On 20th January 2021, In the case of The State Of Uttarakhand V.
, the state of Uttarakhand challenged the judgment passed by the
high court of Uttarakhand in W.P no 3439(m/s) of 2016 dated 28.8.2019 by filing
a special leave petition. Hence the 3 judge bench of L.Nageswara Rao, Navin
Sinha, and Indu Malhotra in the supreme court has reversed the award passed by
the labor court and restated important principles governing the extent of
inquiry into employee's wrongdoing and arising employer's disciplinary action.
It was held that dismissal of a workman by his/her employer cannot be involved
with only on the ground that it did not conduct a disciplinary inquiry if the
latter could justify the action before the Labour Court. Where is open for a
workman or employee to justify the action before the labor court if the employer
failed to enquire discharge of a workman.
Summary Of Case
In the present case, the respondent ( Smt.Sureshwati) was an assistant teacher
in jai Bharat junior high school, Haridwar from July 1993 to 21.5.1994.
Subsequently, she started working as a clerk from 1.7.1994 and the district
basic education officer officially appointed Respondent as a clerk on 25.3.1996.
during this period, the school was an unaided private institution.
The started receiving grants in aid from the state from 24th May 2005 came to be
governed by Uttaranchal School Education Act 2006. After 9 years, the Respondent
filed a complaint before the School contending that she had worked continuously
up to 07.03.2006. She alleged that on 8th March 2006 her services were illegally
retrenched without granting her any hearing, or payment of retrenchment
During the inspection done by the basic school inspector in the presence of both
the parties. It had been found that the respondent had manipulated the date of
appointment by mentioning two different dates and revealed that employment was
illegal since the father of the respondent was a member of the managing
committee and her mother was the chairman. The records proved that the
respondent had not worked in the school since 1997 nor there was any left
application received from her. She never made any objection about her alleged
termination till 2006 which was made only after the school started receiving
grants in aid from the state.
Labour court responded against the respondent on August 22, 2016, based on the
- The management proved the absence of respondent since 01.07.1997.
- The respondent failed to prove that she had been terminated on
- Consequently, the respondent failed to discharge the onus of her
employment till 8.03.2006.
- The respondent contended that her appointment had been illegally
terminated which was unreliable and devoid of any truth.
- Finally, it was held that she had concealed facts and had not approached
with the clean hands.
Aggrieved by the judgment, the respondent filed a writ petition in the
Uttarakhand high court. The court allowed the writ petition because the employer
had admitted in the cross-examination that no inquiry was conducted, or
disciplinary proceedings began regarding the abandonment of service of the
Importance Of Internal Enquiry
The apex court has in a catena of decisions held that where an employer has
failed to enquire dismissal or discharge of an employee, it is open for him to
justify the action before the Labour Court by leading evidence before it.
In the case D.K. Yadav v. J.M.A
. Industries the court emphasized the importance
of a domestic inquiry before discharging an employee by connecting it with the
right to livelihood which is enshrined in article 21 of the Indian constitution.
The court observed that to comply with the principles of natural justice, there
is a reasonable opportunity is provided to an employee before dismissing an end
to his employment.
Similarly, the same has been held in the case of Workmen of Motipur Sugar Factory Private Ltd. v.Motipur Sugar Factory
, wherein the Supreme
Court observed that the employer would not have the benefit which it had in
cases where domestic inquiries have been held. The entire matter will have the
jurisdiction to satisfy itself on the facts produced before the court by the
employer and it would be open before the tribunal to decide whether the
dismissal or discharge was justified.
Decision Of The Present Case
In the present case, it has been observed by the court that the parties were
given opportunities to produce evidence before the labor court to prove their
statements. Without considering the evidence, the High court disposed of the
writ petition on the ground that the school had not conducted a disciplinary
inquiry before dismissing Smt.Sureshwati from service. Hence , the high court
involved an unnecessary interference in the discharge of the workman.
The court, relying on Bhavnagar MunicipalCorpn v. Jadega Govubha Chhanubha
[(2014) 16 SCC 130], ,stated that in order to prove the illegality discharge of
a workman on account of non-payment of retrenchment compensation, the employee
needs to produce evidence of his or her continuous service of the employer
within the meaning of section 25-B of the industrial dispute act, 1947.
According to section 25-B(2)(a) (ii) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the
condition of continuous service of the employer is fulfilled when it is proved
that, during 12 calendar months preceding the date concerning which calculation
is to be made, the employee has worked under the employer for not less than 240
days. In the above-referred case, it has been observed that the burden to prove
actual and continuous service of the employer lay squarely on the workman.
Therefore, in the current case, the respondent failed to prove that she had
worked for 240 days during the year preceding alleged termination on 8 March
2006. However, she failed to produce any evidence to substantiate her case.
The right to hear is one of the vital parts of the principles of natural justice
which demands that an employee who is impacted by the decision made by the
employer should be given a fair chance to defend. But, the Supreme Court has
created exceptions for circumstances where an employer fails to conduct an
inquiry before dismissing an employee from his tenure through several judgments.
The labor court was enabled to examine the evidence of both parties. However,
in this case, the Supreme Court has disagreed with the Uttarkhand High court's
opinion that the absence of disciplinary inquiry can be a reason for intervening
with the award passed by the labour court. Hence, putting back a workman solely
on the grounds of the lack of internal inquiry or the existence of a defective
enquiry can cause injustice to an employer.