‘Workman’ Does Not Include Person Performing Managerial And Supervisory Duties: Karnataka HC


The Karnataka High Court set aside the order of the Labour Court granting relief of reinstatement, continuity of service and back wages to a person and observed that ‘workman’ under Section Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (ID Act) does not include any person who performs managerial and supervisory duties in the management.

Two writ petitions were preferred in the present case, one was filed by the Petitioner-Party assailing the order rejecting the reinstatement, continuity of service with full back wages and other consequential benefits. The other writ was filed by the Respondent-Management against holding the applicant as a ‘workman’ under Section 2(s) of the ID Act, setting aside the order of termination and directing the management to pay a lump sum compensation of Rs.5,00,000/.

The Bench of Justice K.S. Hemalekha observed “The main duties performed by the applicant is in the nature of the Manager and thus, the Labour Court was not justified in coming to a conclusion that the applicant was a workman as defined under Section 2(s) of the ID Act, even assuming the applicant is doing clerical work as contended by the party-in-person-N. Bhuvaneshwari, the clerical work, if any, is only incidental to the principal work, which she is undertaking as a Manager to the post of “Executive Secretary”. The work assigned to the applicant is of responsibility and she was discharging the managerial and supervisory duties as per the appointment order, these surrounding circumstances clearly indicate that the applicant is not a ‘workman’ as defined under Section 2(s) of the ID Act.”

Petitioner appeared in person while Advocate C.K. Subrahmanya appeared for the Respondent.

The main question that was for consideration before the Court was whether the Petitioner employed as an “Executive Secretary” in Ambuthirtha falls within the expression ‘Workman’ as defined under Section 2(s) of the ID Act and in the event of proving so, whether the Respondent was justified in terminating her from the services.

The Court perused the definition of “workmen”, records stating her experience as a Secretarial Assistant, and her supervisory and managerial role in the company, and said, “The perusal of the records would indicate that before joining the company, the applicant had a total experience of 17 years as a Secretarial Assistant and the post to which the applicant was appointed was based on the qualification and experience she possessed prior to her appointment to the company. The applicant discharged her duties in Supervisory and Managerial Role, the documents produced at Exs.M.1 and M.2 clearly establish the nature of function the applicant was performing as on the date of termination and it is abundantly clear that the applicant was working as an “Executive Secretary” and she had a duty of maintaining the records of the Managing Director and the Chairman, the nature of work performed by the applicant at no stretch of imagination can be said to be as envisaged under Section 2(s) of the ID Act.”

On the question of termination, the Court held that such a question cannot be adjudicated by the Labour Court, as the Applicant failed to establish that she was a ‘workman’ under Section 2(s) of the Act, therefore, the Labour Court was not justified in concluding that the applicant is entitled Rs.5,00,000/- in lieu of reinstatement, continuity of service, full back wages and all other consequential benefits.

Accordingly, the Court, while setting aside the imougned order, dismissed the writ petition filed by the Applicant and allowed the writ petition filed by the Management. 

Cause Title: Smt N Bhuvaneshwari v. The Management of M/s. Ambuthirtha Power Private Ltd. and The Management of M/s. Ambuthirtha Power Private Ltd. v. Smt N Bhuvaneshwari

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