Industrial Violence and Court Findings

The Industrial violence that wreaked havoc at Maruti’s Manesar plant bears a grim testament to the delicate situation of Industrial Relations in India today. There seems to be little regard for employee disciplinary action or termination among rioting workers. It need not be reiterated what an important role judicial pronouncements can play/have played in such a volatile environment. The Courts have repeatedly held that indulging in riotous and disorderly behaviour is a serious employment misconduct and therefore dismissal is a proper punishment for assaulting co-workmen. The Courts have consistently held that assault is a serious employment misconduct and no leniency should be shown to the rioting worker on any ground. The Courts in India are taking a very serious view of violence within the premises as well as outside.

Usage of abusive and filthy language by workmen to their superiors has also been seen as a serious misconduct. Until a few years ago, the Courts were in favour of giving benefits to the workers in cases of violence and in a few cases it was observed that the Courts even awarded compensation in lieu of reinstatement, the amount of compensation being very high. However, with the change in times, the judiciary has also felt that discipline in an Industry is important and that discipline should be seen from the perspective of the employer. The Courts could consider interfering with disciplinary action if the enquiry has been just and proper and the findings  were based on evidence.Courts are taking a serious view of indiscipline and have held that it should not be tolerated.

Physical assault on superiors is also considered a serious employment misconduct. The courts have held that discipline is a form of civil responsible behaviour which helps maintain social order and contributes to the preservation, if not advancement of collective interest of society at large. Obedience to authority in a workplace is not slavery. It is not violative of one’s natural rights.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of The Management of Tournamulla V/s Workmen ( Letters Patent Appeal No. 513 of 1999, decided on 21.03.2006) held that if a workman is guilty of a serious employment misconduct such as acts of violence against the management, withholding of gratuity is also justified. The courts are of the view that condoning an act of physical violence would undermine the discipline in the organization.