Labour Law in India and Violence outside Factory Premises


Industrial violence has become both common place and rampant in today’s industrial environment in India. Assaults and acts of violence are no longer a rarity. Until recently the newspapers were awash with terrifying instances of senior managers of MNCs being beaten to death, burnt alive in their cars, having their arms chopped off etc. The violence that raged through Maruti’s Manesar plant leaving a General Manager dead and about 100 people beaten and injured goes to show what a critical footing industrial safety today stands at. In such an environment managers and officers of a company getting assaulted outside the premises of the establishment is a very real possibility. The question that arises thus is what can be done about such acts of gross misconduct?
The Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act, 1946 lays down conditions of employment in industrial establishments. However, these provisions are per se not applicable to misconducts committed by employees outside the establishment. This observation was made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Glaxo Laboratories (I) Ltd V/s Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Meerut & Ors, 1985., Civil Appeal No. 2911 of 1981. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the charges levied against the striking workmen who had assaulted other workmen of the establishment did not fall within the purview of Standing Order 22 as the concerned mishaps occurred outside the premises of the establishment.

However, subsequent decisions by various High Courts have taken a different view of the issue. Recent judgements by various High Courts have observed that assaulting an officer or a fellow workman outside the premises of the establishment amounts to gross misconduct and an act subversive to discipline. The Courts have held that such acts have a direct nexus with industrial relations and have a negative impact upon the functioning of the establishments. There exists a notional extension of employment and therefore incidents like assault on officers, managers, co-workers by other workers outside the premises of the establishments should be covered under the Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act, 1946.

In light of the above, you may refer to decisions of Ram Asrey and Ors V/s Labour Court II and Anr., 1991 and Murlidhar Raghoji Savant V/s General Manager Mather & Platt (I) Ltd & Ors., 1991, W.P. No. 2714/1986

The following are two examples to make the understanding simpler –

Example A – Workman gets into an argument with his neighbour at home and assaults him.

Example B – Workman has an argument with senior manager regarding work and senior manager reprimands workman in a harsh tone. Later, after work hours outside the premises of the establishment, the worker assaults the senior manager physically to take revenge.

In Example A, there exists no connection between the assault and the concerned workman’s job, it’s a completely domestic and personal matter and therefore Industrial Orders (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 shall not be applicable here.

In Example B, however, although the assault takes place outside the premises of the establishment, a notional extension of employment is clear as the concerned workman, irked by his manager reprimanding him, physically assaults him to have his revenge. Such acts amount of gross misconduct and according to the decisions of various High Courts, liable to be covered under Industrial Orders (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.

In our humble view the stand taken by the various High Courts in this issue is correct as assaulting an officer of the establishment or a co-worker, even though it takes place outside the premises of the establishment is a gross misconduct and an act subversive to discipline. It has a direct and impinging nexus with the industrial relations of the establishment, puts a human life in harm’s way and hinders the running of the establishment. Therefore it is a correct view that assaults on officers taking place outside the establishment should be covered under the Industrial Establishment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.

The High Courts in India and the Supreme Court have taken a very strong stand against Industrial Violence as such and in context of the above see here what the Courts have had to say on Industrial Violence in India.

– Ronojoy Basu