By Our Legal Correspondent
NEW DELHI, MARCH 7. After giving its nod for the dismissal of a worker for "sleeping in the office" during working hours and for "using abusive language" against his boss, the Supreme Court today approved the dismissal of an employee who assaulted his supervisor in a fit of anger.
A three-Judge Bench, comprising Justice N. Santosh Hegde, Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, held that "when an employee breaches such discipline resulting in his dismissal, the Labour Court or an Industrial Tribunal cannot take a contrary view and award lesser punishment."
The Bench upheld the dismissal of an employee of the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board for assaulting a sub-engineer with a "tension screw" resulting in a fracture of the nose and severe bleeding. While the Labour Court set aside the dismissal, the Industrial Tribunal restored the punishment. However, the High Court reversed the Tribunal's order and the present appeal was directed against the High Court order.
`Obedience is not slavery'
Mr. Justice Balasubramanyan, writing the judgment for the Bench, said that discipline in the workplace was a sine qua non for the efficient working of an organisation. "Obedience to authority in a workplace is not slavery. It is not violative of one's natural rights. It is essential for the prosperity of the organisation as well as that of its employees. When, in such a situation, a punishment of termination is awarded for hitting and injuring a superior officer supervising the work of the employee with no extenuating circumstance established, it cannot be said to be not justified. It cannot certainly be termed unduly harsh or disproportionate."
The Bench noted that the employee, Jagdish Chandra Sharma, had been found guilty of hitting and injuring his superior officer at work place, obviously in the presence of other employees.
This clearly amounted to breach of discipline in the organisation. The Bench was of the view "when an employee breaches discipline and the employer terminates his services, it is not open to a Labour Court or an Industrial Tribunal to take the view that the punishment awarded is shockingly disproportionate to the charge proved."
The Bench observed that the jurisdiction of the Labour Court to interfere with punishment was not be exercised capriciously and arbitrarily.
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