The Orissa High Court has found the adjudication of the matter by the Labour Court in refusing to entertain the reference on the basis that the Management of State Labour Institute, Bhubaneswar does not come within the definition of "Industry" as per section 2(J) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, to be just and proper.

The Division Bench of Justice Biswanath Rath and Justice M.S. Sahoo observed that “the Petitioner claims, the Establishment is an Industrial Establishment, the Management in opposition claims, the Establishment for its activities and role does not come within the ambit of Section 2(J) of the Act, 1947”.

Advocate A.K. Nayak appeared for the Petitioner, whereas Advocate S. Dash appeared for the Opposite Party.

Going by the background of the case, the Petitioner upon becoming successful in an walk-in-interview was engaged as a Chowkidar-cum-Peon in the State Labour Institute-the sole Opposite Party at a monthly honorarium of Rs1500 and it was claimed that Petitioner was appointed as Chowkidar-cum-Peon being asked to work 24 hours in a day. The Petitioner made a representation to the Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Labour & Employment Department with a prayer to either increase his remuneration or to allow him to work for eight hours in a day and or even relaxing the working hours to enable himself to take up part time job elsewhere to maintain his livelihood. Petitioner claimed that because of the representation, he was favored with allotment of working hours from 10.A.M. to 5 P.M. with as usual wages. Thereafter, he was denied employment and was told that he had himself abandoned his service. In the meantime on his complaint before the Labour authority the matter was taken up for conciliation but the same failed. He filed a Writ Petition and during its pendency a reference was made on the issue by the Labour Court.

The Labour Court came to reject the reference on the premises that the proceeding was not maintainable because of the Management therein didn’t come within the definition of "Industry" as per section 2(J) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Hence, present petition.

After considering the submission, the Bench referred to the judgment of the Apex Court in Physical Research Laboratory Vs. K.G. Sharma [AIR 1997 SC 1855], wherein it was observed that Physical Research Laboratory is not an industry even though it is carrying on the activity of research in a systematic manner with the help of its employees as it lacks that element which would make it an organization carrying on an activity which can be said to be analogous to the carrying on of a trade or business because it is not producing and distributing services which are intended or meant for satisfying human wants and needs, as ordinarily understood.

The Bench observed that the Establishment involved in Physical Research Laboratory Case was similar in its activity as Opposite Party herein, and the said decision was rendered while keeping in view and applying the principles laid down in the decision of the Apex Court in Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Etc., Vs. A. Rajappa And Others, Etc. [(1978) 2 SCC 213].

The Bench went through the decision in Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board Case wherein it has been held that when services are rendered by groups of charitable individuals to themselves or others out of missionary zeal and purely charitable motives, there would hardly be any need to invoke the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act to protect them.

Thus, in view of such legal position and considering the pleadings and contentions of the respective parties through their statement of claim and written statements as well as looking to the exhibits in the course of industrial adjudication, the Bench found that the decision in Physical Research Laboratory Case did not support the case of the Petitioner, and hence dismissed the petition.

Cause Title: Bhismaraj Meher v. The Director, State Labour Institute Kharvel Nagar, Bhubaneswar

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