment on 3rd September 2014. The case was presided over by the bench of Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya and V. Gopala Gowda.

Facts of the Case

Raghubir Singh, the appellant, joined Haryana Roadways as a conductor in 1976. On 10th August 1993, he was charged under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code for alleged misappropriation of the amount collected from tickets and not depositing the cash in relation to the same in time. Consequently, he was arrested and sent to judicial custody on 15th September 1994. On 21st October 1994, his services were terminated by the General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Hisar, the respondent in this case. Upon his release on bail on 15th November 1994, the respondent orally assured him that he would be reinstated to his post after his acquittal by the Court.

On 11th July 2002, the appellant was acquitted by the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Hisar, in the criminal case. However, when he reported to join his duty, he was informed by the respondent that his services had been terminated effective from 21st October 1994. The appellant served a demand notice upon the respondent, which was not acceded to, leading to the industrial dispute.

Issues Raised

The main issues raised in this case were whether the appellant was entitled to the relief as prayed in this appeal, and whether the termination of the appellant’s services was justified. The appellant contended that his services were illegally terminated on the grounds of alleged misconduct of unauthorized absence, and no enquiry was conducted before the termination of his services. He further contended that the reasons given by the respondent for dispensing with the inquiry procedure in relation to the allegations against him were not justified.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Supreme Court observed that the Labour Court had erroneously rejected the reference without judiciously considering all the relevant factors of the case, particularly the points of dispute referred to it, and answered the issue regarding the reference being barred by limitation but not on the merits of the case. The Court held that the Labour Court had failed to exercise its statutory power coupled with duty by not going into the merits of the case and adjudicating the points of dispute referred to it.

The Court further observed that no enquiry was conducted by the appellant against the workman to prove the alleged misconduct of unauthorized absence. The reason for dispensing with the enquiry was not at all forthcoming in the order of termination which refers to Article 311(2)(b) of the Constitution of India. The Court held that the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the respondent under Rule 7 of the Haryana Civil Services (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 1987 were not only untenable in law but also contrary to the legal principles laid down by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court set aside the judgment and order of the High Court and the award of the Labour Court as they were contrary to the provisions of the Act. The Court held that the appellant is a workman in terms of Section 2(s) of the Act, therefore, Model Standing Orders framed under the provisions of Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act of 1946 and the principles of natural justice are required to be followed by the respondent for initiating disciplinary proceedings and taking disciplinary action against the workman. The Court concluded that since the respondents have not followed the procedure laid down therein from the beginning till the passing of the order of termination, the same is vitiated in law and

hence, liable to be set aside.

Additional Observations and Implications

The Supreme Court also made significant observations regarding the applicability of the Limitation Act, 1963 to the reference made under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Court held that though the Limitation Act, 1963 is not applicable to the reference made under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, but delay in raising industrial dispute is definitely an important circumstance which the Labour Court must keep in view at the time of exercise of discretion.

The Court also noted that the Labour Court has the power to mould the relief accordingly in case of delay in raising the dispute. The Court held that the Labour Court and the High Court have erred in not deciding the industrial dispute between the parties on the basis of admitted facts, firstly, the enquiry not being conducted for the alleged misconduct of unauthorised absence by the appellant from 02.04.1993 and secondly, the enquiry being dispensed with by invoking Article 311(b)(2) of the Constitution of India without any valid reason.

The judgment in this case has significant implications for the interpretation of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the procedures to be followed in cases of termination of services. It underscores the importance of following due process and the principles of natural justice in disciplinary proceedings, and the need for judicious consideration of all relevant factors in the adjudication of industrial disputes.