of Balmadies Estates Vs. Management Balmadies Estate and Ors.  Insc 60 (18 January 2008)
Arijit Pasayat P. Sathasivam Dr. Arijit Pasayat, J.
Challenge in this appeal is to the order of the Madras High Court dismissing
the writ appeal filed by the appellant. The writ appeal was filed against the
order of a learned Single Judge of the High Court in Writ Petition No. 589 of
workmen-Stephen and Nallusami were issued with charge sheets on 15.12.1980
wherein it was alleged that the Manager had received information that they had
stolen 100 litres of gramoxine weedicide chemical belonging to the estate from
the store room during the period between 29.11.1980 and 2.12.1980. The two
employees replied to that notice stating that they had not committed any
misconduct as alleged in the notice. Thereafter, an enquiry was held in which
they participated till the evidence of M.Ws. 1 and 2 was recorded.
also cross examined those two witnesses.
After cross examination MW2, Stephen stated that he had no confidence in the
enquiry and walked out of the enquiry.
the other workman, Nallusami made a statement in which he stated that on
6.12.1980 while he was doing work in the estate, some workmen were asked to
meet the Manager and at that time one lady has identified him to have committed
the theft. He added that she was following the instructions of somebody else
and that he had pleaded with the police that he had not committed the theft.
Thereafter he stated that the police beat him and again he was identified by
that lady and thereafter he was asked as to who were all with him for the
crime. He then stated that supervisor Stephen was with him.
was one Easwaradas. As noted above MW1, was cross examined by both Stephen and Nallusami.
Neither of them questioned the correctness of the statement of MW1 that they
had confessed to the police to the theft in his presence when he went to his
house and opened the lock of the store room. The statement of MW1 was thus uncontroverted.
2 Seetharaman confirmed the statement of MW1.
the witnesses gave the evidence and have been cross examined, the delinquents
did not take part in the enquiry.
three other witnesses were examined, one of them was Mary who had identified
the accused persons. The enquiry officer at the conclusion of the enquiry held
that the two delinquents had committed the theft and thereafter the employees
were dismissed from service by order dated 28.3.1981. At the instance of the
workmen, the dispute was referred for adjudication to the Labour Court, Coimbatore. A preliminary dispute was raised about the validity of the
court rejected the stand and by a detailed order dated 31.12.1984 held that the
domestic enquiry was conducted on proper lines and keeping in view the
principles of natural justice the final award was made on 6.8.1985. The Labour
court held that there was no direct evidence to show that the two workmen had
committed theft. It was held that the employer had not produced stock register
and there was no material to show that as to how many times store room was open
prior to 4.12.1980. The Labour
concluded that the evidence was not properly appreciated by the enquiry officer
and the finding of guilt was based on very slender evidence. The award was
challenged by the employer and the learned Single Judge held that the Labour
Court had failed to take note of the direct evidence more particularly the
evidence of MWs. 12 and held that the appreciation of evidence by the Labour
Court was perverse and the Labour Courts interference with the order of
termination was insupportable in law. Before the High Court in the writ appeal
the stand was that the evidence of MWs. 12 should not have been treated as
direct evidence, it was also submitted that under Section 11(A) of the
Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (in short the Act) the Labour Court has
the power to re-appreciate the evidence. Therefore, the High Court should not
have interfered with the order of the Labour Court in a petition under Article
226 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (in short the Constitution).
High Court by the impugned order did not find any substance and dismissed the
Learned counsel for the appellant re-iterated the stand taken before the High
Learned counsel for the respondents supported the order of the learned Single
Judge and the Division Bench. The power of the Labour Court under the Act has expanded vastly after the introduction of
Section 11A of the Act into the Statute. This was emphasized by this Court in
The Workmen of M/s. Firestone Tyre and
Rubber Co. of India (Pvt.) Ltd. v. The Management and
Others [1973 (1) SCC 813] and Sadhu Ram v. Delhi Transport Corporation [1983
(4) SCC 156] and Indian Overseas Bank v. I.O.B. Staff Canteen Workers Union and Anr. [2000 (4) SCC 245].
is fairly well settled now that in view of the wide power of the Labour Court
it can, in an appropriate case, consider the evidence which has been considered
by the domestic Tribunal and in a given case on such consideration arrive at a
conclusion different from the one arrived at by the Domestic Tribunal. The
assessment of evidence in a domestic enquiry is not required to be made by
applying the same yardstick as a Civil Court could do when a lis is brought before it. The Indian
Evidence Act, 1872 (in short the Evidence Act) is not applicable to
the proceeding in a domestic enquiry so far as the domestic enquiries are
concerned, though principles of fairness are to apply. It is also fairly well
settled that in a domestic enquiry guilt may not be established beyond
reasonable doubt and the proof of misconduct would be sufficient. In a domestic
enquiry all materials which are logically probative including hearsay evidence
can be acted upon provided it has a reasonable nexus and credibility.
J.D. Jain v. Management of State Bank of India and Anr. (1982) 1 SCC 143 it was held, almost in a similar factual
background, that confessional evidence and circumstantial evidence, despite
lack of any direct evidence, was sufficient to hold the delinquent guilty of
misconduct and to justify the order of termination that had been passed.
noted above what MWs. 1 2 had stated was to the effect that the
confession was made by the two delinquents in their presence and also in the
presence of others. There was no cross examination with regard thereto. There
was no complaint made by the delinquents even after the charge sheet was filed
that the confessions had been extracted from them and/or that they had been
compelled to make such a statement by reason of any threat hold out. Even when
they cross examined the witnesses, they did not even suggest that what had been
stated by the witnesses are incorrect. The findings of the Labour Court were perverse and can be termed to
be based on misconception of law. The High Court, therefore, rightly observed
that the evidence could not have been brushed aside by the Labour Court in the manner done. That being so,
the appeal is without merit, deserves dismissal, which we direct. No costs.