State Road Transport Corpn.
Vs. Smt. Lakshmidevamma & Anr  Insc 251 (1 May 2001)
Bharucha & N. Santosh Hegde Santosh Hegde,J.
appeal is referred to a Bench of Five Judges based on the following order made
by a Bench of two Judges of this Court.
view of the conflict of decisions of this Court in Shambhu Nath Goyal vs. Bank
of Baroda & Others, (1984 (1) SCR 85) and Rajendra Jha vs. Labour Court, (1985 (1) SCR 544), we are
referring this matter to a larger Bench which has to be a Bench of more than
three Judges. Mr. Rao, learned counsel appearing for the respondents, states
that there is no conflict in the decisions. According to us, that submission is
not correct. Hence, we are referring this to a larger Bench.
seen from the above order that the learned counsel appearing for the
respondents had contended that there is no conflict between the two judgments
referred to in the said order. However, the Bench thought otherwise. Since it
is again contended now before us on behalf of the respondents that there is no
conflict between the said judgments, we will first examine that aspect of the
Nath Goyal vs. Bank of Baroda & Others (1984 1 SCR 85) this Court held:
rights which the employer has in law to adduce additional evidence in a
proceeding before the Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal either under section
10 or section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act questioning the legality of the
order terminating the service must be availed of by the employer by making a
proper request at the time when it files its statement of claim or written
statement or makes an application seeking either permission to take certain
action or seeking approval of the action taken by it.
supplied) This decision was rendered by the Court while deciding the stage at
which the management is entitled to seek permission to adduce evidence in
justification of its decision taken on the basis of a domestic enquiry.
Jha vs. Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Bokaro Steel City, Distt.Dhanbad & Anr. (1985 (1)
SCR 544), though this Court was considering a similar question, we find the
Court did not lay down any law contrary to the judgment in Shambu Nath Goyals
case. A perusal of the judgment of this Court in Rajendra Jhas case shows that
the Court decided the said case on the facts of that case only.
is clear from the following observations of the Court in Rajendra Jhas case :
the order passed by the Labour Court allowing the employers to lead evidence
has been accepted and acted upon by the appellant. He has already given a list
of his own witnesses and has cross-examined the witnesses whose evidence was
led by the employers. It would be wrong, at this stage, to undo what has been
done in pursuance of the order of the Labour Court. Besides, the challenge made
by the appellant to the order of the Labour Court has failed and the order of the Patna High Court dismissing
the appellants writ petition has become final.
it is seen from the above observations of the Court in Rajendra Jhas case that
same is decided on the facts of the said case without laying down any principle
of law nor has the Court taken any view opposed to Shambu Nath Goyals case.
Therefore, having considered the two judgments, we are of the opinion that
there is no conflict in the judgments of this Court in the cases of Shambu Nath
Goyal and Rajendra Jha.
however, does not conclude our consideration of this appeal, because on behalf
of the appellant reliance is placed on some other earlier judgments of this
Court which, according to the appellant, have taken a view contrary to that of Shambu
Nath Goyals case. Therefore, we consider it appropriate to decide this question
with a hope of putting a quietus to the same.
we proceed to examine this question any further, it will be useful to bear in
mind that the right of a management to lead evidence before the Labour Court or the Industrial Tribunal in
justification of its decision under consideration by such tribunal or Court is
not a statutory right. This is actually a procedure laid down by this Court to
avoid delay and multiplicity of proceedings in the disposal of disputes between
the management and the workman.
geneses of this procedure can be traced by noticing the following observations
of this Court in Workmen of Motipur SCR 588) :
is held that in cases where the employer dismisses his employee without holding
an enquiry, the dismissal must be set aside by the industrial tribunal only on
that ground, it would inevitably mean that the employer will immediately
proceed to hold the enquiry and pass an order dismissing the employee once
again. In that case, another industrial dispute would arise and the employer
would be entitled to rely upon the enquiry which he had held in the mean-time.
This course would mean delay and on the second occasion it will entitle the
employer to claim the benefit of the domestic enquiry given. On the other hand,
if in such cases the employer is given an opportunity to justify the impugned
dismissal on the merits of his case being considered by the tribunal for itself
and that clearly would be to the benefit of the employee. That is why this
Court has consistently held that if the domestic enquiry is irregular, invalid
or improper, the tribunal may give an opportunity to the employer to prove his
case and in doing so the tribunal tries the merits itself.
in mind the above observations if we examine the various decisions of this
Court on this question it is seen that in all the judgments this Court has
agreed on the conferment of this right of the management but there seems to be
some differences of opinion in regard to the timings of making such
application. While some judgments hold that such a right can be availed by the
management at any stage of the proceedings right upto the stage of
pronouncement of the order on the original application filed either under
Section 10 or Section 33(2)(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, some other
judgments hold that the said right can be invoked only at the threshold.
are a number of judgments of this Court considering the above question but we
think it sufficient to refer to the following cases only since these cases have
considered almost all the earlier judgments on the question involved in this
Delhi Cloth & General Mills Co. vs. Ludh Budh Singh (1972 (3) SCR 29) this
Court after referring to most of the earlier cases on the point laid down the
following principle :
domestic inquiry has been held by the management and the management relies on
it, the management may request the Tribunal to try the validity of the domestic
inquiry as a preliminary issue and also ask for an opportunity to adduce
evidence before the Tribunal if the finding on the preliminary issue is against
the management. In such a case if the finding on the preliminary issue is
against the management, the Tribunal will have to give the employer an
opportunity to adduce additional evidence and also give a similar opportunity
to the employee to lead evidence contra.
the management should avail itself of the said opportunity by making a suitable
request to the Tribunal before the proceedings are closed. If no such
opportunity has been availed of before the proceedings were closed, the
employer can make no grievance that the Tribunal did not provide for such an
supplied) The words before the proceedings are closed gave rise to some doubts
as to whether it is open to the management to seek this right of leading fresh
evidence at any stage, including at a stage where the Tribunal/Labour Court had concluded the proceedings and
reserved its judgment on the main issue.
above judgment in D.C.M.s case came to be considered again by this Court in the
case of Cooper Engineering Limited vs. Sri P.P.Mundhe (1976 (1) SCR 361),
wherein this Court held :
are, therefore, clearly of the opinion that when a case of dismissal or
discharge of an employee is referred for industrial adjudication the Labour Court should first decide as a
preliminary issue whether the domestic enquiry has violated the principles of
natural justice. When there is no domestic enquiry or defective enquiry is
admitted by the employer, there will be no difficulty. But when the matter is in
controversy between the parties that question must be decided as a preliminary
issue. On that decision being pronounced it will be for the management to
decide whether it will adduce any evidence before the Labour Court.
chooses not to adduce any evidence, it will not be thereafter permissible in
any proceeding to raise the issue.
should also make it clear that there will be no justification for any party to
stall the final adjudication of the dispute by the labour court by questioning
its decision with regard to the preliminary issue when the matter, if worthy,
can be agitated even after the final award. It will be also legitimate for the
High Court to refuse to intervene at this stage. We are making these
observations in our anxiety that there is no undue delay in industrial
seen from the above, this Court in Cooper Engineerings case held that when the Tribunal/Labour Court was called upon to decide the
validity of the domestic enquiry same has to be tried as a preliminary issue
and thereafter, if necessary, the management was to be given an option to
adduce fresh evidence. But the problem did not stop at that.
question again arose in the case of Shambu Nath Goyals case (supra) as to the
propriety of waiting till the preliminary issue was decided to give an
opportunity to the management to adduce evidence, because after the decision in
the preliminary issue on the validity of the domestic enquiry, either way,
there was nothing much left to be decided thereafter. Therefore, in Shambu Nath
Goyals case this Court once again considered the said question in a different
perspective. In this judgment, the Court after discussing the earlier cases
including that of Shankar Chakravarti vs. Britannia Biscuit Co. Ltd. & Anr.
(1979 (3) SCR 1165), which was a judgment of this Court subsequent to that of
Cooper Engineering (supra), the following principles were laid down:
think that the application of the management to seek the permission of the Labour
Court or Industrial Tribunal for availing the right to adduce further evidence
to substantiate the charge or charges framed against the workman referred to in
the above passage in the application which may be filed by the management
during the pendency of its application made before the Labour Court or
Industrial Tribunal seeking its permission under section 33 of the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 to take a certain action or grant approval of the action
taken by it. The management is made aware of the workmans contention regarding
the defeat in the domestic enquiry by the written statement of defence filed by
him in the application filed by the management under section 33 of the Act.
Then, if the management chooses to exercise its right it must make up its mind
at the earliest stage and file the application for that purpose without any
unreasonable delay. But when the question arises in a reference under s.10 of
the Act after the workman had been punished pursuant to a finding of guilt
recorded against him in the domestic enquiry there is no question of the
management filing any application for permission to lead further evidence in
support of the charge or charges framed against the workman, for the defeat in
the domestic enquiry is pointed out by the workman in his written claim
statement filed in the Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal after the reference
had been received and the management has the opportunity to look into that
statement before it files its written statement of defence in the enquiry
before the Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal and could make the request for
the opportunity in the written statement itself. If it does not choose to do so
at that stage it cannot be allowed to do it at any later stage of the
proceedings by filing any application for the purpose which may result in delay
which may lead to wrecking the morale of the workman and compel him to
surrender which he may not otherwise do.
considering the decision in Shambu Nath Goyals case, we should bear in mind
that the judgment of Vardarajan,J. therein does not refer to the case of Cooper
Engineering (supra). However, the concurring judgment of D.A.Desai,J.
specifically considers this case. By the judgment in Goyals case the management
was given the right to adduce evidence to justify its domestic enquiry only if
it had reserved its right to do so in the application made by it under section
33 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 or in the objection that the management
had to file to the reference made under section 10 of the Act, meaning thereby
the management had to exercise its right of leading fresh evidence at the first
available opportunity and not at any time thereafter during the proceedings
before the Tribunal/Labour Court.
in mind the object of providing an opportunity to the management to adduce
evidence before the Tribunal/Labour
Court, we are of the
opinion that the directions issued by this Court in Shambu Nath Goyals case
need not be varied, being just and fair. There can be no complaint from the
management side for this procedure because this opportunity of leading evidence
is being sought by the management only as an alternative plea and not as an
admission of illegality in its domestic enquiry. At the same time, it is also
of advantage to the workmen inasmuch as they will be put to notice of the fact
that the management is likely to adduce fresh evidence, hence, they can keep
their rebuttal or other evidence ready. This procedure also eliminates the
likely delay in permitting the management to make belated application whereby
the proceedings before the Labour Court/Tribunal could get prolonged. In our
opinion, the procedure laid down in Shambu Nath Goyals case is just and fair.
is one other reason why we should accept the procedure laid down by this Court
in Shambu Nath Goyals case. It is to be noted that this judgment was delivered
on 27th of September, 1983. It has taken note of almost all the earlier
judgments of this Court and has laid down the procedure for exercising the
right of leading evidence by the management which we have held is neither
oppressive nor contrary to the object and scheme of the Act. This judgment
having held the field for nearly 18 years, in our opinion, the doctrine of
stare decisis require us to approve the said judgment to see that a long
standing decision is not unsettled without strong cause.
the reasons stated above, we are of the opinion that the law laid down by this
Court in the case of Shambu Nath Goyal vs. Bank of Baroda & Others (1984(1)
SCR 85) is the correct law on the point.
present case, the appellant employer did not seek permission to lead evidence
until after the Labour Court had held that its domestic enquiry was vitiated.
Applying the aforestated principles to these facts, we are of the opinion that
the High Court has rightly dismissed the writ petition of the appellant, hence,
this appeal has to fail. The same is dismissed with costs.