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

The Pujari would not be considered as a “Workman” within the purview of Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Court further opined that the opinion stated by the Labour Courtcannot be said to be capricious or perverse” was held in the matter of Pushkarlal versus Administrative Officer [D.B. Spl. Appl. Writ No. 171/2020] by Justice Rameshwar Vyas and Justice Sangeet Lodha.

The facts related to this case is: appellant was employed as Chowkidar /Pujari on a fixed salary of 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 by the appellant that he has 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.

The claim was contested by the respondent by filing a counter-petition, taking the stand that the appellant’s services for the work of Pujari were made available to the respondent by the contractor M/s. R.S.D. Enterprises, Udaipur. The appellant was working under the control of the contractor and the salary was also being paid to him by the contractor. A preliminary objection was raised that the contractor who employed the appellant is a necessary party. That apart, it was contended that the appellant was employed as Pujari in the temple and since the Pujari didn’t fall within the definition of ‘workman’ and the temple also didn’t fall within the definition of ‘industry’, the provisions of the Act of 1947 are not applicable.

The Division Bench of Hon’ble Court 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 a 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 the definition of ‘workman’ within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Act of 1947.”

 It was further expounded by Hon’ble Court 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 the 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 the 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 the exercise of writ jurisdiction. Further, even if it was assumed that the respondent, employer of the appellant, is not solely engaged in 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 were not attracted in the matter and the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute referred by the appropriate government.

Finally, the appeal is, therefore, dismissed in limine.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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