Central Provinces Transport Services Ltd vs. Raghunath Gopal Patwardhan

 Facts of the case:

The appellant company was a public limited company, and the respondent was employed in the same. Goods belonging to the company were stolen at this time and the blame fell on the respondent. A subsequent enquiry was conducted, and the respondent was found guilty of gross negligence and misconduct which resulted in his dismissal. He was then prosecuted for theft, but it ended in his acquittal. He filed an application for reinstatement into the company after this but failed. He then filed a complaint before the Labour Commission for reinstatement and compensation of losses incurred. The appellant company argued that when the application was dismissed, the respondent was not an employee of the company, therefore, proceedings under the Industrial dispute Act were incompetent. The Labour commission dismissed the application of the respondent. The respondent then applied to the Provisional Industrial Court which reversed the order of the Labour Commission on the grounds that the dismissed employee was an employee according to S. 2(10) of the Act and the dispute was an industrial dispute. Against this order, the company finally appealed to the Supreme Court.


Key issues:

The key issues in this case are:

·       Whether an application for reinstatement or compensation by a dismissed employee is maintainable, and,

·       Whether a dispute between an individual worker and industry is an industrial dispute.


Decision of the Court:

The court held that under the Industrial Dispute Act, a dispute between an employer and employee would become an industrial dispute only when it has the backing of a few workmen or a union. Besides this condition, it will simply be an individual dispute. It also held that an employee must be allowed to appear in such proceedings since the scope of the act is wide enough to include a dispute between employer and employee. The appeal was therefore, dismissed.


Final Ratio:

The court observed that a dispute that concerns only the rights of individual workers can be held to be an industrial dispute. It said that the language of S.2 (k) is wide enough to cover a dispute between an individual employee and employer as a industrial dispute and the act as a whole appeals to contemplate that the machinery is to settle the disputes that involve rights of a class of workers as well as individual workers. It also observed the that the visions of labour legislations in the preamble and Industrial Disputes Act are different. However, there exists a clear recognition of the rights of an individual employee that stands distinguished from a class of employees. It also observed that S. 16 provides for relief for dismissed employees by way of reinstatement or compensation. Hence, the definition of ‘employee’ will include one who has been dismissed as well.  The court thus held that Section 16 of Industrial Disputes Act is intended to enable an employee to enforce his individual rights when he is dismissed, discharged, or suspended, and in this context, industrial disputes must include individual employees as well. The appeal was, therefore, dismissed.


Personal Observations:

The above case differentiates between industrial and individual disputes while considering the purview of both employers and employees, which makes this case important. It discusses the aim of various clauses in the Industrial Disputes Act which makes the rights of labours even more prominent. More importantly, it discusses the rights of discharged or suspended employees. All these factors, make this case important while considering labour laws in India.

Varuni Agarwal, 
2nd Year, OP Jindal Global University

[1] Central Provinces Transport Services Ltd vs. Raghunath Gopal Patwardhan, (1957) AIR 1957 SC 104.

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