Kumar Sharma Vs. Oberoi Flight Services  INSC 1700 (6 November 2009)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.7395 OF
2009 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 30550/2008) Ashok Kumar Sharma ...Appellant
Versus Oberoi Flight Services ...Respondent JUDGEMENT R.M. Lodha, J.
In this appeal by special leave, the workman has challenged the
judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of Delhi High Court on March
18, 2008 whereby monetary compensation of Rs.60,000/- has been ordered to be
paid by the Management to him in lieu of reinstatement and back wages.
The Appellant (for short "workman") was employed by
Oberoi Flight Services-Respondent (for short "Management") as a
loader on March 10, 1980. Allegedly on August 31, 1986 while returning from
duty, the workman was found carrying 30 KLM soup spoons illegally in his shoe.
The workman is said to have admitted his guilt in writing on August 31, 1986
itself and then again on the next day i.e. September 1, 1986. The Management
acting on the said admission of guilt by the workman, vide order dated
September 3, 1986 dismissed him from service. Having been unsuccessful in his
representation and legal notice to the Management, the workman raised
industrial dispute before the appropriate Government which was referred for adjudication
to the Labour Court, Delhi on June 19, 1987.
The workman in his statement of claim before the Labour Court set
out that being a union leader, the Management hatched a conspiracy against him
for his removal and obtained confession letters under threat and coercion. He
also set up the plea that without holding any inquiry and in breach of the
principles of the natural justice, the order of dismissal was passed by the
Management. In the written statement, the Management, on the other hand, narrated
the circumstances in which the workman had stolen 30 KLM soup 2 spoons by
carrying them in his shoe. The parties led evidence in support of their
respective stand. The Labour Court, after hearing the parties, vide his award
dated January 31, 1996 held that order of dismissal passed by the Management
was contrary to law but at the same time it also held that the dismissal of the
workman from the service of the Management was not unjustified. The Labour
Court, however, awarded full back wages to the workman from the date of his
dismissal until the date of award.
The workman challenged the award of the Labour Court by filing
Writ Petition which was heard by the Single Judge. The Single Judge held that
workman has failed to make out any ground for interference with the impugned
award and, consequently, dismissed the Writ Petition on July 30, 2007.
Not satisfied with the order of the Single Judge, the workman
preferred Letters Patent Appeal. The Division Bench held that it was difficult
to believe the contention of the Management that 30 KLM soup spoons could be
put in a shoe and that workman walked with the said spoons in his shoe from the
work area to the security check area. The Division Bench 3 also noticed that
Management having not conducted any enquiry, the dismissal of workman without
issuing him charge- sheet or a show cause notice was unsustainable. However,
the Division Bench vide his judgment dated March 18, 2008 did not deem it
proper to order reinstatement of the workman and instead directed the
Management to pay him Rs.60,000/- in full and final settlement of the claim. It
is this part of the order which is under challenge in this appeal.
This Court in U.P. State Brassware Corporation Ltd. V. Uday Narain
Pandey1 held thus:
The Industrial Courts while adjudicating on disputes between the Management and
the workman, therefore, must take such decisions which would be in consonance
with the purpose the law seeks to achieve. When justice is the buzzword in the
matter of adjudication under the Industrial Disputes Act, it would be wholly
improper on the part of the superior courts to make them apply the cold letter
of the statutes to act mechanically. Rendition of justice would bring within
its purview giving a person what is due to him and not what can be given to him
person is not entitled to get something only because it would be lawful to do
so. If that principle is applied, the functions of an Industrial Court shall
lose much of their significance.
Court, therefore, emphasised that while granting relief, application of mind on
the part of the Industrial Court is imperative. Payment of full back wages,
therefore, cannot be the natural consequence."
In the case of Sita Ram V. Moti Lal Nehru Farmers Training
Institute2 this Court considered the matter thus:
The question, which, however, falls for our consideration is as to whether the
Labour Court was justified in awarding reinstatement of the appellants in
Keeping in view the period during which the services were rendered by the
respondent (sic appellants); the fact that the respondent had stopped its
operation of bee farming, and the services of the appellants were terminated in
December 1996, we are of the opinion that it is not a fit case where the
appellants could have been directed to be reinstated in service.
Indisputably, the Industrial Court, exercises a discretionary jurisdiction, but
such discretion is required to be exercised judiciously. Relevant factors therefor
were required to be taken into consideration; the nature of appointment, the
period of appointment, the availability of the job, etc. should weigh with the
court for determination of such an issue.
Court in a large number of decisions opined that payment of adequate amount of
compensation in place of a direction to be reinstated in service in cases of
this nature would subserve the ends of justice. (See Jaipur Development
Authority v. Ramsahai [(2006) 11 SCC 684], M.P. Admn. v. Tribhuban [(2007) 9
SCC 748] and Uttaranchal Forest Development Corpn. v. M.C. Joshi [(2007) 9 SCC
Having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case, we are of the
opinion that payment of a sum of Rs. 1,00,000 to each of the appellants, would
meet the ends of justice. This appeal is allowed to the aforementioned extent.
In the facts and circumstances of this case, there shall be no order as to
The afore-referred two decisions of this Court and few more
decisions were considered by us in the case of Jagbir 2 JT 2008 (3)SC622 5
Singh V. Haryana State Agriculture Marketing Board3 albeit in the context of
retrenchment of a daily wager in violation of section 25F of Industrial
Disputes Act who had worked for more than 240 days in a year and we observed
It is true that earlier view of this Court articulated in many decisions
reflected the legal position that if the termination of an employee was found
to be illegal, the relief of reinstatement with full back wages would
ordinarily follow. However, in recent past, there has been a shift in the legal
position and in long line of cases, this Court has consistently taken the view
that relief by way of reinstatement with back wages is not automatic and may be
wholly inappropriate in a given fact situation even though the termination of
an employee is in contravention to the prescribed procedure. Compensation
instead of reinstatement has been held to meet the ends of justice."
It is not necessary to multiply the decisions of this Court
wherein award of compensation in lieu of reinstatement and back wages has been
held to be adequate and in the interest of justice.
In light of the aforesaid legal position, the view of the High
Court that monetary compensation in lieu of reinstatement of the workman would
be proper cannot be said to be unjustified. However, we find that the
compensation in the sum of Rs.60,000/- awarded by the Division Bench is 3 JT
2009(9)SCC396 6 grossly inadequate. Regard being had to all relevant facts and
circumstances, including the nature of employment and the fact that he was a
confirmed employee, in our considered view compensation of Rs.2 lacs to the
appellant by the Respondent shall meet the ends of justice. We order
accordingly. Such payment should be made, after deducting the amount already
paid, within six weeks from today failing which the same shall carry interest
at the rate of 9 per cent per annum on unpaid amount.
Appeal is allowed in part to the aforesaid extent with no order as
........................J (Tarun Chatterjee)
................... .....J (R. M. Lodha)
November 6, 2009.