Managers cannot be termed workmen, the Bombay High Court has held, in a significant verdict that throws light on a vexed issue on who constitutes a workman in the post-liberalisation era. Observing that Industrial law must keep pace with times, the Court also held that managerial organisation today is radically different from the pre-liberalisation era.“Managers do not become workmen because their decisions are structured by processes and approvals. Absolute autonomy is not a norm in managerial decision-making. Nor does a law insist on absolute discretion or absolute autonomy for a person to be a manager”, observed Justice D Y Chandrachud.
Justice Chandrachud gave the verdict that could have a bearing on the contemporary corporate world while upholding the claim of Standard Chartered Bank that its sacked employee Vandana Joshi was in managerial cadre and not a clerk.
“Tests appropriate to a society 30 years ago have become relics of an era which India left behind in annals of history”, he said.
Joshi was appointed as personal finance manager of the bank on May 2, 2006 but her services were terminated seven weeks later on June 23 on account of “deficiency in service”. She challenged her removal saying she was doing clerical duty falling within the definition of workman under Industrial Disputes Act.
“The fact that decisions of an employee are subject to verification or subject to a system of controls and balances does not establish that the employee is a workman within the meaning of Section 2(s) of Industrial Disputes Act”, Justice Chandrachud remarked.