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Sant Kejaji Maharaj Smruti and Shaikshanik Sanstha Vs. Rajendra Deoraoji Raut and Ors. - (High Court of Bombay) (18 Apr 2019)

To classify a person employed in an industry as a workman, not only nature of work performed but also terms of appointment in job performed are relevant considerations


Labour and Industrial

The Petitioner-Trust has challenged concurrent orders passed by the Labour Court and Industrial Court by filing the present writ petition. It is claimed that, the relief of reinstatement with continuity of service and back wages granted in favour of Respondent No. 1 deserves to be set aside. The main grievance raised on behalf of the Petitioner-Trust is that, Respondent No. 1, who was working as hostel superintendent for students could not be said to be a workman and that, therefore, the proceedings initiated by Respondent No. 1 under the provisions of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971, before the Labour Court were without jurisdiction.

The crucial test in the present case would be, as to whether the oral and documentary evidence on record demonstrates that, Respondent No. 1 was indeed carrying out supervisory work and that therefore, he could not be classified as a 'workman'.

A perusal of the provisions of the Act of 1971 read with the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 shows that, "workman" means a person, who is doing manual unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or even supervisory work, but, in case a person employed in a supervisory capacity, if he draws wages exceeding Rs. 10,000 per month and his functions are mainly of a managerial nature, he cannot be classified as a workman.

In the present case, the Petitioner-trust has relied upon documents to show that, the salary paid to Respondent No. 1 at the time of termination of his service was above Rs. 10,000 and further because Respondent No. 1 was clearly doing supervisory work, he did not fit into the definition of "workman".

For determining the question as to whether a person employed in an industry is a workman or not; not only the nature of work performed by him but also the terms of the appointment in the job performed are relevant considerations. Supervision contemplates direction and control. An undue importance need not be given for the designation of an employee, or the name assigned to, the class to which he belongs.

The primary, basic and dominant nature of duties of Respondent No. 1 was not supervisory and it was essentially clerical in nature. Respondent No. 1 could certainly not be said to have a managerial or supervisory role in his service as a hostel superintendent. Hence, the main contention raised on behalf of the petitioner-trust that respondent No. 1 was not a workman and therefore, the impugned orders passed by the Courts below were without jurisdiction, is found to be unsustainable and it is rejected.

A perusal of the order of termination of service clearly shows that, the only reason stated for termination of service of Respondent No. 1 was that, the Petitioner-trust and the intervener had entered into a compromise and that consequently the intervener was required to be reinstated, necessitating termination of service of Respondent No. 1. There is no other ground stated in the order of termination of service and there are no allegations or charges levelled against respondent No. 1. Since this Court has found that, the appointment and approval of respondent No. 1 on the said post of hostel superintendent could not be said to be conditional or contingent, it becomes clear that the order of termination of service was issued by the Petitioner-trust without any justification.

Respondent No. 1 worked continuously with the petitioner-trust as hostel superintendent from the date of his appointment i.e. for a long period of about 15 years. Therefore, no fault can be found with the impugned order of the Labour Court quashing and setting aside the said order of termination of service. The writ petition is dismissed.


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