INDUSTRIAL COURT OF MALAYSIA CASE NO. 83 OF 1976 BETWEEN DR. A. DUTT AND ASSUNTA HOSPITAL, PETALING JAYA AWARD NO.178/79
UNIVERSITI PUTRA MALAYSIA
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Term Paper Industrial Relations
Dr. A. Dutt
Assunta Hospital, Petaling Jaya
Lee Chen Hoe GS00164
MA (Madras), Ph. D (Wisconsin)
Certificate I.T.P (Harvard)
Malaysian Graduate School of Management
Universiti Putra Malaysia
TERM PAPER ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
INDUSTRIAL COURT OF MALAYSIA
CASE NO. 83 OF 1976
DR. A. DUTT
ASSUNTA HOSPITAL, PETALING JAYA
This is a landmark case involving the sudden termination of the contract of
employment of a workman Dr. A Dutt a Radiologist claimed to be an unfair dismissal
without just cause or excuse by his employer, Assunta Hospital. A representation was
made under section 20(1) to the Director General to address the dismissal. When
reconciliation failed to reach a solution, the Director General under section 20(2)
provided referred to the Minister who in turn on May 4, 1976 made reference under
section 20(3) to the Industrial Court for a decision.
The applicant applied for writ of prohibition and to prevent Chairman of
Industrial Court from proceeding with hearing of the case. The hospital argued at all
stages of the proceedings. There was some delay in supplying grounds of decision and
delay of notice of appeal was the reasons for dragging out hearing in Industrial Court.
The Industrial Court handed down the award on Dec 22, 1979 but the hospital applied to
the High court to remove the award of the Industrial Court into the High Court for the
purpose of quashing it by writ of certiorari.
The High Court on Nov 21, 1980 quashed the award of Industrial Court. The
respondent made an appeal to the Federal Court for a writ of certiorari to quash the ruling
of the High Court and the hospital crossed appealed. The Federal Court re-affirmed the
decision of the Industrial Court it had not committed an ultra vires in the jurisdiction of
law in awarding that the respondent
• was a workman,
• his dismissal was without just cause or excuse
• the compensation of $522,000,00 in lieu of re-instatement was proper
Build Up of the Case
Dr. A. Dutt an Indian citizen was engaged by the Assunta Hospital as a radiologist
in the hospital. He was first engaged sometime in September, 1963 and the contract was
for a period of three years for a number of times until 1969 with the same term and
conditions. Before the expiry of the contract in September, 1969 the existing contract was
reviewed and the Hospital Board wrote to Dr.A.Dutt notifying of the certain proposed
changes to his contract valid for a further period of three years. Dr. A. Dutt accepted the
reviewed contract on Oct 20, 1970 and effective for three years until Aug, 1972. He
accepted the same when the contract whose terms and conditions were modified slightly
and offered to him. It was during this time the dispute of unfairness emerged between Dr.
A Dutt and the hospital administration.
A board meeting of the hospital on 27th November, 1975 resulted in forwarding a
letter to Dr. A. Dutt that reads thus:
" The Board has been considering your contract and we feel that it should be
Accordingly, this letter will give you formal notice of termination. The
notice will commence on 1st
December and the contract will terminate on 29th
The Board however is prepared to consider entering into a new contract with you,
although the terms will not be quite the same as the existing contract."
The purpose of the letter was to renegotiate a new terms of employment. The new
terms unilaterally offer were contained in a letter dated January 21, 1976.Among the
terms stated in the latter included the downgrading of Dr. A Dutt from senior Consultant
and as Director of Radiology and Head of Department to consultant, and reduction of fees
payable to and paid by first class and private clinic patients which was payable to him
and reduction of other privileges. Dr. A Dutt declined to accept the terms. The hospital
regarded his employment contract terminate don Feb 29, 1976.
Representation to Director General of Industrial Relations
Dr. A Dutt felt he had been dismissed without just cause and excuse and made
representation in writing under section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1967. The
Minister of Labour and Manpower under section 20(3) referred representation to
Industrial Court for a decision.
Sub-section of 20 provides:
" (1) Where a workman who is not a member of a trade union of workmen
considers that he has been dismissed without just cause or excuse by his
employer, he may make representation in writing to the Director General to be
reinstated in his former employment; the representation may be filed at the
office of the Director General nearest to the place of employment from which
the workman was dismissed.
(1A) The Director General shall not entertain any representation under
subsection (1) unless such representations are filed within sixty days of the
Provided that were a workman is dismissed with notice he may file a
representation at any time during the period of such notice but not later than
sixty days from the expiry thereof.
(2) Upon receipt of the representations the Director General shall take such
steps as he may consider necessary or expedient so that an expeditions
settlement thereof is arrive at; where the Director general is satisfied that there
is no likelihood of the representations being settled, he shall notify the Minister
(3)Upon receiving the notification of the Director General under subsection (2),
the Minister may, if he thinks fit refer the representation to the court for an
B. Writ of Prohibition In The High Court
While dismissal was referred to the Industrial Court for a decision, the hospital
applied to the High Court for a writ of prohibition to prevent the Chairman of the
Industrial Court from proceeding with the hearing on grounds that:
(1) the Industrial Court has no jurisdiction to order the Controller of Immigration
to issue a Visit Pass for temporary employment in place of a citizen;
(2) the Industrial Court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case, because it
cannot order the reinstatement of a non-citizen;
(3) the respondent Dr. a Dutt is not a 'workman' under the Industrial Relations
Act,1967 since the Doctor's contract with the applicant Hospital was a
contract for service and not a contract of service; and
(4) the Chairman of the Industrial Court by sitting alone without the consent of
the parties, contravenes section 20(4) of the Industrial Relations Act and is
proceeding without jurisdiction.
The presiding judge, Mr. Justice Mohamed Azmi held since the reference was
presented by the Minister under section 20(3), it was lawful for the Chairman of the
Industrial Court to sit alone in dealing with the case as provided for under section 23(30
Section 23(3) reads:
“Any division shall be constituted of Chairman and three members selected by
the Minister, one each of the panels specified under section 21(1)"
A proviso is however, enacted in section 23(4) which reads;
‘Notwithstanding the foregoing sub-section, for the purpose of dealing with any
reference to the court under section 20(3), a Division may be constituted by the
Chairman sitting alone."
The learned judge held that once the case is referred to the Industrial Court, it is
seized with the power to hear the dispute and to make an award. Kesatuan
Pekarja2kenderaan Sri Jaya v. Industrial Court. It was no proper case where a rit of
prohibition should be granted and he accordingly DISMISSED the application with
C .Writ of Prohibition in Federal Court
The Federal Court rejected the appeal with costs and HELD that
(1) the case came squarely within section 20(3) of the Industrial Relations Act
and therefore could be heard by the Industrial Court Chairman without a panel of
advisers. The learned judge was correct in dismissing this ground for an order of
prohibition as being without substance; that the employee was dismissed without
just cause and excuse.
(2)the non-citizenship status of the respondent was irrelevant for the purpose of
(3) the question whether the respondent was a workman was clearly within the
province of the Chairman to find in a reference to him of the workman’s
representation of dismissal without just cause or excuse;
(4) once the Minister decides to make a reference and his order is not set aside,
the Industrial Court is seized with jurisdiction to hear the case and it is
implicit in the Act that the Industrial Court must exercise that jurisdiction.
Failure to do so may well result in an order for mandamus.
D Hearing in the Industrial Court
The Industrial Court that began hearings on July 5, 1976 and it was not until June
28, 1979 when it concluded the consequence, lasting 66 days in open court, inclusive of
the last day for submission. The number of hearings spread out over almost 3 years that
could have relatively simple uncomplicated case and shortened had it not been due to the
Hospital's tried every means to resist to hearing of reference. The Chairman who sat was
conscious that by section 30(3)
“The court shall make its award without delay and where practicable within thirty
from the date of the reference to it of the trade dispute or of a reference to it under
he was required to hear the case speedily and hand down his award or dismiss the
reference. But though he showed his displeasure over the tactics employed by counsel for
the Hospital and though he was highly critical of such delays and reasons expressed of
implied for them, there was really nothing much he could do about it, when confronted
with the idee fixe of counsel that until the High Court and the Federal court had given
their decisions on the application for prohibition which he considered had excellent
chances of success, it would be a waste of time to continue with the hearing. A delay
some 3 years or so had resulted “In these ……..cases, the law’s delays have been
intolerable. They have lasted so long as to turn justice sour.” These are the words of Lord
Denning M.R. in Allen v. Sir Alfred McAlpine & Sons Ltd. echoed by Wilberforce in
Tolley v. Morris
The Industrial Court dealt at length before handed down the Award No.178/79 which
1. The dismissal of Dr. A Dutt by the Board was most unreasonable and very unfair,
without having heard properly from sides of the case-thus no sufficient or clear
evidence before coming to a reasonable or fair conclusion. The court finds the
dismissals no just cause or excuse whatsoever on the grounds shown of the
dismissal. The court finds that compensation in lieu of reinstatement was of
the right decision due to the atmosphere of animosity has been created
against the claimant.
2. In awarding compensation, the court upheld Award No.29/77 in Industrial Court
Case No.81/1975 the usual principle that the award be ' just and equitable' in all
circumstances, having regards to the loss sustained by the Claimant in
consequence of the dismissal attributable to the action taken by the employer.
This may result in a greater amount compensation granted by the Common Law.
This was because in Industrial Law an employee has a right to property in the job
he holds and dismissal is depriving him of his right of tenure.
3. The Claimant had no doubt being unable to secure alternative employment at all
as he was an expatriate on a Visa Pass requiring an employer to sponsor his
employment renewable yearly prior to the approval of the Malaysianisation
Secretariat. Upon his dismissal, his Visit pass has been cancelled by the
Controller of Immigration on the Hospital's Informatory letter, leaving no option
but to return his country. The only option was to seek employment outside the
country since his dismissal, which he did. The Claimant did make reasonable
efforts to apply for the same position of Radiologist in Mount Elizabeth Hospital
Pte. Ltd, to Kuwait University and also Royal Perth Hospital, but he was
unsuccessful in each case.
4 The Claimant's counsel submits that compensation be granted beyond 1980 until
1984 at Claimant's retirement age based on the fact that the hospital was prepared
to continue employment beyond 1980. It was also uncertain whether the
Malaysianisation Secretariat grant him approval for a further period beyond 1980
due to its strict policy no local citizen should be kept out of employment for the
Specialist post, if found to replace him at the end of 1980
I. The payment of $14,000.00 being the unpaid balance of fees collected and
placed in a Fixed Deposit account together with interest thereon subject to
verification to be paid on or before Dec 31,1979
II. Arrears of salary from date of dismissal to date of conclusion of hearing
amounting to $120,000.00 to be paid before Jan 31, 1980.
III. Compensation for loss Specialist Fees amounting $240,000.00 to be paid
on or before Feb 29,1980; and
IV. Compensation in lieu of reinstatement amounting to $162,000.00 to be
paid on or before Feb 29, 1980.
V. Total sum of $522,000.00 apart from the specialist fees to be made to
Claimant are subjected to Income Tax clearance and be made through the
E. Writ of Certiorari to the High Court
The Hospital obtained leave of application to the High Court for a writ of
certiorari to quash the award by the Industrial Court naming Dr. A Dutt as the first
respondent and the Industrial Court as second respondent. The grounds of application
were that the Industrial Court had acted ultra vires in jurisdiction error of law in the
(1) exceeded its jurisdiction in holding that the first respondent was a ' workman'
within the meaning of the Industrial Relations act, 1967.
(2) exceeded its jurisdiction by holding that appellant had been dismissed
without just cause and excuse thereby failing to recognize the right of the
applicant as employer under the contract to terminate the first respondent ;
(3) exceeded its jurisdiction in awarding a huge sum of $522,000.00 purported to
be compensation in lieu of reinstatement in a matter referred to it under
Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act,1967.
The presiding judge of the High Court in Malaya at Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Justice
Datuk Hashim Yeop A Sani handed down the ruling on Nov 21, 1980(Appellate &
Special Powers Division)
That The Industrial Court
I. Had not committed any ultra vires of jurisdiction error of law in
holding that the was workman ; and
II. That the respondent had been dismissed without just cause or excuse;
III. QUASHED the award of compensation in lieu of reinstatement was made
without jurisdiction on grounds
• that the practice of conferment upon itself a discretion to award compensation
in lieu of reinstatement under the context of section 20(5) that reads as its
power in equity and good conscience was inappropriate.
• that any relief that is not directly connected with or ancillary to reinstatement
will be outside the powers conferred by section 30(6) of the Act;
• that The Industrial Court is not a court of record and being a creature of
stature its powers are to be derived solely from the four corners of the stature
of the Act.
Section 30(6) reads:
" In making its award, the Court shall not be restricted to the specific relief
claimed by the parties or to the demand made by the parties in the course of the
trade or in the matter of the reference to it under section 20(3) but may include
in the award any matter or thing which it thinks necessary or expedient for the
purpose of settling the trade dispute or the reference to it under section 20(3)."
F. Appeal to the Federal Court
Dr. A Dutt made an appeal to the Federal Court for a writ of certiorari to quash
the ruling of the High Court and the hospital crossed appealed. The presiding Federal
Court judges, Chief Justice, Raja Azlan Shah, FJ Wan Suleiman and FJ Chang Min Tat
on January 22 & Feb 19, 1981 (Kuala Lumpur- Federal Court Civil appealed No.276 of
1980) RESTORED the award of the Industrial Court and HELD that
(1) The Industrial Court had not erred in law or in fact in arriving at its
conclusion that the appellant was a workman under section 2 is within the
Industrial Relations Act ;
Section 2 of the Act reads:
"Workman means any person, including apprentice, employed by an
employer under a contract of employment to work for hire or reward and for
the purpose of any proceedings in relation to a trade dispute includes nay
such person who has been dismissed , discharged or retrenched in
connection with or as a consequence of that dispute or whose dismissal,
discharge or retrenchment has led to that dispute."
(2) a claim for reinstatement in employment by a workman is a trade dispute
between the employer and the claimant connected with the non-employment
of the claimant, just as much as the complaint of a number of workmen
through their trade union ;
(3) The Industrial Court in this case had come to a finding of the fact the motive
for the termination of the services of the appellant was oblique and therefore it
was justified in holding the appellant had been dismissed without just cause of
The learned judges arriving at the above decisions by referring to Sections
20(1), 26(1) and the definitions of a trade dispute
Section 26(1) reads:
" Where a trade dispute exists or is apprehended , the Minister may if that
dispute is not otherwise resolved refer the dispute to the court on the joint
request in writing to the Minister by the trade union and the employer who
is a party to the trade dispute or trade union representing the employer."
Trade dispute is defined under section 2 as:
“any dispute between employers and workmen or between workmen and
workmen or between employers and employers, which is connected with the
employment or conditions of work of any person."
The title of the Industrial Relations Act, 1967 provides:
“for the regulations between employers and workmen and their trade
disputes and the prevention and settlement of nay differences or disputes
arising from there relationships and generally with the trade disputes and
matters arising there from."
(4) The right to compensation must be an issue in representations for
reinstatement and necessarily arises where the court would not order
reinstatement. The Industrial Court if in its considered view proper when
awarding compensation in lieu of reinstatement for dismissal without just
The awards in the above are set in section 30 of relevant subsections are as
" 30(1) The court shall have power in relation to a trade dispute referred to
it or in relation to a reference to it under section 20(3) , to make an award (
including an interim award) relating to all or any if the issues in dispute.
(5) The court shall act according to equity, good conscience and the
substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities and legal
(6) In making its award, the court shall not be restricted to the specific relief
claimed by the parties or to the demands made by the parties in the
course of a trade dispute of in the matter of the reference to it under
section 20(3) but may include in the award any matter or thing it thinks
necessary or expedient for the purpose of settling the trade dispute of the
reference to it under section 20(3)."
It was further re-affirmed by quoting the relevant part of section 52(2)
“52(2) the provisions of this Act relating to trade dispute….shall apply to
any matter referred to or brought to the notice of the court under the Act."
(5) the question whether the appellant was a workman within the meaning of the
Industrial Relations Act was a mixed question of law and fact. Whether he had
been dismissed without just cause or excuse was a pure question of fact. No
order of certiorari could lie for error on those two grounds and the cross-appeal
of the respondents must therefore be dismissed;
(7) even if the award of compensation contained one or more errors upon its face,
the error or errors did not give the High Court jurisdiction to quash the decision
of the Industrial Court. The appeal must therefore be allowed and the award of
the Industrial Court restored by citing South East Asia Fire Bricks Sdn.
Bhd. v Non-Metallic Minerals Products Manufacturers Employees Union
and the ouster clause of 33B that removed the jurisdiction of the High court to
issue a writ of certiorari for errors of law by the inferior tribunal to the Federal
Their lordship also agreed with Goon Kwee Phoy v. J. & P. Coats (M) Bhd,
compensation could be awarded for dismissal without just cause and excuse.
G. Application to the Industrial Court for Non-Compliance of Award
On Apr 15, 1981, the hospital applied for leave to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong
which leave was granted on May 19, 1981 conditional on the hospital paying
all monies under the Award to the Applicant's Solicitors by Aug 20, 1981. The
hospital did not pay the sum and the Federal Court on Nov 21, 1981 struck out
the conditional leave to appeal to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.
Dr. A Dutt applied to the Industrial Court for a prompt payment of a sum to
be paid to him by the hospital and sought an order for the amount due and
interest at 6% per annum on $522,000.00.
The Industrial Court President The Honorable Mr. Justice Harun Hashim
sitting alone on Dec 8, 1981 handed down the award 229/81 that:
I. There is no excuse for any further delay to pay over the sums which are
not in the dispute:
Arrears of Salary and Compensation 522,000.00
II DISMISS the claims for interest as it was purely discretionary under Section
11 of Civil Law Act and subject
Section 7 of the Schedule to the Courts of Juricature Act, 1964; and
Section 21 of the Schedule to the Subordinate Courts Act, 1948
It was an offence under Section 56(3) reads:
" any person who fails to comply with an order of the Court under
subsection shall be guilty of an offence and shall on convict be liable not
exceeding two thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding
a year, or both and a further fine of five hundred ringgit for every day
during which such offence continues."
H. Application to the Industrial Court for the Time Application of Costs
The Industrial Court President Honorable Mr. Justice Harun Hashim sitting
alone handed down the award Nov 10, 1982 under award No. 222/82
according DISMISS the application by citing
It was out of time by any standards. The proper time to apply for costs and
expenses should either be:
A prayer in the Statement of case; or
in the course of proceedings before the court ; so that if costs and expenses are
awarded these from part of the award
I. Application to Court of Appeal for the release on the sum of award from
Inland Revenue Department
The ordeal did not come to an end when the Federal Court ordered the award to
be paid after Income Tax clearance. The Inland Revenue Department withdrew the relief
granted to him for the years of assessment 1972 to 1976 and also taxed some
$412,000.00 from his court award without granting any relief for legal costs
incurred. This angered Dr. A Dutt as he was left with nothing after paying to his lawyer,
Datuk G. Sri Ram( a sitting Justice in the Court of Appeal).
Between November 1982 and September 1983, he made submission of 10 Forms
Q appealing the decision of the Department. Due to bureaucratic procedures, his
application was left in the department for seven years with no decision being made.
In November Dr. A Dutt then a senior consultant radiologist at a hospital in New
South Wales decided to write to the King who was then happened to be Sultan Azlan
Shah , who as the Chief Justice of Malaya, was one of the three judges in the Federal
Court that restored the Industrial Court Award.
The King's secretary wrote to the Inland Revenue Department for a speedy action.
The Special Commissioner took three years between 1990 and February 1993 to
CONCLUDE that Dr. A Dutt's legal costs and costs incurred
"wholly and exclusively in the production of his income" between 1972 and 1976
were deductible expenses. His award of $522,000.00 was considered as compensation
and not taxable.
The Inland Revenue Department appealed against the decision to the High Court.
The High Court judge Datuk Abu Mansor Ali RULED IN FAVOUR of the department
that certain items claimed by Dr. A Dutt to be wholly and exclusively for the production
of income between 1972 and 1976 were not deductible but the legal fees incurred for the
Industrial Court case were deductible.
Still dissatisfied, Dr. A Dutt appealed against the High Court decision before
withdrawing without giving any reasons thereto when the case appeared for mention in
front the Court of Appeal judge Datuk Shaik Daud Ismail ( sitting together with Datuk
Ahmad Sheik Abdul Halim and Datuk Mokthar ) STRUCK OUT the appeal on
application of the department. Thus, ending the final chapter of his 21 years of legal
battle to clear his name from the vindictive and vexatious unfair dismissal by the
In concluding the award, the Court summed its views on the merits of claims reproduced
1 The hospital argued that Industrial Relations was not meant for professionals.
This was rejected at all stages. Following that decisions employees employed in
the capacity of managers, executives, confidential and security come under as
workman under the Act who were engaged under a contract of service.
2 Failure of employers to observe the principles of natural justice in deciding an
employee is only a "matter of academic interest" when the Industrial Court
reviewing the dismissal
3 Hearing by Industrial Court is a hearing of de novo where workman will be given
every opportunities to defend himself, and only in that sense can it be said that the
question whether natural justice has failed at he domestic inquiry stage is a "
matter of academic interest"
4 An inquiry must be formal, so long as the employer basing on his decision to
dismiss an employee on sufficient and relevant evidence, even calling for his past
record of service and considering other mitigating circumstances.
5 The decision to dismiss the claimant from the by the Board was most unfair and
without having heard properly of both sides - having no sufficient evidence before
it to come to fair reasonable decision.
6 The Court found no just cause or excuse whatsoever in the grounds shown for
dismissal. The Court found compensation was the adequate remedy as
reinstatement was not possible in the case due to obvious atmosphere of animosity
that has created against the claimant.
7 In awarding compensation, the Court followed the usual principal the amount of
compensation awarding must just and equitable by the claimant in consequence of
dismissal in so far as the loss was attributable to the action by the employer.
8 In what is of concern is the contractual relationship of master and servant, where
servant is regarded as senile person with low dignity attached to his job, and if
contract if contract is terminated, there is no question affecting status involving
9 The damages awarded could only represent loss of salary due to date of wrongful
dismissal, plus the amount would have earned during period of notice properly
given for the termination.
10 In Common Law, the amount awarded must be reduced by whatever an employee
either has earned or would have earned to meet hid mitigation the loss by
dismissal. In this case, the claimant had no chance at all to find alternative
employment, being an expatriate on a visit pass requiring an employer to sponsor
employment from year to year period to be approved by the Malaysianisation
11 The amount was in greater compensation granted by Common law, because in
employee has right to property to his job that he holds, so dismiss him will
deprive his right to tenure.
12 That the Industrial Court handing awards of dismissal with just cause or excuse,
may consider compensation in lieu of reinstatement by referring to section 30(10,
(5) and (6) for decision
13 The supervisory of the High Court over the Industrial Court is limited to cases
where the Industrial Court has not observed rules of natural justice or has acted in
bad faith or has committed a jurisdiction error.
14 That the definition of workman was within the meaning of the Act. The question
of the claimant as a workman was a mixed question of law and fact; whether he
had dismissed with just cause or excuse was a pure question of fact. No order of
certiorari could lie for error on these grounds
15 The High Court had no power to quash the decision of the Industrial Court. It
was for that reason the decision of Industrial Court was restored.
C.P. Mills (1984). Industrial Disputes Law in Malaysia, pp321-330