Referring to “settled position of law”, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a batch of appeals by three commercial concerns here. They had challenged a Single Bench order dismissing their petitions urging it to decide whether an employer-employee relationship existed between them and their terminated workers before ordering payment of subsistence allowance to these workers under the Industrial Disputes Act.
The Single Bench is hearing petitions by these organisations challenging industrial awards directing them to reinstate the terminated workers with back wages. It is also hearing applications by the workers seeking payment of subsistence allowance under Section 17-B of the Act.
The appellants — Indian Tourism Development Corporation, IGI Airport Restaurant and the management of the Ashok Hotel — urged the Court to decide whether an employer-employee relationship existed between the workers and them before ordering payment of subsistence allowance to the employees during the pendency of their petitions against the industrial awards.
The Single Bench had dismissed their plea saying that before ordering the payment of subsistence allowance under 17-B ( payment of full wages to workman pending proceedings in higher courts) to the workers pending hearing on the petitions against the industrial awards filed by the employers, the Court could not go into the merit of the case.
Dismissing the appeals, a Division Bench comprising Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul said: “In the present appeals, the contention raised by the appellants is with regard to the existence of the employer-employee relationship. The said issue would require an investigation into the merits of the case in the writ petitions and would also entail investigation into evidence which cannot be directed on an application under Section 17-B of the Industrial Disputes Act.”
Quoting an excerpt from a Supreme Court judgment on the issue, the Bench said: “From a plain reading of the… extract, it is evident that in order to give relief to a workman, who has been ordered to be reinstated by an award of a labour court or an industrial tribunal during the pendency of proceedings in which the said award is under challenge before a High Court or the Supreme Court, Section 17-B of the of the Act has been enacted.”
“The payment envisaged under the said provision is in the nature of subsistence allowance which is not refundable or recoverable from the workman even if the award is set aside by the High Court or the Supreme Court.”
“In view of the settled position of law…, we find no merit in these appeals and they are accordingly dismissed,” the Bench said.