New Delhi, March 22, 2022: While noticing that the workman in the present case had sought continuity of service and consequential benefits in the statement of claim but not in the writ petition and that the Court had merely granted reinstatement with only 50% of back wages with no other relief, the Delhi High Court has held that MACP/ACP benefits could not have been granted as a matter of right, without the workman having undergone the trade test/satisfied the prescribed criteria.
The Single Judge Pratibha M. Singh observed that Section 33C(1) of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 relates to proceedings which are initiated where “any money is due” to any Workman from an employer under an award or a settlement, and thus, the question as to whether the amount is due or not, is not expected to be gone into in the said proceedings.
Thus, in proceedings u/s 33C(1) of the ID Act, the Regional Labour Commissioner has limited powers and cannot exercise adjudicatory powers to ascertain whether the benefits claimed were due in the first place or not, added the Single Judge.
The observation came pursuant to a petition challenging the orders by which notice for recovery for a sum of Rs.1,95,980/- and for attachment of property u/s 136 and 139 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, has been issued to the Management (Petitioner) by the SDM, Delhi Cantt. and by the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central), Delhi (RLC).
Going by the background of the case, the Respondent-Workman was an employee of the Management since 1982 and he was working as a wireman. He was regularized in 1984 but was terminated. Though the said termination was challenged by the Workman, it was held to be valid and justified by the CGIT. On writ, the Single Judge of this Court allowed the petition filed by the workmen. The order of the Single Judge setting aside the termination of the Workman and awarding reinstatement and 50% back wages attained finality, since the appeal by the Management stood dismissed by the Division Bench.
In terms of the said order, certain payments were made by the Petitioner to the Workman, who also provided an undertaking confirming receipt of specific payments. The Workman thereafter raised a further claim of Rs.7 lakhs towards some arrears, etc., part of which was also cleared as back wages.
Now, a balance sum of Rs.1,95,900/- according to the Workman, constitutes the amounts payable to him, towards Modified Assured Career Progression/ Assured Career Progression (MACP/ACP), on the ground that his reinstatement had been ordered and therefore, he ought to be deemed to have been in service as the termination was held void ab initio. This claim of MACP/ACP benefits stood allowed by the Regional Labour Commissioner (RLC) u/s 33C(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (ID Act) and consequential orders were passed for attachment and for recovery of the said amounts.
After considering the submissions, Justice Singh found from the perusal of the prayers that the Workman had not merely sought reinstatement but also continuity of service, back wages and other benefits akin to a regular employee, in his Statement of Claim before the CGIT, but clearly the said relief was not sought before the High Court.
Therefore, the Court took the facts and circumstances into consideration, including the fact that the Workman had worked only for a short period as a regular employee and directed “only 50% of his back wages” to be paid along with reinstatement, added the Single Judge.
In effect, therefore, Justice Singh noted that the relief(s) of grant of continuity of service or consequential benefits was neither prayed for nor granted by the High Court and the reliefs granted and due to the Workman, thus attained finality vide the order of the High Court dated April 17, 2012.
Thus, the submission of counsel for the Workman that in all cases where reinstatement is directed, continuity of service and consequential benefits would be automatic, cannot be accepted in the light of the legal position and the order of the Single Judge only granting reinstatement with 50% back wages has attained finality, added the Single Judge.
The High court observed that the grant of MACP/ACP benefits, as per the applicable policy of the Management is not automatic for all employees and is contingent upon satisfaction of certain specified criteria, as those benefits are usually granted to employees in order to avoid stagnation and employees are permitted to take some exams/tests to avail of career progression.
A perusal of the OM dated August 9, 1999 shows that there are separate requirements for each of the group of employees to avail of ACP/MACP benefits and same has various conditions as to which kind of employees are entitled to these benefits, added the Court.
Accordingly, the High Court allowed the petition and set aside the recovery certificates and attachment orders as being not sustainable.