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The Pujari of a Temple is not a ‘Workman’ under the Industrial Disputes Act

The Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan in Pushkarlal V Administrative Officer [D.B. Spl. Appl. Writ No. 171/2020] held that the Pujari of a temple does not fall within the definition of a ‘workman’ as given under Industrial  Disputes Act, 1947.

Background –

The  Appellant was employed as Chowkidar /Pujari on fixed salary Rs.2500/- per month. However, his services were brought to an end w.e.f. 31.07.2005 without assigning any reasons. It was contended b the Appellant that he completed 240 days of service (in a calendar year) and therefore, termination of his services without complying with the provisions of Section 25F of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 was  invalid and void.

Held –

The Division bench of Hon’ble Justices Sangeet Lodha and Rameshwar Vyas while examining the definition of a ‘workman’ observed that “It is true that the designation of an employee is not conclusive to bring him within the definition of ‘workman’ set out in Section 2(s) of the Act of 1947 but then, for determination as to whether an employee falls within the definition of ‘workman’ or not, the test is what is the main work assigned to him. If he does some manual work as ancillary or incidental to the main work assigned to him, cannot have an effect of such employee being covered by definition of ‘workman’ within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Act of 1947.” It was further expounded that “Adverting to the facts of the present case, as discussed above, the appellant was appointed as Pujari and not Watchman- cum-Pujari as claimed and he was assigned duties of performing sewa puja in Girdhar Gopal Temple. As discussed above, the appellant being provided accommodation within the temple premises and permitted to stay in the premises in the night, in no manner, leads to conclusion that he was appointed as Chowkidar and was assigned the duties of the said post. In this view of the matter, in our considered opinion, the finding arrived at by the Labour Court that the appellant being employed as Pujari was not covered by definition of ‘workman’ within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Act of 1947 cannot be said to be capricious or perverse so as to warrant interference by this Court in exercise of writ jurisdiction. Further, even if it is assumed that the respondent, employer of the appellant, being not solely engaged in the maintaining the temple falls within the definition of ‘industry’ given in Section 2(j) of the Act of 1947, the appellant being not a workman, the provisions of Act of 1947 are not attracted in the matter and the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute referred by the appropriate government.”

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