Adjudicatory authorities under the I.D. Act not bound by technical procedures unlike Civil Courts: Delhi High Court

Adjudicatory authorities like Labour Courts instituted under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1948 are not bound by the technical rules of procedure unlike their civil correspondences. The writ petition in Rakesh v M/S J.M.J. Signage W.P.(C) 7600/2019 before the Delhi High Court bench of Rajiv Shakdher J. was directed against the award dated 12.02.2018 passed by the concerned labour court in LIR No. 3538/17. The principal grievance of the petitioner was, that the labour court ruled on the reference made to it, although, he had made a plea for withdrawing the reference.

The petitioner claims that he was employed by the respondent in 2010 and worked as a field worker at monthly wages of Rs. 12,000/-. It is also averred that the petitioner worked for nearly 12 hours a day. It is averred by the petitioner that his services were terminated without prior notice or payment of due salary. According to the petitioner, arrears of salary for the period spanning between 01.01.2014 and 01.12.2016 were not paid to him when his services were terminated, albeit, without inquiry. It was thus construed that there was a violation of the provisions of Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. In 2018, on account of the wrong name registered, he tried to have the reference given by the Government to be withdrawn. The labour court however, rejected the application for withdrawal of reference on the ground that the dispute had been referred to it by the Government of NCT of Delhi, and therefore, it was only that authority, which could withdraw the reference.

Since the petitioner had failed in withdrawing the reference in the first instance, his plea was rejected by the labour court, via the impugned award and when it was made by the petitioner for the second time, by incorporating the same plea in his affidavit of evidence. The question before the court was whether the impugned award deal with the merits of the industrial dispute?

The I.D. Act, is a piece of welfare legislation whereby the labour courts and industrial tribunals have been given vast powers. Section 11A of the I.D. Act permits the labour court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, if it is satisfied that the order of discharge or dismissal is not justified, to set aside such order of discharge or dismissal and direct reinstatement of the workman on such terms and conditions, as it thinks fit or give such other relief to the workman including awarding lesser punishment in lieu of discharge or dismissal.

The court observed that the labour court could have either stood over the matter or permitted the petitioner to withdraw the case with liberty to take recourse to an appropriate remedy under the I.D. Act. The appropriate authority would not have, possibly, entertained a plea for making a fresh reference unless the case pending before the labour court was withdrawn.

The court held that “Not only upon a plain reading of this provision but other ancillary provisions of the I.D. Act, is, that the adjudicatory authorities acting under the said Act are not bound by the technical rules of procedure, as provided in the CPC which apply to a civil action. The labour court’s obduracy in not permitting the petitioner to withdraw the reference was both iniquitous and illogical as also unsustainable in law. This is for the reason that the labour court has dealt with a reference which adverts to “Rakesh” whereas the petitioner is Rakesh Ghosh.”

The petitioner was, thus, permitted to take recourse to the remedy available under the I.D. Act to agitate his grievances as there was, in substance, no decision taken by the labour court on merits via the impugned award.

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