Labour Laws Q/A

Disobedience and Insubordination

Whether refusal by an employee to comply with lawful instructions of the employer amounts to a misconduct and if so, what punishment can be awarded?

The conduct of the workman consisted of declining to type out delivery challans which was a part of his duty and by refusing to obey the lawful orders of the superior officer amounted to insubordination. If there was no valid reason justifying such conduct, the disobedience would also amount to an act of indiscipline. A subordinate officer or employee on duty is bound to obey lawful order of a superior officer. The concept obedience is implicit in the fact that official receiving the order is subordinate to the officer giving the order and a lawful order has to be obeyed unless there is strong justification for not complying with such a lawful order. It is this conduct of declining to obey an order, which not only results in disobedience, but the conduct would also amount to insubordination. Where a workman disobeys a lawful order, he can be said to be guilty of insubordination and it needs hardly to be stated that misconduct arising from disobedience and insubordination would also amount to indiscipline.

In one case, the Delhi High Court has held that disobedience by an employee will amount to serious misconduct to justify his dismissal from service and as such the Tribunal has rightly upheld his dismissal made after holding of an enquiry. Defiance of orders of the superiors levying allegations but not proving against him will not amount to mitigating circumstances and in case there was any justification in the allegations, the delinquent would have levied the FIR against persons but he has failed to do so hence, he cannot be escaped from the punishment of dismissal.1 The Bombay High Court has held that dismissal from service for misconduct of disobedience of lawful order of the superior cannot be shockingly disproportionate hence the High Court, in writ petition, set aside reinstatement as awarded by the Labour Court.2



  1. Ramkishan Singhal v. Presiding Officer, Industrial Tribunal No. III, Delhi, 2007 LLR 264 (Del HC).
  2. Thermax Ltd. v. Vishwanath N. Jadhav, 2009 LLR 707 (Bom HC).

About the author

H.L Kumar

Leave a Comment