India: Thesis by the Court of Highest Wisdom on Anti-thesis of Acts Committed Outside the Precincts of Employment

Last Updated: 27 August 2003

By Shivaji Rao, Executive (Legal), NDDB

M/s. Glaxo Laboratories (I.) Ltd, Vs. Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Meerut, AIR 1984 SC 504 The ratio held in this case "To enable an employer to peacefully carry on his industrial activity, the Act confers powers on him to prescribe conditions of service including enumerating acts of misconduct when committed within the premises of the establishment. The employer has hardly any extra-territorial jurisdiction. He is not the custodian of general law and order situation nor the Guru or mentor of his workmen for their well regulated cultural advancement. If the power to regulate the behaviour of the workmen outside the duty hours and at any place wherever they may be was conferred upon the employer, contract of service may be reduced to contract of slavery. The employer is entitled to prescribe conditions of service more or less specifying the acts of misconduct to be enforced within the premises where the workmen gather together for rendering service. The employer has both power and jurisdiction to regulate the, behaviour of workmen within the premises of the establishment, or for peacefully carrying the industrial activity in the vicinity of the establishment".

When the broad purpose for conferring power on the employer to prescribe acts of misconduct that may be committed by his workmen is kept in view, it is not difficult to ascertain whether the expression 'Committed' within the premises of the establishment or in the vicinity thereof would qualify each and every act of misconduct collocated in clause 10 or the last two only, namely, 'any act subversive of discipline and efficiency and any act involving moral turpitude'. To buttress this conclusion, one illustration would suffice. Drunkenness even from the point of view of prohibitionist can at best be said to be an act involving moral turpitude. If the misconduct alleging drunkenness as an act involving moral turpitude is charged, it would have to be shown that it was committed within the premises of the establishment or vicinity thereof but if the misconduct charged would be drunkenness the limitation of its being committed within the premises of the establishment can be disregarded.

Para 15 of the judgment : The misconduct prescribed in a Standing Order which would attract a penalty has a causal connection with the place of the work as well as the time at which it is committed which would ordinarily be within the establishment and during duty hours. The causal connection in order to provide linkage between the alleged act of misconduct and employment must be real and substantial, immediate and proximate and not remote or tenuous

Para 23 of the judgment : Some misconduct neither defined nor enumerated and which may be believed by the employer to be misconduct ex-post facto would not expose the workmen to a penalty. It cannot be left to the vagaries of management to say ex post facto that some acts of omission or commission nowhere found to be enumerated in the relevant Standing Order is nonetheless a misconduct not strictly falling within the enumerated misconduct in the relevant Standing Order but yet a misconduct for the purpose of imposing a penalty.

Mulchandani Electrical and Radio Industries Ltd., Appellant v. The Workmen, AIR 1975 SC 2125 : Standing order no.24 (misconduct) was subjected judicial scrutiny, which reads :-

(1) Commission of any act subversive of discipline or good behaviour within the premises or precincts of the establishment :

Assault by operator on charge-man of same factory would be an act subversive of discipline. The fact that the assault was committed outside the factory (in a suburban train while the charge-man assaulted was going (home) would not take it out of the above standing order. The words "within the premises or precincts of the establishment" refer not to the place where the act which is subversive of discipline or good behavior is committed but where the consequence of such an act manifests itself. In other words, an act, wherever committed, if it has the effect of subverting discipline or good behaviour within the premises or precincts of the establishment, will amount to misconduct under Standing Order 24 (1).

Central India Coalfields Ltd., Calcutta, Vs. Ram Bilas Shobnath, AIR 1961 SC 1189. The SC held that "It is common ground that quarters are provided by the appellant to its employees and they are situated on the coal bearing area at a distance of about 200 feet from the pit-mouth according to the appellant and at a distance of 2000 feet according to the respondent. Standing Order No. 29(5) provides that drunkenness, fighting, riotous or disorderly or indecent behaviour constitutes misconduct which entails dismissal. Normally this Standing Order would apply to the behaviour on the premises where the workmen discharge their duties and during the hours of their work. It may also be conceded that if a quarrel takes place between workmen outside working hours and away from the coal premises that would be a private matter which may not fall within Standing Order No. 29(5); but in the special circumstances of this case it is clear that the incident took place in the quarters at a short distance from the coal bearing area and the conduct of the respondent which is proved clearly amounts both to drunkenness as well as riotous, disorderly and indecent behaviour".

Tata Oil Mills Co. Ltd., Vs.. The Workmen, AIR 1965 SCOURT 155

Standing Order 22 (viii) of the Certified standing orders of the Tata Oil Mills Co. Ltd., provided that without prejudice to the general meaning of the term "misconduct," it shall be deemed to mean and include, inter alia, drunkenness, fighting riotous or disorderly or indecent behaviour within or without the factory.

The Supreme court held that:

(i) it would be unreasonable to include within Standing Order 22(vii) any riotous behaviour without the factory which was the result of purely private and individual dispute and in course of which tempers of both the contestants became hot. In order that Standing Order 22(viii) may be attracted, it must be shown that the disorderly or riotous behaviour had some rational connection with the employment of the assailant and the victim.

(ii) Where, what the occasion for the assault by the charge-sheeted workman on another workman was and what motive actuated it, had been considered by the domestic tribunal, the findings of the domestic tribunal on these points must be accepted in proceedings before Industrial Tribunal, unless they were shown to be based on no evidence or were otherwise perverse.

(iii) If the charge-sheeted workman assaulted another workman solely for the reason that the latter was supporting the plea for more production, that could not be said to be outside the purview of Standing Order 22 (viii).

Palghat BPL & PSP Thozhilali Lunion Vs. BPL India Ltd., 1996 II LLJ 335 (SC)

The workers of BPL were on strike and threw stones on officers and also hit an officer with a stick near the BPL bus stop. According to the relevant standing Orders, "any act of subversive discipline committed either within or outside the premises of the company" was also misconduct. The workmen’s counsel contended that the action of the workmen did not amount to misconduct. The supreme Court rejected the contention and held that:

Any act subversive of discipline committed outside the premises is also misconduct. Any act unrelated to the service committed outside the factory would not amount to misconduct. But when a misconduct vis-à-vis the officers of the management is committed outside the factory, certainly, same would be an act subversive of discipline.

Agnani's Vs. Badri Das (1963-1 Lab LJ 684) (SC)

The Supreme Court has held that though it is true that private quarrel between an employee and a stranger with which the employer is not concerned as falls outside the categories of misconduct, it cannot be reasonably disputed that acts which are subversive of discipline amongst employees or misconduct or misbehaviour by an employee which is directed against another employee of the concern may in certain circumstances constitute misconduct so as to form the basis of an order of dismissal or discharge.

S. Govinda Menon vs. Union of India AIR 1967 SC 1274

In para 6 of the judgment the apex court has observed that "In our opinion, it is not necessary that a member of the Service should have committed the alleged act or omission in the course of discharge of his duties as a servant of the Government in order that it may form the subject-matter of disciplinary proceedings. In other words, if the act or omission is such as to reflect on the reputation of the officer for his integrity or good faith or devotion to duty, there is no reason why disciplinary proceedings should not be taken against him for that act or omission even though the act or omission relates to an activity in regard to which there is no actual master and servant relationship. To put it differently, the test is not whether the act or omission was committed by the appellant in the course of the discharge of his duties as servant of the Government. The test is whether the act or omission has some reasonable connection with the nature and condition of his service or whether the act or omission has cast any reflection upon the reputation of the member of the Service for integrity or devotion to duty as a public servant. We are of the opinion that even the appellant was not subject to the administrative control of the Government when he was functioning as Commissioner under the Act and was not the servant of the Government subject to its orders at the relevant time, his act or omission as Commissioner could form the subject-matter of disciplinary proceedings provided the act or omission would reflect upon his reputation for integrity or devotion to duty as a member of the Service". The Court relied on the observations made by Lopes, L. J. in Pearce. v. Foster, (1886) 17 QBD 536 at p. 542:

"If a servant conducts himself in a way inconsistent with the faithful discharge of his duty in the service, it is misconduct which justifies immediate dismissal. That misconduct, according to my view, need not be misconduct in the carrying on of the service or the business. It is sufficient if it is conduct which is prejudicial or is likely to be prejudicial to the interests or to the reputation of the master, and the master will be justified. not only if he discovers it at the time, but also if he discovers it afterwards, in dismissing that servant."

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