Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana high court has imposed fine of Rs 5 lakh to Punjab government for ignoring the plea of staff union of a Mohali-based pharma company Ranbaxy.
This comes after a demand notice was submitted by 73 employees after they were transferred to Dewas in Madhya Pradesh by M/s Ranbaxy Laboratory Ltd in 2012, and they had raised the issue with the labour department and instead of referring the matter to labour tribunal, the department did not act and ignored the complaint claiming that it was filed by a registered union in MP. After the incidence, some of the employees were transferred to Ropar unit with reduced basic salary, annual increment and benefits of leave condensed, their petition stated.
The court responding to the petition, issued a series of sharp observations on the department, holding the decision of not referring the matter to labor court as erroneous.
“The Assistant Labour Commissioner (who passed order) does not seem to know that the Industrial Disputes Act does not require a registered trade union in existence before industrial dispute is raised. A substantial body of workmen can raise an industrial dispute,” Justice RN Raina observed
“The Assistant Labour Commissioner seems to be in a tearing hurry to close the case without even hearing the parties. In a case of such far-reaching consequences involving the lives of 73 workmen, the Assistant Labour Commissioner should have acted in accordance with law, but he instead, made a complete “mess” of the case and instead of quelling the dispute and finding a solution fired it with discontent among a large body of the workforce, where over 70 workmen have been deprived of access to court,” he added
Costs of Rs 5 lakhs has been imposed on the State of Punjab to be paid to the workmen for the deliberate failure and insensitivity of its functionaries in the Labour Department to do justice according to law and to keep adjudication in abeyance.
The court categorically stated that the Assistant Labour Commissioner instead of passing the order should have sent the parties to the Conciliation Officer for attempting an amicable settlement, but this was not done. The Assistant Labour Commissioner seems to be in a tearing hurry to close the case without even hearing the parties
After observing that ‘appropriate Government’ (the officer before whom complaint is to be made by workmen) does not act as a court, the HC bench said it has no jurisdiction to decide the dispute and is virtually a “rubber stamp” and a forwarding agent of the disputes to the labour court or the industrial tribunal.
As regard to labour department’s response that the application can’t be entertained since the employees are working in MP, the court said that when the allegation of unfair labour practice was levelled as a foundation of the industrial dispute involving 73 workmen, then the cause of action had substantially arisen in Mohali, where the dispute fomented and turned into an actionable dispute.
If the reasoning of the Assistant Labour Commissioner in para.2 is accepted, it would mean that an employer can always whimsically transfer workers en mass to another of its establishments outside the territory and to a different State and frizzle out the demands of the workman and expect them to approach the appropriate Government in Madhya Pradesh for the resolution of the dispute to be adjudicated there.
The approach of the Assistant Labour Commissioner is wholly illegal and has to be deprecated. He does not seem to know even the principles of labour law. The order has effectively derailed the adjudication for five years.
The HC bench has directed the government to reconsider its decision and make a reference to the area labour court within eight weeks.
Attached is the judgement below: