The Orissa High Court has enhanced the compensation to Rs. 10 lakhs granted to a sweeper who was working in a bank on the ground that he was subjected to unfair labour practices.

A Division Bench of Justice Arindam Sinha and Justice Sanjay Kumar Mishra held, “There is no evidence referred in impugned award pointing to there being a post of sweeper-cum-messenger. It follows that there cannot arise an exigency, wherein petitioner could have been appointed as casual labourer on the regular sweeper-cum-messenger being unwell, on leave or otherwise not attending duty. … All this amounts to unfair labour practice.”

The Bench said that the petitioner can claim reinstatement and back wages while relying upon the case of Deepali Gundu Surwase v. Kranti Junior Adhyapak Mahavidyala (2013) 10 SCC 324.

Advocate Satyabrata Mohanty appeared for the petitioner while none appeared for the opposite parties.

In this case, the petitioner was working as sweeper-cum-messenger in a bank’s office premises and he had claimed regularization. An industrial dispute was raised through the union and it approached the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, for coverage in respect of their members, to have a provident fund.

Regarding the industrial dispute, there was a conciliation proceeding initiated, during the pendency of which the petitioner was disengaged as a result of which he made a complaint under Section 33-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The complaint was not dealt with by the Conciliation Officer in accordance with the law and instead, failure of the conciliation report was filed resulting in the reference and award.

The High Court in the above regard observed, “Mr. Mohanty submits, impugned is award dated 5th July, 2018 of the Central Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court. Though it was found that his client had worked continuously for 11 years, during which he had worked for 240 days in each of those years and that he had been paid, inter alia, bonus, thereafter to disallow his client’s prayer for reinstatement on award of paltry compensation of Rs.1.50 lakhs, was a decision perverse in the facts and circumstances.”

The Court said while keeping in view the totality of the evidence that it can be safely held that the workman worked for the management for more than 11 years i.e., he worked 240 days in each year, his engagement was continuous, and uninterrupted preceding was disengagement.

“In the circumstances, engagement of petitioner workman appears to have been borne out of necessity in running the bank office. This give rise to adverse presumption that petitioner’s services were thereafter obtained by replacement and engagement of some other”, asserted the Court.

The Court while considering the conduct of the management having disengaged the petitioner noted that it is a fit case to set aside the relief direction in the award and substitute it with direction for reinstatement.

“… it would be better to enhance the compensation. … Considering petitioner had served for 11 years in the bank, in a position necessary for functioning of the office and his services were summarily terminated without gratuity or any benefit pertaining to the service rendered and in violation of the provisions in the Act, we direct opposite party no.2 (management) to pay compensation of Rs.10 lakhs, to petitioner within four weeks of communication, failing which the sum will carry interest @ 5% simple per annum from 2nd April, 2019 (date of presentation of the writ petition) till date of payment”, the Court directed.

Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the plea, set aside the relief direction, and enhanced the compensation.

Cause Title- Dilip Kumar Swain v. Presiding Officer, Central Government Industrial Tribunal -cum- Labour Court, Orissa, Bhubaneswar and Another

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