Pay back wages to sanitary worker: HC

The principle of ‘no work, no pay’ will not apply to employees who were willing to work but not allowed to work by the employers despite valid judicial orders in favour of the workers, the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai has held.

Justice S. Manikumar passed the ruling while dismissing a writ petition filed by Madurai Municipal Corporation in 2004 challenging an award passed by a labour court in 1999 to reinstate a sanitary worker who was dismissed from service in 1995 for unauthorised absence from duty.

Pointing out that the sanitary worker S. Mariappan was reinstated only in 2007, without prejudice to the outcome of the present writ petition, despite the order passed by the labour court, the judge said that he was entitled to back-wages from 1999 to 2007. He could also not be penalised or denied wages for the fault of the Corporation in not reinstating him in service and providing work, the judge added.

Delving into the history of the case, he said that the sanitary worker was accused of not attending duty since June 1, 1990 without any intimation or a reasonable cause. A charge memo was issued to him on December 31, 1992 .

There were certain defects in the memo. Therefore, another charge memo was issued on December 29, 1994. The worker submitted his explanation and claimed to have been suffering from jaundice. He also produced medical records to substantiate his claim. However, he was held guilty in the domestic enquiry and dismissed from service. The dismissal order was challenged in the labour court on many grounds including violation of principles of natural justice.

The labour court, after considering the applicant’s good record of service, condoned his solitary misconduct of unauthorised absence and ordered reinstatement without back-wages and hence the present case. Mr. Justice Manikumar said that the Corporation, which had accused its worker of absenting without a reasonable cause, itself was guilty of dragging on the issue for years together. The judge pointed out that even the disciplinary action was initiated after a delay of four years.

Further, the corporation had filed the present writ petition after an unexplained delay of five years from the date of the award passed by the labour court. The worker was reinstated in service only on August 8, 2007 without prejudice to the outcome of the writ petition which ended up in dismissal now.

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