January 25, 2021 In Uncategorized


The Three Judge Bench of the Hon’ble #SupremeCourt of India comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Navin Sinha and Indu Malhotra passed a Judgment dated 20-01-2021 in the case of State of Uttarakhand & Ors. v. Smt. Sureshwati {Civil Appeal No. 142 of 2021 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 9864 of 2020)} and held that absence of #disciplinaryproceedings cannot be a sole ground to interfere with the Order of #termination of #services of a #workman by the #employer.

In the present case, the Respondent was engaged as an Assistant Teacher in Jai Bharat Junior High School, Haridwar (hereinafter referred to as “the School”) from July, 1993 to 21-05-1994. Thereafter, the Respondent worked as a Clerk from 01-07-1994. During this period, the School was an unaided Private Institution. From 24-05-2005 onwards the School started receiving grants-in-aid from the State, and came under the purview of Uttaranchal School Education Act, 2006.

On 15-07-2006, the Respondent lodged a Complaint before the School alleging she had worked continuously till 07-03-2006 and that her services were illegally terminated on 08-03-2006 without granting her any opportunity of being heard or payment or retrenchment compensation.

On 21-08-2006, the Additional District Education Officer (Basic), Haridwar was requested to conduct an inquiry. The Basic School Inspector conducted an inquiry on the Complaint  made by the Respondent and submitted a detailed Report dated 24-08-2006 stating that while inspecting the records of the School in the presence of both the Parties, it was found that the Respondent had tampered and manipulated the date of her appointment, by mentioning two different dates. Further, the inquiry revealed that the employment of the Respondent was illegal and that she had not worked in the School from July 1997 onwards. The Respondent did not file any Complaint about her alleged termination till 2006; it was made only after the School started receiving grants-in-aid from the State and was declared a Government School.

Subsequently, the Respondent filed a Complaint before the Labour Commissioner, Haridwar. The Complaint was referred to the Additional Labour Commissioner in order to determine whether the alleged termination of the services of the workman was proper and valid. On 05-02-2010 an ex-parte award was passed by the Labour Court in favour of the employee. However, vide Writ Petition No. 1853 of 2010, the said Award was challenged before the High Court of Uttarakhand (High Court) and the High Court vide Order dated 16-09-2015 allowed the Writ Petition, and remanded the case to the Labour Court to decide the matter.

The Labour Court vide Order dated 22-08-2016, held that the Claimant/Respondent was not entitled to any relief as sufficient evidence was produced by the Management to prove the continued absence of Respondent from the service since 01-07-1997. It was further held that the Claimant/Respondent had not approached the Court with clean hands and had concealed material facts.

Aggrieved by the Judgment of the Labour Court, the Respondent filed Writ Petition No. 3439 of 2016 before the High Court which was allowed on the ground that the employer had admitted to the fact that no inquiry or disciplinary proceedings were conducted regarding the abandonment of service by the employee. Thus, the High Court vide Order dated 28-08-2019 reversed the Judgment passed by the Labour Court, and directed the reinstatement of the Respondent.

Thereafter, the Appellants filed a Special Leave Petition in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India impugning the Judgment dated 28-08-2019 passed by the High Court. Taking into consideration the arguments advanced by the Parties to the dispute, the Bench opined that that a full opportunity had been given to the Parties by the Labour Court to lead evidence, both oral and documentary in order to substantiate their respective case. The Apex Court observed that:

“This Court has in a catena of decisions held that where an employer has failed to make an enquiry before dismissal or discharge of a workman, it is open for him to justify the action before the Labour Court by leading evidence before it. The entire matter would be open before the tribunal, which would have the jurisdiction to satisfy itself on the evidence adduced by the parties whether the dismissal or discharge was justified.”

Making a reference to the evidence on record, the Court held that the School has been able to establish the fact that the Claimant/Respondent had abandoned her services in 1997 and never reported back for work. The Bench observed that the said Writ Petition was disposed of by the High Court solely on the ground that the School had not conducted a proper disciplinary inquiry before discharging the Respondent from the service. The School has led sufficient evidence before the Labour Court to prove that the Respondent had abandoned her service from 01-07-1997 when she got married, and moved to another District, which was not denied by her in evidence. The record of the School reveals that she was not in employment of the School since July, 1997.”

Further, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the onus of proving that the Claimant/Respondent had worked continuously for a period of 240 days in the twelve months preceding the date of her alleged termination on 08-03-2016 was on her, which she failed to discharge. The School had produced sufficient evidence before the Labour Court to prove that the Respondent had abandoned her service from 01-07-1997.

Allowing the Appeal, the Apex Court set aside the impugned Judgment dated 28-08-2019 and restored the award passed by the Labour Court dated 22-08-2016.

Suchitra Upadhyay


The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

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