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HC dismisses writ by MRF union

Our Legal Correspondent

CHENNAI, June 14

THE Madras High Court has held that the Labour Court was the appropriate forum for taking up cases of dismissal of workers and it was not possible for the writ court (High Court) to go into such cases.

Dismissing a writ petition preferred by the MRF Employees Union challenging the order (dated October 9, 2001) of dismissal of a worker, who was the Secretary of the Union, Mr Justice K.P. Sivasubramaniam said that the law laid down by the Supreme Court that in a case of dismissal without enquiry or defective enquiry, it would be open to the management to justify its action before the court, was binding on this court.

The petitioner contended that the worker had been victimised only because he had taken part and addressed a meeting at Pondicherry to support the workers in forming a trade union (sangam) at the Union Territory. He was dismissed without enquiry and show-cause notice.

It was submitted that the action of the respondents (management of MRF Ltd) amounted to gross violation of principles of natural justice. After the introduction of Section 2(ra) in the Industrial Disputes Act, it would amount to an unfair labour practice as enlisted under Schedule V read with Sections 25-T and 25-U and it was not open to the management to dispense with the enquiry.

On behalf of the respondents, it was submitted that it was a settled proposition of law that it was open to the management to justify before the Labour Court the dismissal of a worker even without enquiry if a dispute was raised by the worker. Such a management right could not be taken away by the delinquent by approaching this court directly.

The judge observed that the issue whether the dismissal was warranted or not in the context of the absence of the delinquent from duty and whether such absence was justified were all factual issues to be substantiated by both sides through evidence. It was not possible for the writ court to go into such evidence and the Labour Court was the appropriate forum. Hence, the writ petition was dismissed.

While disposing of another writ petition by the MRF Thozhilalar Sangam, Pondicherry, regarding grant of recognition to a trade union, the judge held that the remedy for the aggrieved lay with the Registrar of Trade Unions under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and it would not be proper for the High Court to interfere at this stage.

The petitioner pleaded for issue of a direction to the first respondent (Commissioner of Labour, Pondicherry) not to entertain any application by the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Mr Kumaran and Mr G. Rajashekaran) for registering a trade union in the name of `MRF Employees Union', which was identical to the name of the petitioner union. According to the petitioner, the management had engineered the two persons to form a rival trade union. The said conduct was an unfair labour practice on the part of the management and amounted to interference with the rights of the petitioner union.

The judge said that while the name of the petitioner's union was in Tamil, that of the 3rd respondent was in English. Whether the name so nearly resembled that of the petitioner would be a matter for the appropriate authority to consider. Apart from the power of cancellation of the registration of a trade union vested in the original authority, an appellate remedy was also made available under Section 11 of the Act, the appeal to be filed before the Civil Court. Therefore, it would not be proper for this court to interfere at this stage. The petitioner was at liberty to move the appropriate authority under Section 10 of the Act.

The writ petition was dismissed with liberty to the petitioner to move the Registrar to cancel the registration. The Registrar on receipt of the application shall call for an enquiry to be conducted and appropriate orders be passed after hearing both sides. Such orders shall be passed within 3 months, the judge ordered.

The judge allowed a writ petition filed by the MRF Employees Union challenging the termination of 116 workers of the Pondicherry unit of the company (MRF Ltd). The judge held that the dismissed employees shall be entitled to all back wages. The management was at liberty to take such action as might be appropriate if any individual had indulged in undesirable activities. The dismissed employees shall not be denied reinstatement on the ground that some other persons had been appointed in their vacancies.

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