Court dismisses appeal against order rejecting suit over termination of service

A Delhi court has dismissed an appeal against a civil judge’s order rejecting a suit filed by a man who had sought a declaration that his services were terminated illegally by Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd. which owns the Times Group.

Noting the evidence before it, the court said the termination was not illegal as it was under the terms of the employment contract.

The case has had a chequered history during which it witnessed several rounds of litigation right from labour courts, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court for around 12 years.

Assistant Senior Civil Judge Upasana Satija noted the facts of the case according to which appellant Yadeshwar Kumar, who is now dead, was appointed as a printer in the respondent company’s office in December 1976.

The court, in a recent order, noted the man had alleged in his suit that his services were terminated on a “false complaint” in August 1986.

In July 1997, a Labour Reconciliation Officer had held that Kumar was a “workman” and his services were terminated illegally. Later, the Delhi High Court set aside the award in March 1998 and sent the matter to a labour court, it noted.

The court further noted that in June 1999, the labour court passed an award in Kumar’s favour, following which Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd challenged it in the high court which dismissed the company’s petition.

The company filed an appeal which was allowed in July 2005 and the matter was sent again to a labour court, the judge noted, adding the labour court again passed an order in Kumar’s favour.

The firm then challenged the order in the high court which quashed the labour court’s order in October 2006, saying as Kumar was not a “workman” the labour court did not have the jurisdiction to try to case.

Aggrieved by the high court’s order, Kumar approached the Supreme Court which dismissed his special leave petition, the review petition and the curative petition between 2008 and 2009.

The former employee then filed a suit before the civil judge seeking a declaration that he was terminated illegally and he be reinstated or paid in full the back wages.

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The civil judge had dismissed the plea in May 2014, following which Kumar filed the appeal.

Dealing with the appeal, the court said,” The Appellant (Kumar) is neither a public servant nor a workman and the respondent (Bennett Coleman) is also not a statutory body. The present case is a case of private employment which would be governed by the terms of the contract between the parties.”

While dismissing the appeal, it said the civil judge’s order was without any irregularity or illegality.

Senior advocate Raj Birbal and lawyer Raavi Birbal appeared for Bennett Coleman & Company.

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