Labour Court Has No Jurisdiction To Adjudicate Dispute Of Entitlement Or Claim Of Workmen U/s. 33(C)(2) Of Industrial Disputes Act – SC
A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna has held that as per the settled proposition of law, in an application under Section 33(C)(2) of Industrial Disputes Act, the Labour Court has no jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate dispute of entitlement or the basis of the claim of workmen.
In this context, the Court noted –
"As per the settled proposition of law, in an application under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the Labour Court has no jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate dispute of entitlement or the basis of the claim of workmen. It can only interpret the award or settlement on which the claim is based."
Counsel Mr Vishal Yadav appeared for the Appellant while Counsel Dr. Vinod Kumar Tewari appeared for the Respondent before the Apex Court.
In this case, Respondent No. 2 had moved an application under Section 33(C)(2) of the Act demanding the difference in wages from the Appellant. The application was contested by the Appellant denying any relationship of employee-employer. The Appellant had categorically alleged that Respondent No. 2 was never engaged by the former. The Labour Court had allowed the application and had directed the Appellant to pay the difference of wages as claimed.
The Writ Petition preferred by the Appellant was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court.
Aggrieved, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The Appellant while relying on various precedents argued before the Apex Court that in a proceeding under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the Labour Court cannot adjudicate the dispute of entitlement or the basis of the claim and it can only interpret the award or settlement on which the claim is based.
The Apex Court observed that once there was a serious dispute that Respondent No. 2 was not in employment as a salesman as claimed by Respondent No. 2, thereafter, it was not open for the Labour Court to entertain disputed questions and adjudicate upon the employer-employee relationship between the Appellant and Respondent No. 2.
The Bench further placed reliance on Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Ganesh Razak and Anr. where it was held that the Labour Court's jurisdiction under Section 33(C)(2) of the Act is like that of an executing Court.
"As per the settled preposition of law without prior adjudication or recognition of the disputed claim of the workmen, proceedings for computation of the arrears of wages and/or difference of wages claimed by the workmen shall not be maintainable under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act," the Court opined.
Additionally, the Court placed reliance on Union of India and another Vs. Kankuben (Dead) By Lrs. And Others, where it was held that whenever a workman is entitled to receive from his employer any money or any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money and which he is entitled to receive from his employer and is denied of such benefit can approach Labour Court under Section 33C (2) of the ID Act.
"It is further observed that the benefit sought to be enforced under Section 33C (2) of the ID Act is necessarily a preexisting benefit or one flowing from a preexisting right. The difference between a preexisting right or benefit on one hand and the right or benefit, which is considered just and fair on the other hand is vital. The former falls within jurisdiction of Labour Court exercising powers under Section 33C (2) of the ID Act while the latter does not," the Court held.
The Court also observed that when there was a serious dispute between the Appellant and Respondent No. 2 where the former argued that the documents produced by Respondent No.2 were forged and/or false, the Labour Court ought not to have proceeded with the application under Section 33(C)(2) of Industrial Disputes Act.
In this context, the Apex Court held –
"The Labour Court ought to have relegated respondent No.2 to initiate appropriate proceedings by way of reference and get his right crystalized and/or adjudicate upon. Therefore, the order passed by the Labour Court was beyond the jurisdiction conferred under Section 33(C)(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act."
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal and the impugned judgment of the High Court was set aside and quashed. Respondent No. 2 was directed to avail any other remedy which may be available under the Industrial Disputes Act including that of reference to adjudicate his right as an employee of the Appellant as claimed by him.