A watchman has been denied relief 11 years after he moved the Bombay High Court seeking benefits from a housing society that expelled him when he turned 60. A Single Judge Bench of Justice S.C. Gupte was hearing a plea filed byArihant Siddhi Co-op Housing Society.

It challenged an order passed by a Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act. The watchman’s service was terminated as soon as he turned 60 on November 2000. The plea concerns the claim of his reinstatement with full wages and continuity of service.

The Labour Court had allowed the plea and directed that the watchman be reinstated with full back wages and continuity in service. This was challenged by the society because it is not an ‘industry’ within the Industrial Disputes Act.

The watchman was paid ex-gratia/retirement benefit, which was accepted by him. Thereafter, he raised a demand for reinstatement. He claimed he was a permanent employee of the society and was terminated without any enquiry or offering retrenchment compensation.

The Labour Court held that despite being a co-operative housing society, it earned additional income from members and so fell within the definition of an industry. The court held that the profit motive was proved and the society could not be termed a housing society.

Justice Gupte said, “In the present case, merely because the society charged extra from a few members for display of neon signs, the society cannot be treated as an industry. The Labour Court suffers from a serious error of jurisdiction.”

The High Court held that the reference of the Labour Court was not maintainable and the order of reinstatement with continuity of service and full back wages passed by the court is quashed and set aside.

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