Karnataka HC Clarifies Labour Court’s Authority in Punishment Cases

LI Network

Published on: October 16, 2023 at 12:07 IST

The Karnataka High Court has ruled that the powers conferred by Section 11A of the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA) do not authorize the Labour Court to intervene in a punishment order when the dismissal order does not necessitate interference.

The Court has granted permission for a Writ Petition that challenged the Labour Court’s decision. It stressed that there was no need for the Labour Court to intervene since the findings of the Disciplinary Inquiry were not unreasonable.

The Court underlined that the Labor Court can only intervene in the punishment order if it is unreasonably severe.

Justice Jyoti Mulimani pointed out that, “Therefore, the interference with the order of dismissal and the relief granted is not tenable. It is relevant to note that the powers under Section 11A of the I.D Act would enable the Labor Court to interfere with the order of punishment provided that the punishment imposed is harsh. In the present case, no such finding is recorded. On the contrary, the Labor Court holds that the order of dismissal warrants no interference, hence the interference with the order of punishment and the relief granted is unsustainable in law.”

Case Background

The Petitioner, who was a driver for the Corporation, was involved in an accident resulting in two fatalities and three injuries while on duty. He faced charges and underwent a disciplinary inquiry, which found him guilty. Consequently, he was terminated from employment but later filed a claim petition with the Labour Court.

The Labour Court altered the dismissal order to one of compulsory retirement with back wages but without any additional benefits. Dissatisfied with this decision, the Petitioner’s representatives brought the matter before the Court through a Writ Petition challenging the Labour Court’s ruling.

The Court observed that the Labour Court had reduced the worker’s punishment based on two grounds. First, they argued that the worker’s legal representatives would encounter greater difficulties since the worker had passed away. However, the Court deemed this reasoning incorrect because the Labour Court had already determined that the worker’s dismissal did not require intervention.

Therefore, the Court concluded that the Labor Court lacked the authority to amend the imposed punishment or modify any relief. “The Labour Court interfered with the quantum of punishment on two grounds; that the workman is no more and the legal representatives of the deceased workman would be put to greater hardship. This is erroneous. The reason is simple. The Labour Court records a finding that the order of dismissal warrants no interference, hence it could not have proceeded further in the matter,” the Court noted.

Consequently, the Court accepted the Petition and nullified the challenged order.

Case titled; “The Management v Shekarappa Chalavadi.”

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