Bombay High Court recently held that when a dispute is referred to a labour court or tribunal, the dispute has to be decided on merits and the court or tribunal has no power dismiss the reference for non-prosecution.
In Sangitabai v The Commissioner, Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, Aurangabad, the the petitioners claimed to have worked for the respondent corporation for about two years prior to their oral termination on dates stated in an order of reference from the deputy commissioner of labour, by which the dispute was referred to the labour court. The labour court dismissed all the reference cases for non-prosecution.
Bombay High Court allowed the writ petitions, holding that it is well settled that a reference made to a labour court or tribunal is not to be dismissed in default. Once a reference has been made by order of competent authority under section 12(4) read with section 10(1) and section 12(5) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the labour court or tribunal is under a legal obligation to decide the reference cases. Even if no statement of claim is filed, the labour court or tribunal is expected to deliver its award on material available.
The high court placed reliance on the judgment by Karnataka High Court in the case of TS Zingade v Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (1979), in which it was held that the term ”award” used in section 15 of the Industrial Disputes Act means a decision on merits. Under section 2(b) of the act a decision delivered by a court would constitute an award. There must be a determination on terms of reference and questions addressed or referred to the court. In absence of a statement of claim, the labour court could scan the available record and decide the reference.
The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi.
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