As per Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act, it is the duty of all industrial establishments which have 100 or more workers to provide regular standing orders for workers, factories, and working relationships. A delinquent worker means an employee against whom an allegation is leveled due to his performance of duty, acts of omission, or misconduct. Therefore, a delinquent worker who is charged with misconduct is subject to the punishment specified within the organization’s Standing Rules. This blog seeks to examine how Section 11 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 functions as a shield for delinquent workers.
Punishing delinquent workers against whom the alleged offenses are proven is an essential aspect of the disciplinary process. The disciplinary authority has the power to discipline the delinquent employee as per the Standing Orders of the organisation under the Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act. In RM Parmar v. Gujarat (1982), a Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court held that the main purpose of punishment is to correct the delinquent workman’s fault by making him more alert in the future and to serve as a warning to the other workmen to be careful in the discharge of their duties so that they do not expose themselves to similar punishment. And the method to be used is the way that parents take when dealing with an erring or misguided child. Regrettably, most of the time, the punishment is startlingly unfair, and the delinquent worker is sacked. Such penalties may be administered by the disciplinary authority to victimize the delinquent worker, which constitutes an unfair labour practice under Labour Law.
The goal of the penalty is to keep employees from engaging in wrongdoing and to maintain organizational discipline. The punishment is meant to deter the delinquent worker from repeating the offense and to deter other employees from conducting similar acts. The disciplinary authority shall resort to the categories of punishment mentioned in the organization’s Certified Standing Rules or, in the absence of the same, the Model Standing Orders prescribed under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 to decide the level of punishment. Warnings, fines, withholding increments, demotions, suspensions, discharges, and dismissals are all examples of penalties.
The goal of punishing the delinquent worker is to discourage him from doing such misconduct in the future, as well as to serve as a message to the other workers not to commit any misconduct. The employer has the authority to impose suitable punishment on any delinquent worker for the misconduct committed to maintaining industry discipline and industrial harmony. At the same time, it should be noted that the punishment imposed should not be shockingly disproportionate to the act of misconduct, which no reasonable employer would ever impose in identical conditions, as this would imply victimization or unfair labour practice, thereby invalidating the order of dismissal or discharge, but by enacting Section 11A, the legislature has transferred the employer’s discretion in punishing to the industrial adjudicator. In cases of discharge or dismissal, it is now the satisfaction of the industrial adjudicator to ultimately decide the degree of punishment for proven actions or omissions of misconduct. If the tribunal is satisfied that the order of discharge or dismissal is not justified in any circumstances on the facts of a case, it has the authority not only to set aside the order of punishment and direct reinstatement with back wages but also to impose certain conditions as it deems fit and just and to provide relief to the worker, including the award of a lesser punishment instead of discharge or dismissal.
Theories/approaches for punishing delinquent workmen
The employer can only take a harsh stance as a last resort, not in the normal process of dealing with disciplinary concerns. Given the foregoing, it is suggested that while deciding the misconduct of the delinquent worker following theories should be considered:-
- Reformative Theory: Implementing a reformative theory of punishment will result in smooth and favourable labour relations. Throughout this process, the employer should endeavour to modify the behavior of the individual worker in question without jeopardizing disciplinary actions. In other words, the method is a parent’s approach to an erring or misled child.
- Workman’s Prior Record or Conduct: A workman’s past conduct is a significant consideration in determining the punishment to be imposed on him for his transgression. In Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service v. Mohmad Salim J Shaikh, the Gujarat High Court stated that when punishing a worker for indiscipline, the punitive authority must consider his socioeconomic background as well as his record. If the records are satisfactory, the workers should be handled leniently; nevertheless, if the worker has been involved similarly in the past, appropriate action should be taken.
- Punishment Quantity: The punishment should be neither too mild nor too severe. It should be adequate and proportionate to the offender’s guilt. It is established law that inflicting penalties for a confirmed act of misconduct is a matter for the disciplinary authority to decide, and industrial tribunals should typically not interfere with this decision.
It is the employer’s job to not only act neutrally and reasonably to preserve a favourable industrial environment and smooth industrial relations but also to make the workers and the union recognize this. If the company is successful in this procedure, the union will usually back the employer’s choice to impose a penalty on any worker. As a result, the employer’s reasonable approach will lead to increased trust between the employer and the workers, increased worker morale, improved industrial relations, and the maintenance of industrial peace. It is important to state and conclude that it is the employer’s sole responsibility to be reasonable, unbiased, and neutral in all aspects and that workers are equally responsible to strengthen the employer’s hands by cooperating with the organization in terms of maintaining discipline and industrial peace to have higher productivity and profitability for the benefit of both the organization and the workers at large.
 Lab IC 1031, 1034-35 (Guj) (DB)
 2004 (3) CLR 714 (Guj HC)
This article is authored by Sameena Sayyed. Sameena is a 3rd-year law student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University. Sameena has written this in-depth article while pursuing her studies.