Management West Bokaro Colliery of Tisco Ltd. Vs.
Concerned Workman, Ram Pravesh Singh  Insc 122 (1 February 2008)
Bhan & Dalveer Bhandari
out of S.L.P. (C) No. 13281 of 2006) BHAN, J.
Management is in appeal.
respondent-workman was working as Senior Dumper Operator under the Management
of the appellant. The workman was deputed at Open Caste Mine, West Bokaro on 2nd of March, 1994 during the
first shift from 5.00
a.m. to 1.00 p.m.
left the place of his duty before the end of his shift duty and went to Rajiv Nagar
area where Shri Harbans Kumar, Senior Officer (Security), along with a number
of security personnel and other workers, was discharging his duties in
connection with prevention of unauthorized constructions on the companys
land. The respondent-workman along with few others approached Shri Harbans
Kumar and shouted at him using abusive language and threatened him with dire
consequences in case the unauthorized construction was demolished. The
respondent-workman, on being asked not to behave in the said manner, assaulted Shri
Harbans Kumar with his hands and also resorted to brick-bating as a result of
which Shri Harbans Kumar and Shri S.P. Yadav sustained injuries on the face and
other parts of the body.
Appellant-Management issued a charge sheet to the respondent-workman whereby he
was asked to show-cause as to why disciplinary action should not be taken
against him under Clause 22(18) and 22(5) of the Standing Orders of the Company
for the following misconduct: - (a) leaving work without permission (b)
indecent, riotous and disorderly behaviour with a superior as well as
respondent-workman submitted his reply denying all charges brought against him.
The Management decided to conduct an enquiry and accordingly appointed Shri Madhusudan
Das, Deputy Manager (Personnel) as Enquiry Officer. The Enquiry Officer after
giving full opportunity to the respondent-workman came to the conclusion that
the charges levelled against him were established beyond reasonable doubt and
submitted his report.
Punishing Authority after going through the Enquiry Report and related enquiry papers,
satisfied himself that charges levelled against the respondent had been established
and recommended the dismissal of the respondent from the Company with immediate
effect. The workman was accordingly dismissed on 23/25th of April, 1994.
respondent raised an industrial dispute and the Government of India, Ministry
of Labour, in exercise of its powers under Section 10(1)(d) of the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 (for short the Act), referred the following
dispute to the Tribunal for adjudication:
SCHEDULE Whether the action of the Management of West Bokaro Collieries of
M/s. TISCO Ltd.
Dist. Hazaribagh in dismissing Shri Ram Pravesh, Ex. Sr. Dumper Operator from
the services of the Company w.e.f 25.4.1994 is justified? If not, to what
relief the workman is entitled?
respondent on 3rd of October, 2003, made a statement before the Labour Court that he did not want to challenge
the legality, fairness and propriety of the domestic enquiry. On this statement
being made, the Labour
Court, after careful
consideration of the facts and circumstances and the submissions advanced by
the Counsel for the respondent, held that the domestic enquiry conducted by the
Management was fair, proper and in accordance with the principles of natural
justice. The matter was adjourned to 14th of December, 2001 for hearing argument
Industrial Tribunal set aside the order of dismissal passed against the
respondent by holding that the Management had failed to substantiate the
charges brought against the concerned workman beyond reasonable doubt.
order of dismissal passed against the concerned workman was set aside and he
was ordered to be reinstated with 50% back wages.
Management, thereafter, filed the Writ Petition before the High Court which was
dismissed by the Learned Single Judge, aggrieved against which Management filed
Letters Patent Appeal which has also been dismissed by the impugned order.
Learned Senior Counsel, Mr. Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the Management
submitted that the findings recorded by the domestic Tribunal based on the
evidence cannot be set aside or interfered with by the Industrial Tribunal or
the Courts by substituting their substantive opinion in place of the one
arrived at by the domestic Tribunal. It is further contended that the Tribunal
applied the standard of proof of beyond reasonable doubt which is required to
be proved in criminal cases whereas in the domestic enquiry and Civil Courts,
the standard of proof is of preponderance of probabilities. It is further
contended that the Tribunal erred in relying upon the order of acquittal passed
in favour of the respondent by the Criminal Court as in the criminal cases, the
standard of proof required to prove a charge is materially different than in
against this, Learned Counsel for the respondent contended that the Industrial
Tribunal was fully justified in coming to the different conclusions in exercise
of its powers under Section 11A of the Act.
Counsel for the parties have been heard at length.
The Tribunal in its order on re-appreciation of evidence came to the conclusion
that in the absence of any independent evidence other than of fellow workman,
the charge of indecent, riotous and disorderly behaviour with superior and
co-worker was not proved. Insofar as the absence from the duty is concerned,
Tribunal came to the conclusion that according to the workman, he had left the
place of work at 12.25
P.M. and as the
incident allegedly had taken place at 12.30 P.M., the respondent could not have reached the place of incident at 12.30 P.M. after collecting his other associates. In para 14 of
its order, the Tribunal concluded that Management had failed to substantiate
the charges brought against the workman beyond reasonable doubt.
This Court in Divisional Controller, KSRTC (NWKRTC) vs. A.T. Mane [(2005) 3 SCC
254], held that: - From the above it is clear that once a domestic
tribunal based on evidence comes to a particular conclusion, normally it is not
open to the appellate tribunals and courts to substitute their subjective opinion
in the place of the one arrived at by the domestic tribunal. In the present
case, there is evidence of the inspector who checked the bus which establishes
the misconduct of the respondent. The domestic tribunal accepted that evidence
and found the respondent guilty. But the courts below misdirected themselves in
insisting on the evidence of the ticketless passengers to reject the said
finding which, in our opinion, as held by this Court in the case of Rattan
Singh [(1977) 2 SCC 491] is not a condition precedent. We may herein note that
the judgment of this Court in Rattan Singh has since been followed by this
Court in Devendra Swamy vs. Karnataka SRTC [(2002) 9 SCC 644]
U.P. State Road Transport Corporation vs. Vinod Kumar [2007 (13) SCALE 690],
this Court again observed that in the absence of a challenge to the legality or
fairness of the domestic enquiry, the Court should be reluctant to either
interfere with the finding recorded by the Enquiry Officer or the punishment
awarded by the Punishing Authority.
After going through the order of the Industrial Tribunal, we are of the opinion
that the Tribunal has interfered with the findings recorded by the domestic
Tribunal as if it was the Appellate Tribunal. There was evidence present on record
regarding indecent, riotous and disorderly behaviour of the respondent towards
his superiors. The Management witnesses who were present at the scene of
occurrence have unequivocally deposed about the misbehaviour of the respondent
towards his superiors. Their evidence has been discarded by the Tribunal by
observing that in the absence of independent evidence, the statements of the
workmen who were present at the scene of occurrence could not be believed.
Industrial Tribunal fell in error in discarding the evidence produced by the
Management only because the independent witnesses were not produced. It is
nobodys case that the independent witnesses were available at the scene of
occurrence and the Management had failed to produce them. It is possible that
at the time of occurrence, only the workers of the Management and the persons
who were trying to put up the construction unauthorizedly were the persons
present and no independent evidence was available. Statements of the fellow
workmen had established the misconduct of the respondent. Enquiry Officer
accepted the testimony of the witnesses produced by the Management who had
clearly implicated the respondent.
a legitimate conclusion which could be arrived at and it would not be open to
the Industrial Tribunal to substitute the said opinion by its own opinion.
Findings recorded by the Tribunal that the workman had left the place of duty
at 12.25 P.M. and, therefore, could not have
reached the place of occurrence at 12.30 P.M. after collecting his other associates, is not based on any evidence.
The case of the Management is that the respondent had left his place of duty at
12.05 P.M. and reached the place of occurrence
at 12.30 P.M. after collecting his fellow
workmen. There was sufficient time for the workman to reach the place of
occurrence within half an hour as the distance between the place of duty and
the place of occurrence was only 1 k.m. The duty of the respondent- workman was
upto 1.00 Oclock. Even if, it is accepted that he left the place of duty
at 12.25 P.M., then also, he left the place of
duty during his duty hours.
Tribunal has set aside the report of the Enquiry Officer and the order of
dismissal passed by the Punishing Authority by observing that the charges
against the respondent were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. It has
repeatedly been held by this Court that the acquittal in a criminal case would
not operate as a bar for drawing up of a disciplinary proceeding against a
delinquent. It is well settled principle of law that yardstick and standard of
proof in a criminal case is different from the one in disciplinary proceedings.
While the standard of proof in a criminal case is proof beyond all reasonable
doubt, the standard of proof in a departmental proceeding is preponderance of
Learned Counsel for the respondent cited two cases The Workmen of M/s.
Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. of India (Pvt.) Ltd. vs. The Management & Ors. [(1973) 1 SCC 813] and South
Indian Cashew Factories Workers Union
vs. Kerala State Cashew Development Corpn. Ltd.& Ors. [(2006) 5 SCC
201], to contend that the Labour Court
in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 11A could have come to a
different conclusion. There is no quarrel with this proposition of law. The Labour Court could have awarded lesser
punishment in the given facts and circumstances of the case. In a case where
two views are possible on the evidence on record, then the Industrial Tribunal
should be very slow in coming to a conclusion other than the one arrived at by
the domestic Tribunal by substituting its opinion in place of the opinion of
the domestic Tribunal.
Court fell into the factual as well as legal error in setting aside the
findings recorded by the domestic Tribunal. Learned Single Judge as well as the
Division Bench have simply affirmed the findings recorded by the Tribunal.
For the reasons stated above, we accept this appeal, set aside the order passed
by the High Court as well as the Labour Court. Accordingly, the Order passed by the domestic Tribunal and
the Punishing Authority is restored. There should be no orders as to costs.