Decided on July 07,1967

LABOUR COURT Respondents


- (1.) ONE P. A. Cherian was an assistant tea-maker In the employment of Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company, Ltd. , who is the petitioner in this case. The petitioner found him Incompetent for this work; and he was, therefore, transferred to another estate of the petitioner as factory timekeeper, on the same salary and appropriate allowances with effect from 1 December 1961. The Estates Staffs Union of South India, Munnar, who is respondent 2 In this case, objected to the action taken by the petitioner, and raised a dispute. At Its instance, the State of Kerala, who is respondent 3, made a reference of the dispute under Section 10 (1) (c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for adjudication to the labour court, Quilon, who is respondent 1 in this case. This reference was filed as Industrial Dispute No. 21 of 1963; aid respondent 1, by Its award made on 8 October 1965 and published In Part I of the Kerala Gazette No. 49, dated 21 December 1965, held that the transfer of P. A. Cherian was unjustified and not proper and directed the petitioner to transfer him book as assistant tea-maker. Exhibit A Is a copy of this award. This original petition has been filed to quash the said award.
(2.) CHERIAN joined the petitioner's service In 1934 as an apprentice in a tea factory, and In 1935, he was promoted as a timekeeper. In 1939 he was promoted as assistant tea-maker. He has also acted as head tea-maker In leave vacancies. According to the petitioner, the circumstances under which he was sent back as timekeeper In 1961 are the following: From 1951-62 onwards, the yearly confidential reports received by the petitioner regarding Cherian's work contained adverse remarks. Towards the end of 1961, the visiting agent of the petitioner Inspected the factory In which Cherian was working. He was questioned about various aspects of tea-manufacturing; and It was found that he did not even know many of the elementary things relating to the manufacture. Thereafter Cherian was called to the headquarters office; and the Industrial relations officer of the petitioner explained to cherian that, since the annual reports regarding his work were adverse for a number of years, and also because he was not able to answer elementary questions regarding the manufacture of tea to the visiting agent, It was no longer possible for the petitioner to keep him as a tea-maker. Cherian understood the position, and accepted the decision of the petitioner to transfer him to another as a time keepar without any deduction In emoluments. According to respondent 2, Cherian's transfer was a punishment Imposed without any justification and without any enquiry; and It was an act of victimization. It denied that the petitioner was getting adverse remarks about Cherian; and contended that the existence of such adverse remarks, If any, had never been brought to the notice of Cherian, and that he was not given an opportunity to meet or explain the same. Regarding the interview of the visiting agent of the petitioner with Cherian, respondent 2 stated that the interview was at a time, when Cherian was mentally upset by the death of his brother, and that the wrong and wars said to have been given to him under such circumstances did not constitute a sufficient ground for the demotion of Cherian, who had 22 years of service as assistant tea-maker, and was due to be promoted as head tea-maker. Respondent 1 found that the action taken against Cherian was a punishment, that. the petitlonar's contention that it was done with the consent of Cherian was not sustainable, that no enquiry was conducted before the said punishment was effected, and that the petitioner did not place sufficient materials before respondent 1 to Justify the said action. The petitioner's learned Counsel contended before me that respondent 1's finding that the action of the petitioner amounted to a punishment was without any basis and perverse, and that Cherian's transfer was a bona fide action made by the petitioner in its business Interest.
(3.) THE reasons for and the circumstances under which Cherian was transferred as a timekeeper are best stated In the letter which the petitioner wrote to Cherian on 21 November 1961. This letter Is extracted in Ex. A; and it reads as follows: I refer to Sri W. C. Roy's recent inspection of 'grahamsland factory and the written explanation which you have submitted to the manager of Grahamsland estate on 2 October 1961 and the Interview which you had with the undersigned on 31 October during which I explained to you that in the light of the past reports on you and your extremely unsatisfactory performance during Sri Roy's Inspection, it Is no longer possible for the company to have the responsibilities of an assistant tea-maker in your hands. You understand the position and accepted my decision that you will be transferred to another factory where you will be employed as a factory timekeeper. Accordingly I am Instructing the manager of Grahamsland to transfer you to Nettigudi estate with effect from 1 December 1961 where you will work as a factory timekeeper. Although you will be employed as a factory timekeeper in Nettigudi, you will continue to draw your present basic salary of Rs. 180 per month and the appropriate allowances. In this connexion I would like to advise you that unless yon convince the manager of Nettigudi by sustained good work that you are capable of assuming once again the responsibilities of an assistant tea-maker, you may not ba considered for promotion in future. I am sure you will bear this in mind and do everything to rectify the deficiencies. It is evident from the above letter that the reasons for sending out Cherian as a timekeeper are: (1) the alleged extremely unsatisfactory performance of Cherlan during the inspection of the factory by the visiting agent; and (2) the past reports said to contain adverse remarks about him. There can be little doubt that the employer is entitled to put a worker in any section of the establishment, which the employer thinks best suited in the Interest of the Industry, provided it does not cause any detriment to the worker. The transfer of Cherian as a timekeeper, who was formerly promoted from that post, and has worked as an assistant tea-maker for 22 years, and who, In the ordinary course, could expect to be further promoted as head tea-maker, with a warning that he would not be considered In future for promotion as assistant tea maker, unless he convinced the manager of the estate by sustained good work, certainly causes humiliation to Cherian as a worker, and affects his career In the employment of the petitioner In several respects. It was admittedly a demotion from office. ;

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