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Milkhi Ram Vs Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board: Civil Courts Do Not Have Jurisdiction To Entertain A Claim Based On The Industrial Disputes Act

Prahalad B ,
  22 October 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 1346 of 2010

Date of Judgement:
08 October 2021

Coram:
Justice R Subash Reddy
Justice Hrishikesh Roy

Parties:
Appellant – Milkhi Ram
Respondent – Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board

Subject

The plaintiff has the right to seek relief under common law or under the Industrial Disputes Act and if it is clear that the plaintiff claims relief under the Industrial Dispute, the civil court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain such plea.

Legal Provisions

  • Section 25B of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Definition of continuous service.
  • Section 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Conditions precedent toretrenchment of workmen.

Overview

  • The appellant herein was a daily wage worker employed by the respondent. The appellant was relieved from work by an order. The appellant challenged the said on the order on the ground that he had provided uninterrupted service had claimed that he had the right to claim regularization of his service after completion of service for 240 days.
  • The Civil Court after examination of Section 25B and 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act held that the appellant had provided 240 days of service and is entitled for regularization of service.
  • The respondent board challenged the decision of the Civil Court before the District Court on the ground that the Civil Court did not have jurisdiction to decide on the matter. The District Court held that since the litigation had been going on for a long time, it would put the appellant in a difficult position if he is ordered to approach the Labour Court and upheld the decision of the Civil Court.
  • The respondent filed a civil revision against the said order. It contended before the High Court that the civil court did not have jurisdiction to entertain such suit and only the industrial court can grant such relief. The High Court allowed appeal on the ground that the Civil Court did not jurisdiction.
  • Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the present appeal was preferred. The appellant contended that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not completely barred. The Respondent reiterated the argument made before the High Court and supported the order of the High Court.

Issue

  • Whether the Civil Courts have jurisdiction to entertain petitions claiming relief under the Industrial Disputes Act?

Judgement Analysis

  • This court observed that the appellant, the plaintiff in the original suit, had prayed relief under the Industrial Dispute Act, therefore held that the respondent-employer is entitled to challenge the jurisdiction of the Civil Court.
  • Citing Rajasthan SRTC V. Khadarmal (2006) and Rajasthan SRTC V. Uma Ram Choudhry (2006), wherein the Supreme Court held that a Civil Court has no jurisdiction to decide in such cases.
  • Further, this court also agreed with the observation of the High Court that a prayer for dismissal of suit on grounds of absence of jurisdiction of the court can be allowed even at the stage of execution of the proceedings.
  • Hence, taking into above considerations, the appeal was dismissed.

Conclusion

If a plaintiff prays for a common law remedy, he can approach either the Civil Court or the Industrial Court. However, if the plaintiff clearly prays for a relief under the Industrial Disputes Act, the Civil Court does have the jurisdiction (Coram Non Judice) to decide on the matter and only the Labour Court can entertain such petitions.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

Questions:

  1. Which Section under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 defines continuous service?
  2. What are the conditions precedent to retrenchment of a worker under the Industrial Disputes Act?
 
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