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Labour Lawyer: Employee definition in EPF Act is wider than ID Act - finding in ID Act qua employer and employee relationship is not binding, upon the said determination in EPF Act; SC.

Supreme Court of India

Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice R. Subhash Reddy

The HC set aside the judgment of tribunal and of appropriate authority which held that the employer is liable to pay provident fund contribution. In the present case, the Writ petition was allowed by the High Court of the respondent/ employer on the ground that, in earlier proceedings under Industrial Dispute Act between the employer and the employees, it was held by the Court that there was no employer and employee relationship between the parties, and on this singular ground the writ petition was allowed by the High Court. Setting aside the said judgment, it was held by the SC, the High Court should have seen that the proceedings in question have arisen out of the EPF Act  and, therefore, the issue was required to be decided in the light of the relevant provisions of the Act in question but not in the light of the finding recorded in the proceedings arising under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947(herein referred to as “the ID Act”).

It was further held by the SC {Asst. Provident Fund Commissioner EPFO, Bareilly v. M/s U.P. State Warehousing Corp. & Anr. } that the High Court also should have seen that in order to   decide  the  relationship   of  employer  and employee for the purpose of applicability of the Act in question, the issue has to be decided in the light of definition of  "employee" as defined under Section 2(f) of the Act. It was further held that it   should   have   been   seen   that   firstly,   the definition of   "employee" under the ID Act is not identical   to   the   definition   of   “employee”   defined under Section 2(f) of the EPF Act;   and secondly, the object of the ID Act and the Act in question is not  the   same.   In   other   words,   the   definition   of “employee” under the ID Act and the one defined under the Act in question are not similar.   Even their objects are also not identical.   It  was held it  is   for   these   two   reasons,   any   finding recorded by the Labour Court while deciding the dispute under the ID Act will be of no consequence while deciding the question arising under the Act in question. The issue was, therefore, required to be decided independently and de hors the proceedings decided under the ID Act. In view of that the judgment of the HC was set aside - as the HC had solely allowed the Writ Petition on the said ground - and the matter was remanded back to HC for fresh consideration.

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