Provisions of Industrial Disputes Act, 1974 not applicable to Software Engineers – Karnataka High Court

The Hon’ble Karnataka High Court in M/s Perot Systems (TSI) India Limited Vs. Sri. BR Sanjay [Writ Appeal No. 1931/2011 (L TER)] has expressed that the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 are not applicable to software engineers and that they should be applicable to such kind of employees.

In the instant case, the Responded, a software engineer was put on probation for a year after his date of joining i.e. February, 1999. It was made clear that unless an express written order was issued to him confirming his post, it would be deemed that he has to continue on probation. It was also made clear that if either side quit (resignation or termination), they would have to give the other side a 30 day’s prior written notice or one month’s salary in lieu of notice. The employee was also sent to Hong Kong for official work. On September 2001 his name was removed from the payroll of the Company, his salary for the month was not paid and he was informed the same would be paid in October. In October he was asked to hand in his resignation and his salary for September was paid to him. Thereafter, he was not allowed entry into the office premises. Upon approaching the Labour Court the latter found the Respondent to have voluntarily abandoned service and that he had no intention to work and was only interested in damages. Therefore, holding that a case of refusal of employment or termination had not been established, it dismissed the employee’s claim. Aggrieved, the employee approached the Hon’ble High Court via Writ Petition, the Single Judge found that the management had neither issued a call-notice to the employee when he was not reporting for duty nor was he terminated following proper procedure, therefore the employee was entitled to reinstatement with back wages.

The impugned judgement of the Single Judge was assailed by the management on the grounds that it was a case of abandonment of service and that the management had not refused the employee work. The Division Bench, after hearing both parties and examining relevant documents adduced, held that no one had applied their mind to the question of whether the Respondent employee, being a software engineer was a ‘workman’ under the definition of Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 or not and whether relevant provisions of the Act were applicable to the case. Further, the Court found that the employee was indeed not interested in being reinstated and was aiming for damages. Finally, setting aside the decision of the Single Judge of the High Court the Division Bench upheld the decision of the Labour Court, stating that the provisions of the Act of 1947 should be made applicable to software engineers.