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The Senior Regional Manager v. The Presiding Officer,2. Thiru E.V. Ramaswamy - W.P.NO. 8575 OF 1995  RD-TN 345 (7 June 2002)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS
THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE P.K. MISRA
W.P.NO. 8575 OF 1995
1. The Senior Regional Manager,
Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies
Madras 600 086.
2. The Chairman-cum-Managing Director,
Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies
Kilpauk, Madras 00 010. .. Petitioners Vs.
1. The Presiding Officer,
Second Additional Labour Court,
Additional City Civil Court
Buildings, Madras 104.
2. Thiru E.V. Ramaswamy .. Respondents Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the issuance of Writ of Certiorari as stated therein. For Petitioners : Mr. Dwarakanathan
For Respondent-1 : Mr.S.P. Prabakaran,
Special Govt. Pleader
For Respondent-2 : Mr.S. Periyaswamy
- - - : JUDGMENT
The decision of the Presiding Officer of the Labour Court directing reinstatement of respondent No.2 is under challenge in the present writ petition at the instance of the Management of Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation.
2. Shorn of details, the facts in brief are as follows :-
Respondent No.2 was working under the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation as a Chief Bill Clerk at Koyambedu Retail shop. On 22.1.1983 , the Area Officer working under the Corporation conducted a physical verification of the retail shop and found that there was shortage of about 50 quintals of rice. The physical verification statement was signed by the respondent No.2. Respondent No.2 was placed under suspension by an order dated 31.1.1983 and the departmental proceedings were drawn up and he was asked to explain the following charges :-
“1. he is in capacity of Chief Bill Clerk had made clandestine sale of essential commodities to the persons other that card holders for his personal cash benefit and thereby committed also an offence in the distribution of essential commodities.
2. he in his capacity of the Chief Bill Clerk had misused the Corporation stock, intended for public distribution to the family card holders in illicit manner for his personal gain and thereby caused heavy shortages in the rationed articles and rendered himself unworthy of being continued in employment.” Subsequently a criminal complaint was also initiated against the respondent No.2. Ultimately the respondent No.2 was found guilty in the departmental proceedings and after second show cause notice, by order dated 20.4.1987 he was dismissed from the services and the appeal preferred by the second respondent against the dismissal was rejected on 7.11.1987. Subsequently in the criminal case, where the respondent No.2 was prosecuted under Section 7(1) (a) (ii) of the Essential Commodities Act, the respondent No.2 was acquitted even though it was found that there was deficit of stock. About 20 months thereafter, the respondent No.2 filed a representation that he should be reinstated in view of the decision of the Criminal Court and such representation having been negatived, ultimately the matter reached the Industrial Forum.
3. The Labour Court under the impugned award found that even though the question of fairness of domestic enquiry had been raised, the counsel for the respondent No.2 had confined his submission to the question as to whether the punishment was proportionate to the charges. In other words, the question relating to fairness of enquiry was not pressed. The following two issues were raised before the Industrial Forum : (i) Is the punishment given to the Petitioner proportionate to the charge ? (ii) Is the petitioner entitled to the benefits claimed in the petition ?
4. While considering issue No.1, the Labour Court found that “ The Management has found shortage of stock during the period 16.1 .1983, when the Petitioner took charge to 24.1.1983. The Petitioner has not given proper reasons for the shortage. He argued that shortage might have occurred while the commodities were being taken out of the sacks. While handling the goods a little shortage may occur. But there is no chance of a heavy shortage as stated in the inspecting officer’s report occurring. Hence, this Court holds that the charge regarding shortage of stock has been proved.”
5. Inspite of the aforesaid finding, the Labour Court under issue No.2 held that
“ Issue No.2 : I hold that for the misconduct committed by the Petitioner, for the shortage and his negligence, the punishment would be non payment of backwages for 3 years and the Petitioner should be reinstated with continuity of service and backwages from 1.2.1986.”
6. To say the least, the reasons given by the Presiding Officer, Labour Court for directing reinstatement and imposing of punishment of with-holding backwages for three years are very curious. As a matter of fact it cannot be said that the Labour Court has given any “ reasons”. It has merely surmised that the respondent No.2 being alone, “there is a chance of shortage occurring when one person does the job of three.”
7. The Tribunal in no uncertain terms had held that shortage was due to negligence. Even assuming that the respondent No.2 had not deliberately misappropriated the amount, yet shortage of huge quantity due to negligence of the respondent No.2 having been found, there was hardly any scope for the Labour Court to interfere with the punishment imposed by the Management.
8. It is no doubt true that under Section 11-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, in a proper case the Industrial Forum can interfere with the quantum of punishment imposed in a domestic enquiry. However, it is now well settled that such discretion should be used in a judicious manner and not arbitrarily and unless the punishment is shockingly disproportionate to the nature of delinquency, ordinarily the Labour Court should not interfere with the punishment imposed in a domestic enquiry. In the present case, the Labour Court has no where come to the conclusion that the punishment imposed was shockingly disproportionate as compared to the nature of charge against the delinquent employee. Shortage of articles in a Fair Price Shop where essential commodities are sold cannot be considered to be an insignificant delinquency.
9. Learned counsel appearing for the respondent No.2 has submitted that since the Labour Court has exercised its discretion in a particular manner, this Court while examining such matter under Article 226 of the Constitution, should not interfere with the discretionary order of the Labour Court. While there cannot be any doubt that the High Court while deciding a writ petition under Article 226 should not ordinarily interfere with the discretionary order passed by the Labour Court, the Court has to consider the reasonings given by the Labour Court for substituting one kind of punishment with much lighter punishment. Where the Labour Court exercises its discretion capriciously and without semblance of reason, the High Court cannot remain a mute spectator and allow such illegal orders to remain.
10. In the present case, the charge relating to shortage of articles was quite serious and the Management in its discretion had imposed the punishment of dismissal. The Labour Court without assigning adequate reason has interfered with the order of punishment more on the basis of surmises and less on the basis of any cogent reason.
11. In such view of the matter, the order passed by the Labour Court is quashed and the order of punishment imposed by the Labour Court is confirmed. Writ Petition is accordingly allowed. There would be no order as to costs. 07-06-2002 dpk To
The Presiding Officer, Second Additional Labour Court, Addl. City Civil Court Buildings, Chennai 600 104. P.K. MISRA, J. 07-06-2002
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