1. This single judgment shall dispose of instant writ petition along with following connected writ petition W. P. No. 6148 of 2015 titled Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited. v. Member, Punjab Labour Appellate Tribunal, etc as common questions of law and facts are involved in these petitions .
2. Brief facts of the case are that petitioner was working as Pipe Fitter in Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (“SNGPL”). He was served with two charge sheets dated 1/2.06.1999 and 27.09.1999. First charge sheet was based on the allegation of absence from duty w.e.f. 19.05.1999 and in second charge sheet it was alleged that petitioner visited the Regional Office in drunken condition and used abusive language against one Arif Mehmood and damaged his car. Ultimately, petitioner was dismissed from service in February, 2000. Petitioner filed appeal before Federal Service Tribunal, which was accepted vide judgment dated 06.07.2005 and impugned order of petitioner’s dismissal was set-aside and matter was remanded to the competent authority for decision afresh. Thereafter, matter was revisited and penalty of down gradation from Grade-VI to Grade-V w.e.f. 22.02.2000 was imposed upon the petitioner, vide order dated 09.03.2006.
Feeling aggrieved, said order was assailed in departmental appeal, but said order was upheld in appeal and petitioner was compelled to file appeal before Federal Service Tribunal but, in view of judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan in Muhammad Mubeen-us-Salam and others v. Federation of Pakistan through Secretary, Ministry of Defence and others (PLD 2006 Supreme Court 602), learned Tribunal abated the petitioner’s appeal. However, keeping in view the provisions of Section 46 of Industrial Relations Ordinance, 2002 (“IRO, 2002”), the petitioner also served a grievance notice to respondents as a matter of pre-caution and filed grievance petition before learned Punjab Labour Court No. I, Lahore (“Labour Court”), which was decided in favour of petitioner vide judgment dated 28.06.2011, whereby petitioner was reinstated in service with all back benefits. SNGPL assailed said judgment before learned Punjab Labour Appellate Tribunal, Lahore (“PLAT”) by filing appeal, which was accepted vide judgment dated 10.10.2014 and judgment of Labour Court was modified to the extent that petitioner was held not entitled to receive any back benefits for the period he remained out of service. Through the instant petition, aforesaid judgment dated 10.10.2014 passed by PLAT has been assailed, with the following prayer:
“In view of the above submissions it is most respectfully prayed that the impugned judgment dated 10.10.2014 passed by learned Appellate Tribunal may kindly be set aside and well-reasoned judgment dated 28.06.2011 passed by Punjab Labour Court No.1, Lahore may kindly be restored.”
3. In the connected writ petition i.e. W. P. No.6148 of 2015 titled Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited. v. Member, Punjab Labour Appellate Tribunal, etc. the petitioner / SNGPL has prayed as under:
“In view of the above it is prayed that the impugned judgments may be declared as against the law and facts borne on record and may be declared as not “just and proper”, requiring Labour Court’s judgment to be set aside in toto and that of PLAT too except denial of back benefits. The charges contained in the charge sheet dated–duly proved may be held as proper, declaring the respondent No.3 as guilty of the charges committed by him.”
4. Learned counsel for petitioner submits that while passing the impugned judgment, PLAT has not properly appreciated the points of law and facts involved in the case, so the impugned judgment to the extent of denial of back benefits to petitioner is bad at law. He adds that petitioner, in his grievance petition, affidavit, grievance notices dated 29.08.2006 and 30.08.2006, clearly mentioned that he was ‘jobless’ but this important fact escaped the notice of PLAT. He further submits that in circumstances impugned judgment is based on mis-reading and non-reading of evidence brought on record.
5. On the other hand, learned counsel for respondents submits that judgment passed by learned Labour Court is absolutely without jurisdiction as it had no jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate upon grievance petition of the petitioner. He adds that claim of back benefits has rightly been denied by PLAT. In support of his contentions, learned counsel placed reliance on case law reported as Commissioner of Income Tax v. Messrs Eli Lilly Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd. (2009 SCMR 1279) and Messrs Rasheed CNG Station through Proprietor v. Federation of Pakistan and 6 others (2015 CLC 945).
6. Arguments heard and available record perused. The operative part of impugned judgment is reproduced as under:
“13. Finally, it needs to be seen if the impugned judgment can be sustained in so far as it awards back benefits to the respondent for the period he remained out of service. It is settled law that a dismissed workman cannot claim such back benefits unless he asserts in his evidence that he had remained unemployed during the intervening period. A perusal of the evidence particularly respondent’s affidavit in evidence (Ex.P-1) does not show any assertion by the respondent that he remained jobless during the intervening period. In the circumstances, the respondent cannot be awarded back benefits for the period he remained out of service.”
7. The above reproduced part of the impugned judgment shows that learned Punjab Labour Appellate Tribunal has reversed the findings of learned Labour Court with regard to grant of back benefits on the ground that the petitioner did not assert in evidence that he remained unemployed during the intervening period. Examination of the record reveals that petitioner has specifically mentioned in his grievance notices and grievance petition before Labour Court supported by affidavit that he was jobless but it has been argued that PLAT failed to consider this important aspect of the matter while passing impugned judgment. Record further shows that petitioner mentioned in the prayer of his grievance petition that he remained ‘jobless’.
8. It is obvious from the record that petitioner served grievance notice under section 46 of IRO, 2002 and, thereafter, filed grievance petition before the learned Labour Court which was accepted vide order dated 28.06.2011. The proceedings were initiated long before the promulgation of Industrial Relations Act, 2012 (“IRA, 2012”). Industrial Relations Ordinance, 2011 (“IRO, 2011”) was also promulgated after the decision dated 28.06.2011 passed by Labour Court, so it never affected the grievance petition of the petitioner. Industrial Relations Act, 2008 (“IRA, 2008”) and IRO, 2011 were repealed, so petitioner’s petition was rightly decided by the Labour Court having jurisdiction under law and that is a valid judgment.
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