The Gujarat High Court observed that termination of an employee without proper departmental inquiry breaches Section 25(G) of the Industrial Disputes Act. The Single Bench of Justice AY Kogje clarified that for a clear response from a workman, the employer should issue precise show cause notice.
The Court was hearing three petitions challenging an order of the Labour Court filed by a contractual employer, the Principal Employer and a workman. The workman herein was working as a tanker driver. On account of his alleged continued absence, a show cause notice was issued. The response to the notice was deemed unacceptable by the contractual employer and his services were thereby terminated.
Justice Kogje opined: “It was, in the opinion of the Court, an incomplete show cause notice, to which the respondent workman had no occasion to file his response as expected by the employer, meaning thereby when the show cause notice /charge was not specific enough for the workman to respond to specifically, an inquiry by issuing specific charge sheet was necessary”.
The employers jointly submitted that the petitioner had given a generic reply about the ill-health of the children. They added that the reply in itself was insufficient and hence, no need was felt for proceeding with the departmental inquiry. Later, the petitioner had also taken a different stand that he was medically unfit. Vide the 2017 order, the Labour Court ordered the reinstatement of the workman without back wages. This was challenged before the High Court.
The employer argued that by the conduct of the workman, it was apparent that he had accepted the order of dismissal and had received a demand draft towards his dues. Reliance was placed on Central Bank of India Ltd. v/s Karunamoy Banerjee to contend that where the guilt by the employee has been admitted, there is no need for a departmental inquiry. The Bench observed that the workman was absent between July 2003 and June 2004 on several occasions and therefore, was negligent towards his duty.
Keeping in view that the workman had worked since 1994 with the employer as a tanker driver until the order of termination, the High Court held that the Labour Court was justified in concluding a breach of Sec 25(G) of the ID Act. Further, it was clear that inquiry had commenced for the issue but no charge sheet was filed for the workman to access and respond to.