In India during the period from 1970 to 1990 the courts repeatedly negated the doctrine of laissez-faire and the theory of hire and fire. But, of late there had been a visible shift in the courts' approach in dealing with labour cases involving the interpretation of labour legislations. The mantras of globalization and liberalization were fast becoming the raison d'etre of the judicial process and an impression had been created that the courts were no longer sympathetic to the plight of industrial and unorganized workers. One can say that in many cases , relief has been denied to the employees falling in the category of workmen, who are illegally retrenched from service by creating by lanes and side lanes in the jurisprudence developed by Supreme Court in three decades.
The attitude of our judiciary has undergone a directional change under the influence of liberal policies adopted by successive governments since 1991, resulting in erosion of the workmen's rights; Labour regulations are now being interpreted with a pro-employer orientation. This has been sharply manifested in regard to subtle introduction of the principle of hire and fire by refusing reinstatement and grant of back wages; denial of regularization of daily-wage, casual and temporary workers employed for years. Through several verdicts in the era of liberalization, the judiciary has legitimized 'hire & fire' and contracualization of workforce with less obligations of the contractors and principal employers from any obligation towards jobs security of people they employ for years together.
In 2014 There has been a remarkable trend in balancing the rights and duties of employer and employee both. On one side when Supreme court cautions the lower courts to exercise high amount of care while invoking the discretionary powers under Section 11A of I.D. Act for replacing the punishment of dismissal and not use this discretion in a casual fashion, on other side Supreme Court decides that disobeying the unlawful instructions to do additional work will not be a misconduct and dismissal would be illegal. Court also tamed the employer by declaring dismissal as illegal which was relied excessively on apology of workman. Court also protected the economic rights of working class by holding that retrials benefits like gratuity and pension cannot be withheld by the employer and if done so, interest is payable. Such payments are no longer bounty.
There have been many disputes regarding dismissal on the basis of absence of employee from duties. Following the earlier trend this year too Supreme Court held that employer is duty bound to conduct enquiry as per standing orders to prove the charge of absenteeism. Dismissal without following due procedure would be bad in law.
In continuation of our yearly compilations, Business manager magazine feb. issue carries about 600 one liner important labour judgments of various high courts and Supreme Court capable of impacting employee relations and employers obligations . These judgments are selected from thousands of pages from various journals published in 2014 by our research team.
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