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Where transgression is established u/s 25F of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, an appropriate remedy is compensation and not reinstatement: High Court of Delhi

Reinstatement with full back wages is not an automatic rule in every case where termination/ dismissal is found to be not in accordance with procedure prescribed under law. Reinstatement is not an automatic consequence of wrongful termination, especially when the Workman has, during the pendency of litigation, not performed any services with the Management. In other words, since, reinstatement cannot be automatic, and if the transgression of Section 25F is established, then suitable compensation would be the appropriate remedy. These were stated by High Court of Delhi consisting, Justice Prathiba M. Singh in the case of Ms. Vandana vs. M/S HBL Globel Pvt. Ltd. [W.P.(C) 2359/2020] on 20.01.2022.

The facts of the case are that the Petitioner was employed as a Tele-caller with the Respondent Management. Till 2012, she had rendered her services regularly. However, due to medical issues arising out of miscarriage which she is stated to have undergone in June, 2012, she had remained absent from work. This resulted in the Management terminating her services. However, upon filing a complaint with the Labour Commissioner, she was taken back into service. It was the case of the Petitioner that post her termination in 2012, when she joined back, the Management started sending various warning letters to her, and she was finally terminated on 30th December, 2014. The said termination was challenged by the Petitioner before the Labour Court, wherein she prayed for reinstatement with continuity of service and full back wages along with all consequential benefits. The termination was held to be illegal, however, only compensation was awarded in lieu of reinstatement in service. The Management has paid the sum awarded. But the Petitioner has challenged the award and prays that she ought to be reinstated.

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the Labour Court completely erred in not granting reinstatement in service along with full back wages. She submitted that the conclusion of the Labour Court clearly shows that the petitioner was victimized and harassed unnecessarily by the Management. Since there as was no specific allegation of misbehaviour or insubordination and the termination of service was held to be illegal reinstatement with full wages ought to be granted.

The Counsel for the respondent submitted that the Petitioner had received various letters showing that she was under-performing, and the said letters were placed on record before the Labour Court. However, the same have been ignored by simply stating that no specific incident of indiscipline and misconduct was pointed out by the Management. She emphasises the fact that the letters were written way back in 2009. Thus, it is wrong to suggest that the Management had a grievance against the Petitioner, only due to her absence from work at the time of her miscarriage. It was further submitted that in every case where the termination of service has been held to be illegal, reinstatement of service was not granted automatically.

The High Court of Delhi held that there was no specific incident of insubordination or unsatisfactory performance which was pointed out by the Management. No evidence of colleagues or customers was produced to establish the said allegations. In cases of wrongful termination of service, reinstatement with continuity of service and back wages is the normal rule. The question of back wages, however, has to be considered depending on the length of service, nature of misconduct, etc. Nevertheless, the reinstatement with full back wages is not automatic in every case, where termination / dismissal is found to be not in accordance with procedure prescribed under law. Reinstatement is not an automatic consequence of wrongful termination, especially when the Workman has, during the pendency of litigation, not performed any services with the Management. In other words, since, reinstatement cannot be automatic, and if the transgression of Section 25F is established, then suitable compensation would be the appropriate remedy. Therefore, the Court, in the present found it reasonable to grant a further compensation of Rs.1 lakh to the petitioner. With the above observations, the present petition was disposed of.

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Judgment reviewed by Shristi Suman.

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