Section 33(2)(b) ID Act- SC Explains Scope Of Enquiry By Labour Court While Granting/Refusing Approval For Discharge/Dismissal Of Workman

The Supreme Court has observed that a Labour Court or Tribunal while holding enquiry under Section 33(2)(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act cannot invoke the adjudicatory powers vested in them under Section 10(i)(c) and (d) of the Act.

They also cannot dwell upon the proportionality of punishment in the process of formation of their prima facie view under Section 33(2)(b), the bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Surya Kant observed .

In John D'Souza vs. Karnataka SRTC, the court was concerned with the scope and ambit of the enquiry to be held by a Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal while granting or refusing approval for the discharge or dismissal of a workman under Section 33(2)(b) of the Act. The bench said:

Section 33(2)(b) of the Act, thus, in the very nature of things contemplates an enquiry by way of summary proceedings as to whether a proper domestic enquiry has been held to prove the misconduct so attributed to the workmen and whether he has been afforded reasonable opportunity to defend himself in consonance with the principles of natural justice. As a natural corollary thereto, the Labour Court or the Forum concerned will lift the veil to find out that there is no hidden motive to punish the workman or an abortive attempt to punish him for a nonexistent misconduct.

The Labour Court/Tribunal, nevertheless, while holding enquiry under Section 33(2)(b), would remember that such like summary proceedings are not akin and at par with its jurisdiction to adjudicate an `industrial dispute' under Section 10(1)(c) and (d) of the Act, nor the former provision clothe it with the power to peep into the quantum of punishment for which it has to revert back to Section 11A of the Act. Where the Labour Court/Tribunal, thus, do not find the domestic enquiry defective and the principles of fair and just play have been adhered to, they will accord the necessary approval to the action taken by the employer, albeit without prejudice to the right of the workman to raise an `industrial dispute' referrable for adjudication under Section 10(1)(c) or (d), as the case may be.

The court made it clear that an order of approval granted under Section 33(2)(b) has no binding effect in the proceedings under Section 10(1)(c) and (d) which shall be decided independently while weighing the material adduced by the parties before the Labour Court/Tribunal.

Taking note of the fact that the lawyers at Orissa have been boycotting the court of Chief Justice of the high court, the Supreme Court today issued notices on a transfer petition, calling for a report on the matter from the High Court Registrar on the measures taken to ensure access the court of Chief Justice for advocates willing to appear.

"We consider it appropriate to call for a report from the Registrar of the High Court of Odisha what measures have been made to ensure access to the court of Chief Justice is available for advocates willing to appear"(sic), ordered the bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

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