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Often the employee whose employment is terminated ponder that there is a prescribed period of limitation to approach the labour court, tribunal.

Or the dispute is stale dispute and cannot be referred for adjudication.

The affected employee may get confused by provisions of Industrial Dispute Act, State Amendment Act…..

Or If the claim is made after gross delay, it would cause considerable hardship to the employer and it has to be borne in mind while deciding the question.

>>> It was decided that:  ‘The amended provisions of Section 2A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, in fact, echoes the provisions of Section 10(1B) as introduced by the West Bengal Amendment of the Act in 1989. The former came into effect on 15th September, 2010 and the latter on 8th December, 1989. However, the period of limitation as prescribed requires the party to approach the Labour Court or Tribunal under Section 2A before the expiry of three years from the date of discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or otherwise termination of service. However, no period of limitation is prescribed under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act. Although, in an appropriate case, the appropriate Government may decline to refer the dispute for industrial adjudication if it appears to such authority that the dispute raised is a stale dispute. ‘

Calcutta High Court (Appellete Side)

Smt. Swapna Adhhikari vs The State Of West Bengal & Ors on 20 March, 2014

 >>> The Supreme Court has held that: It is not open to the government to go into the merits of the dispute and once it is found that an industrial dispute exists, it is incumbent on the government to make a reference. It is for the appropriate court or forum to decide the same.

If adequate reasons are shown, the government is bound to refer the dispute to the appropriate court or forum for adjudication.

The government could not decline to make a reference for laches on the part of the workman. 

The appellant worked in the G.M. Instrument Design, Development and Facilities Centre, Punjab, from October 1990 till November 1991 and again on an ad hoc basis till May 1992, when his services were terminated. He claimed that he had worked for more than 240 days without any break and that his termination was illegal. The labour court rejected his plea and the Punjab and Haryana High Court also turned down the petition on the ground of delay on the part of the government in making the reference for an industrial dispute.

Implying that, the Workman is not to be blamed.

The reference sought by the workman cannot be said to be delayed or suffering from a lapse when law does not prescribe any period of limitation for raising a dispute under Section 10.

The Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan held that:

“We do not think that the delay has been so culpable as to disentitle him any relief. We are also satisfied that in view of the details furnished and the explanation offered, the workman cannot be blamed for the delay and he was all along hoping that one day his grievance would be considered by the management or the State government. We order reinstatement of the workman with consequential service benefits, but without back wages, within eight weeks. Since the appellant has been fighting for his survival for more than a decade, we award a cost of Rs.50, 000 to be paid by the respondent-management directly to the workman within the same period.”

Supreme Court of India

Kuldeep Singh vs G.M.,Instrument Design D&F.; ... on 3 December, 2010

>>> By this writ petition, the petitioner seeks indulgence of this Court in the matter of refusal by Central Government to make reference of industrial dispute for adjudication before the Central Government-cum-Labour Court, Jabalpur. The communication of refusal to make reference under Section 10 of the Industrial Dispute Act dated 11.01.2007 is under challenge in this writ petition. The reason for refusal is purportedly is belated dispute of 22 years.

After protracted discussion on various dates as reflected from the report, the conciliation proceedings ended in failure and ultimately the Regional Labour Commissioner, sent his failure report to the Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Labour, New Delhi. The Central Government by the impugned communication refused to make reference, purportedly for the reason that the dispute is of belated period of 22 years.

As regards, scope of the authority of the Central Government and limitation, the Hon. Supreme Court in number of decisions has interpreted the provisions as contained in Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act with special reference to the words "at any time".

The Governments power to refer an industrial dispute for adjudication has thus one limitation of time and that is, it can be done only so long as the dispute exists.

 It, therefore, means that if the dispute existed on the day when the reference was made by the Government .it is idle to ascertain the number of years which elapsed since the commencement of the dispute to determine whether the delay would have extinguished the power of the Government to make the reference."

Further in the case of Kuldeep Singh Vs. G.M.Instrument Design Development & Facilities Centre & another, AIR 2011 SC 455, in para 21 has held as under:-

"21.In view of the above, law can be summarized that there is no prescribed time limit for the appropriate Government to exercise its powers under Section 10 of the Act. It is more so in view of the language used, namely, if any industrial dispute exists or is apprehended, the appropriate government "at any time" refer the dispute to a Board or Court for enquiry.

However, in view of the explanation offered by the workman, in the case on hand, as stated and discussed by us in the earlier paragraphs, we do not think that the delay in the case on hand has been so culpable as to disentitle him any relief.

In view of the foregoing facts and circumstances of the case, this Court is of the firm opinion that the order of Central Government refusing to refer the dispute to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication, is unsustainable in the eyes of law. The petition is allowed. The order dated 11.01.2011 is quashed.

Madhya Pradesh High Court

Ramratan Prasad vs Union Of India Judgement Given By: ... on 13 December, 2013

>>> 2. This appeal has been filed by the appellant against the order dated 09.01.2012 passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in L.P.A. No. 20 of 2012, whereby the High Court dismissed the L.P.A. and affirmed the order dated 14.11.2011 passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court in the C.W.P. No.20996 of 2011, urging various grounds.

3……………In 1976, the appellant joined the Haryana Roadways as a conductor. On 10.08.1993, the appellant was charged under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code in a criminal case at the instance of the respondent for alleged misappropriation of the amount collected from tickets and not depositing the cash in relation to the same in time. The appellant was arrested by the Jurisdictional police and sent to judicial custody on 15.09.1994. Further, on 21.10.1994 the services of the appellant were terminated by the General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Hissar, the respondent herein. On 15.11.1994, the appellant upon being released on bail was given an oral assurance by the respondent that he will be reinstated to the post after his acquittal by the Court. 4. On 11.07.2002, upon being acquitted by the Court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Hissar, in Crl. Case No. 33-I of 1994, the appellant reported to join his duty, but he was informed by the respondent that his services stood terminated w.e.f. 21.10.1994. The appellant served the demand notice upon the respondent which was not acceded to and therefore, the industrial dispute with regard to order of termination from his services was raised before the conciliation officer.

4……………….. On failure of the conciliation proceedings before him, the industrial dispute was referred by the State Government in exercise of its statutory power under Section 10 (1) (c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (for short ‘the Act’) to the Labour Court, Hissar for adjudication of the existing industrial dispute in relation to the order of dismissal of the appellant from his services. After adjudication of the points of dispute referred to it, the Labour Court vide its award dated 22.05.2009 declared that the termination of the appellant from his services was illegal and passed an award of reinstatement of the appellant with 60% back wages from the date of issuance of demand notice till publication of the award and full back wages thereafter, till reinstatement.

5. Aggrieved by the same, the respondent-Haryana Roadways filed C.W.P. No. 13366 of 2009 before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh. The High Court vide its order dated 01.04.2010 set aside the award dated 22.05.2009 and remanded the case back to the Labour Court for fresh adjudication in the light of the applicability of the provisions of Article 311(2)(b) of the Constitution of India, to the appellant/workman.

6. The Labour Court vide its award dated 17.05.2011 in R.M. No.3 of 2010 answered the reference by passing an award against the appellant on the ground that the reference of the industrial dispute is time barred.

The appellant challenged the correctness of the said award by filing a Civil Writ Petition No.20996 of 2011 before the High Court, which was dismissed on 14.11.2011 by the learned single Judge of the High Court holding that the decision of the disciplinary authority of the respondent is in the public interest and therefore, the same does not warrant interference.

7. The appellant thereafter filed Letters Patent Appeal No. 20 of 2012 before the Division Bench of the High Court against the order of the learned single Judge. The same was dismissed vide order dated 09.01.2012 on the ground that the services of the appellant were terminated by the respondent on 21.10.1994 in exercise of the powers conferred upon it under the provisions of Article 311(2)(b) of the Constitution of India,whereas the appellant had raised the industrial dispute vide the demand notice in the year, 2002. The Division Bench of the High Court found no illegality or irregularity in the impugned judgment passed by the learned single Judge of the High Court. 8. Aggrieved by the impugned judgment and order dated 09.01.2012 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, the appellant has filed this appeal urging various grounds.

10. The learned Additional Advocate General for the State of Haryana, Mr. Narender Hooda has vehemently contended that the Labour Court was right in rejecting the reference of the industrial dispute being on the ground that it was barred by limitation by answering the additional issue No. 2

11. In our view of the facts and circumstances of the case on hand, the reference was made by the State Government to the Labour Court for adjudication of the existing industrial dispute; it has erroneously held it to be barred by limitation. This award was further erroneously affirmed by the High Court, which is bad in law and therefore the same is liable to be set aside. According to Section 10(1) of the Act, the appropriate government ‘at any time’ may refer an industrial dispute for adjudication, if it is of the opinion that such an industrial dispute between the workman & the employer exists or is apprehended.

42. It is an undisputed fact that the dispute was raised by the workman after he was acquitted in the criminal case which was initiated at the instance of the respondent. Raising the industrial dispute belatedly and getting the same referred from the State Government to the Labour Court is for justifiable reason……………Even assuming for the sake of the argument that there was a certain delay and latches on the part of the workman in raising the industrial dispute and getting the same referenced for adjudication, the Labour Court is statutorily duty bound to answer the points of dispute referred to it by adjudicating the same on merits of the case and it ought to have moulded the relief appropriately in favour of the workman. Both the learned single Judge as well as the Division Bench of the High Court in its Civil Writ Petition and the Letters Patent Appeal have failed to consider this important aspect of the matter. Therefore, we are of the view that the order of termination passed by the respondent, the award passed by the Labour Court and the judgment & order of the High Court are liable to be set aside……………………….the workman will be entitled in law for back wages and other consequential benefits from the date of raising the industrial dispute i.e. from 02.03.2005 till reinstatement with all consequential benefits.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8434 OF 2014 (Arising out of SLP(C) NO. 22487 of 2012)

RAGHUBIR SINGH ………APPELLANT
Vs.
GENERAL MANAGER, HARYANA ROADWAYS, HISSAR ………RESPONDENT


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