Transfer Of Workman From Original Place To New Place, Without Valid Reasons Is Unfair: Punjab & Haryana High Court

Transfer Of Workman From Original Place To New Place, Without Valid Reasons Is Unfair

The Punjab and Haryana High Court bench of Justice Sanjay Vashisth held that in the absence of any material in the shape of the affidavit, showing the need for the transfer of the workman from the original place to a new place, it cannot be termed that the decision taken by the Management is fair one and beyond any doubt.

Brief Facts:

The case involves seventeen petitions filed by the petitioners/workmen challenging the awards passed by the Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, Panipat. These awards, delivered on May 14, 2013, addressed seventeen references concerning the termination of workmen. The Labour Court ruled against the workmen, stating there was no termination by the Management.

The Government of Haryana referred the industrial dispute to the Labour Court, posing the question of whether the termination of the workman was legal and justified and what relief, if any, he was entitled to. The workman’s case was that he worked as a ‘Clipper’ for the Management from December 1, 2004, to March 14, 2008, earning Rs. 3,640 per month. Despite a standard eight-hour workday, the Management allegedly made him work ten hours daily without overtime pay. When he raised the issue, he and 28 others were transferred, though the appointment letter did not mention any transfer clause. Upon refusing the transfer, he was not allowed to continue working at Panipat. He issued a demand notice on April 7, 2008, claiming his non-acceptance at the original workplace amounted to termination, violating Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes ActIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The Management argued that the workman was appointed in a semi-skilled category under terms governed by the Certified Standing Order, which included a transfer clause. It contended the transfer was lawful, with the workman’s wages, grade, and service conditions remaining unaffected. An additional Rs. 500 was offered for accepting the transfer, along with Rs. 1,000 for travel expenses. The workman, refusing the transfer for administrative reasons, was not terminated but simply did not comply with the transfer order, which did not constitute retrenchment.

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During evidence, the workman admitted he had no proof of working ten hours and received no termination order, claiming instead that the transfer was ill-willed and amounted to illegal termination from March 14, 2008. The Labour Court found no evidence of victimization or termination, as there was no termination order, only a transfer order, which the workman did not comply with. Consequently, it held the workman was absent from his new posting location and not terminated by the respondent. Feeling aggrieved, the workman approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court (“High Court”).

The Management argued that the transfer orders were normal service incidents unless contract terms specify otherwise, and non-compliance with such orders could lead to termination. The workmen argued that the Certified Standing Order allowed transfers only to existing establishments and not to new ones, making the transfer order non-compliant with the law, thus void.

Observations by the High Court:

The High Court found that the Certified Standing Order did not explicitly or implicitly provide for the transfer of workmen in the eventuality of establishing a new unit or factory. The Management failed to present any material evidence showing that a decision had been made by the Panipat Management, such as a resolution justifying the need for the transfer to Dadra and Nagar Haveli for a particular purpose.

Furthermore, there was no evidence indicating that the Panipat Management had received any requisition or request from officials or a subordinate committee regarding the necessity of transferring the workmen’s services. In the absence of affidavits or other materials demonstrating the need for such transfers, the High Court could not consider the Management’s decision as fair and beyond doubt. The High Court found the Management’s arguments, based on the Certified Standing Order or The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, inapplicable to the facts and circumstances of the case, as the necessary clauses for transfer to a new unit or factory were not present in either explicit or implied terms.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed all seventeen writ petitions filed by the workmen. Consequently, the Management was directed to allow the workmen to continue their service at their original place of appointment. Alternatively, the High Court provided the Management the option to pay a lump sum compensation of Rs. 3,00,000/- to each of the workmen affected by the transfer from Panipat to Dadra and Nagar Haveli, to be paid within three months from the date of the order, August 14, 2024.

Case Title: Pappu Giri and Ors vs Presiding Officer, Industrial Tribunal-cumLabour Court, Panipat, and another

Case Number: CWP17142-2014(O&M) and Connected Matters

Advocate for the Petitioner: Mr. Rajesh Bansal, Advocate.

Advocate for the Respondent: Mr. Ashwani Talwar, Advocate.

Source: livelaw

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