The Bombay High Court criticized the Industrial Court for issuing a "blanket order" that curtailed the employer's right to take disciplinary action and effect transfers.

Petitioners challenged an order from the Industrial Court restraining them from terminating respondents' services without due process and granting a seven-day period for challenging transfer orders.

A Bench of Justice Sandeep V. Marne held, “The blanket order of Industrial Court seeks to circumscribe the right of the employer to punish an errant employee or from effecting transfers, that too in absence of any eminent threat or prima facie case being made out. The argument of non-cause of prejudice to employer cannot be accepted as the Order may provide license to employees to misbehave or indulge in misconduct.”

Senior Advocate Darius Khambata appeared for the Petitioners and Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh appeared for the Respondents.

The Court highlighted inconsistencies in the respondents' claims, such as their failure to challenge certain actions when they were office bearers of the union. The Court said, “The manner in which the Industrial Court has exercised its jurisdiction is disquieting.”

The Court noted that despite not finding merit in the respondents' grievances, the Industrial Court granted interim relief. The Court added, “Perusal of the order shows that no material is produced by the Respondents to demonstrate that any eminent threat of termination or transfer was given by the Petitioners to any of the Respondents at any point of time. In absence of any such eminent threat, there was in fact no cause for the Respondents to seek any interim relief from the Industrial Court.”

The Court expressed concern about the broad nature of the relief, potentially applying to any employee filing a complaint under the relevant act. The Court added, “merely because Respondents have initiated litigation by filing the compliant, the Industrial Court thought it prudent that they must be granted protection from termination and transfer. This would mean that every employee who files a compliant under the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 must be granted interim relief of protection from termination and transfer.”

The Court asserted the inherent right of the employer to take disciplinary action and transfer employees.

The Court criticized the Industrial Court for an order that restricted the employer's rights without evidence of an imminent threat or prima facie case. It further rejected the argument that the order caused no prejudice to the employer. The Court said, “If the order is of such nature which could not be passed by the Industrial Court, this Court cannot be a mute spectator to erroneous exercise of jurisdiction by the Industrial Court”

The Court concluded that the Industrial Court's order was indefensible and set aside the order. The writ petition was allowed.

Cause Title: The Indian Express (P) Ltd. & Ors. v. Dinesh Rane & Ors., [2024:BHC-AS:5207]


Petitioners: Senior Advocate Darius Khambata along with Advocates Abhinav Chandrachud, Amol Joshi, Pranit Kulkarni, Tejasvi Ghag, Shivam Singh, Poorvi Kamani

Respondents: Advocates Gayatri Singh with Madhvi Gomathieshwaran

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