'Transgression Of Freedom Of Speech & Expression Beyond Limits Of Reasonableness Can Lead To Disastrous Consequences': Bombay HC

'Transgression Of Freedom Of Speech & Expression Beyond Limits Of Reasonableness Can Lead To Disastrous Consequences': Bombay HC

The observation was made by Justice Milind Jadhav while upholding the termination of an employee with an auto parts manufacturing company, Hitachi Astemo Fie.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 03:06 PM IST
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Bombay HC | PTI

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has held that transgression of freedom of speech and expression beyond the limits of reasonableness can lead to disastrous consequences.

The observation was made by Justice Milind Jadhav while upholding the termination of an employee with an auto parts manufacturing company, Hitachi Astemo Fie. It was hearing a plea by Hitachi challenging the order of the labour court directing the company to reinstate the employee.

Terminated Employee Posted On Facebook About Office Dispute

The employee was terminated in 2012 after he uploaded two posts of Facebook against the company during an ongoing dispute over wage settlement and the settlement talks had not concluded.

While reversing the order of the labour court, Justice Jadhav said that the posts were directed against the company with a clear intent to incite hatred and were provocative. “A strong message needs to be sent out against such acts,” the court said on Tuesday, adding: “Such acts itself are required to be nipped in the bud.”

In a detailed 23-page order, justice Jadhav said: “Freedom of speech and expression cannot be allowed to be transgressed beyond reasonableness. If that is allowed, it could lead to disastrous consequences.”

“In a given case, one cannot and should not wait for the consequences to occur… Such acts itself are required to be nipped in the bud. Otherwise, it would convey a wrong signal to the society at large,” the court added.

It further remarked that discipline is the hallmark of any employee / workman when he is required to conduct himself as a workman. Regulation of behaviour of workmen is essential for peaceful conduct of industrial activity in the vicinity of the establishment as also within the premises of the establishment, the court added.

The court dismissed the worker’s submission that to post the said post on Facebook, he neither had a computer nor was it established that he was in the office premises to access the computer.

“In today’s technologically advanced world mobile phone is carried 24X7 by every person. Access to Facebook account is more conveniently accessed through the mobile phone,” Justice Jadhav underlined.

What Did Hitachi Say?

According to Hitachi, there was a dispute over wages with employees since 2017 and the negotiations were not concluded. The employee, two posts on his Facebook account during a wage settlement dispute. Hitachi claimed that the posts were defamatory, tarnished its reputation and incited and instigated its employees against the company management.

The company’s Enquiry Officer (EO) held the employee guilty of this misconduct and his employment was terminated through an order on May 2, 2018. The employee challenged the termination before the labour court in Pune which quashed the order.

Hitachi had approached the HC challenging this order.

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