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Allowance under Section 17B of I.D. Act shall be in force till disposal of Letter Patents Appeal to Divisional Bench: Delhi High Court

The issue is whether section 17B of the Industrial Disputes Act can be invoked for payment of allowance last drawn or minimum wages fixed and revised from time to time, whichever is highest in the present case of North Delhi Municipal Corporation v. Bal Kishan & Anr, CM APPL. 25761/2020, decided by Justice Talwant Singh.

Facts of the Case: A writ petition W.P. (Civil) No. 78/2011 was moved before the High Court of Delhi (Single Judge bench) by the respondent (i.e., the workmen) under section 17B of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 read with Section 151 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 against an award passed by the Labour Court in I.D. No. 645/2006, which had dismissed the claim of the workman for allowance. However, the High Court in W.P. (C.) No. 78/2011 set aside the award and ordered for the reinstatement of workman with 30% back wages and to consider his case for regularization as per prevalent policy, as the workman was not gainfully employed. Aggrieved by the order of the Single Bench, the Management of NrDMC moved LPA No. 258/2020 before the Division Bench of the same Court. The applicant/workmen filed C.M. APPL. No. 25761/2020 for payment of allowance while the LPA is being decided by the Divisional Bench.

Contentions of the Petitioner (NrDMC): The stand of the NrDMC is that since the workmen is an able-bodied person, it cannot be presumed that he is sitting idle and as per NrDMC, it is difficult to find details of the present employment of the workman-respondent no. 1 and if an order under Section 17B of the Act is passed, it will burden the public exchequer as NrDMC is reeling under a financial crunch and the public money will go in wrong hands. Learned counsel for the NrDMC has relied upon the case of “Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. v. Their Workmen and Anr”, it has been held that in a case where the award does not order for reinstatement, the High Court does not get jurisdiction under Section 17B of the Act to pass an order under that provision. However, this is not applicable in this case as it was clearly mentioned in para 3 of the Judgement that the workman was terminated by the NrDMC. The reference was made to Govt of NCT, Delhi to determine whether the services of workmen were illegally terminated by the Management. In another case, ‘Employers in relation to the Management of Rajrappa Washery of Central Coalfields Limited v. Their Workmen’ the judgment was regarding the regularisation of service and not for reinstatement. However this is also not applicable to the present case as in the instant case, the Single bench had ordered for reinstatement of the workmen.

Contentions of the Respondent (Workmen): The learned counsel for the respondents contended that the case ‘M/s Control Print Limited v. Ajitpal Singh Rana’ referred by the petitioners which are decided by the Himachal Pradesh High Court does not help the cause of the NrDMC. However, the parameters concerning Section 17B of the Act referred to above fit the present case squarely. Though there is no provision for appeal provided in Industrial Disputes Act against the award passed by a labor court, However, a writ petition before High Court may be preferred by the aggrieved party. Here, in this case, the writ petition was filed by the workman, who was denied his claim by the impugned award. In “Shyam Sunder & Others vs Ram Kumar & Another”, Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “the legal position that emerges on review of the second category of decisions is that the appeal being the continuation of suit”.

Judgment by the Court: After a brief contemplation of the contents put forth by the parties, the Court rules that the workman is entitled to full wages last drawn by him. Since respondent no. 1-workman has been ordered to be regularized/reinstated with all consequential benefits, the Management, i.e., NrDMC shall pay his full last drawn wages or the minimum wages, whichever is higher, from 18.02.2020 onwards and keep on paying the same to him during the pendency of the present appeal i.e., LPA No. 258/2020, as there is no unreasonable delay in moving the application under Section 17B of the Act by the workman. The said CM application was moved on 07.10.2020 and the LPA itself was filed on 16.09.2020. Hence, the application, i.e., CM APPL. 25761/2020 is accordingly disposed of.

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Judgment reviewed by Revanth.

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