HC fines Punjab govt Rs 5 lakh for ignoring Ranbaxy staff’s plea
The high court bench of justice RN Raina termed the order of not referring matter to labour court as “erroneous” and said, “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.punjab Updated: Jun 18, 2017 11:15 IST
The Punjab and Haryana high court has fined Punjab government Rs 5 lakh for ignoring a demand notice submitted by 73 employees of a Mohali-based pharma company.
The employees were transferred to Dewas in Madhya Pradesh by M/s Ranbaxy Laboratory Ltd in 2012, when the employees had raised the issue with the labour department and instead of referring the matter to labour tribunal, the department did not act on the complaint claiming that it was filed by a registered union.
Post this, some of them were adjusted in Ropar unit but many of their benefits were withdrawn. Their basic salary was reduced, annual increment reduced and benefits of leave curtailed, as per the petition.
The high court bench of justice RN Raina termed the order of not referring matter to labour court as “erroneous” and said, “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.” The court also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on government to be paid to the workmen for “deliberate failure and insensitivity” shown by the officers of labour department.
‘Parties should have been sent for conciliation’
The HC bench said the parties should have been sent to the conciliation officer for an attempt for an amicable settlement. “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.
HC bench further observed that ‘appropriate Government’ (the officer before whom complaint is to be made by workmen) does not act as a court. 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, the HC bench added.
As regard to labour department’s view 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….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 workmen 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 said asking the government to reconsider its decision and make a reference to the area labour court within eight weeks.