Gra­tu­ity rows fall within ju­ris­dic­tion of con­sumer fo­rums

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A con­sumer forum has held that dis­putes re­lat­ing to em­ployee gra­tu­ity fall within its purview. The forum di­rected Go­drej Con­sumer Prod­ucts Ltd to pay for­mer em­ployee Vipin Dwi­wedi his gra­tu­ity of Rs 2.21 lakh along with Rs 1.43 lakh com­pen­sa­tion for the 13-year de­lay. “The op­po­nents, by not pay­ing gra­tu­ity to the com­plainant, have in­dulged in de­fi­ciency of ser­vice,” the ad­di­tional Mum­bai subur­ban district con­sumer dis­putes re­dres­sal forum said.

In the com­plaint filed in 2010, Dwi­wedi al­leged that af­ter 25 years of ser­vice the firm asked him to re­sign. He claimed that while his pen­sion and prov­i­dent fund were given to him, his gra­tu­ity was de­nied.

The com­pany ar­gued that Dwi­wedi did not fall within the def­i­ni­tion of a con­sumer as he had re­signed. Fur­ther, as he was in­volved in il­le­gal grat­i­fi­ca­tion, which caused losses to the com­pany, the claim for the gra­tu­ity was not set­tled.

The com­pany then con­tended that the com­plainant's claim for gra­tu­ity did not lie within the forum's ju­ris­dic­tion. To this, the forum pointed out that though the amount of gra­tu­ity was con­sid­ered un­der the Gra­tu­ity Act, it did not pro­hibit the ju­ris­dic­tion of a con­sumer forum to en­ter­tain and de­cide the point of gra­tu­ity. It also re­lied on a Na­tional Com­mis­sion or­der that said that the amount of gra­tu­ity could be with­held only to the ex­tent of amount de­fal­cated (a de­fal­ca­tion is the amount of funds mis­ap­pro­pri­ated by a per­son trusted with its charge) by the em­ployee.

“Though the op­po­nents have come with the case that the com­plainant had in­volved in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties due to which it lost Rs 8 lakh, no doc­u­ments about any in­quiry or crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion have been filed,” the forum said. It ob­served that even af­ter the res­ig­na­tion no ac­tion was ini­ti­ated against Dwi­wedi.

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