Saturday, March 12, 2011

“Industrial dispute can be refusedadjudication on grounds of delay”

The government can decline to refer an industrial dispute for adjudication on grounds of delay, the Madras High Court has said.

The First Bench, comprising the Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, made the observation in its judgment on an appeal preferred by a retrenched casual labourer of Southern Railway, challenging a single Judge's order in March last year.

M. Kadirvelu claimed he was employed as casual labourer. After seven years, he was retrenched as the TP shed, Arakkonam, was closed.

Prima facie holding that Mr. Kadirvelu had raised an industrial dispute belatedly after 20 years, without giving any justifiable reason, the Centre, by an order dated March 10, 2004 refused to refer the dispute for adjudication as the same was not maintainable. Challenging this, he filed a writ petition.

A single Judge said the petitioner did not mention the date of joining Railways. He had not mentioned the date or month of his retrenchment.

He had not produced a single document such as an appointment order to show that he was working with the Railways. No sufficient reason had been given to interfere with the Centre's order.

He held that the Centre had rightly refused to refer the dispute, which was raised belatedly. Hence, the present appeal.

The appellant's counsel contended that the government had no jurisdiction to refuse reference of the dispute merely on grounds of delay.

The government could not go into the merit of the workman's claim, including the question of limitation.

The Bench said there was no material to show that the petitioner was engaged on a daily wage basis. It was the railways' specific case that the appellant was working on daily wages under a contractor in respect of a particular work which was ultimately closed. Admittedly, the appellant raised the industrial dispute after nearly 20 years.

“It is true that the appropriate government, while considering the question with regard to reference of dispute, cannot adjudicate the merit of the claim, but certainly it can decline to refer the dispute on the ground of delay as in the instant case there is a delay of 20 years in raising the industrial dispute, that too, without giving any valid reason for the delay. The single Judge had rightly dismissed the writ petition.”

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