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Court of Appeal revokes Industrial Tribunal decision, disapproving of Tribunal’s considerations

Author: Mattea Pullicino, Associate

In its judgment delivered on the 3rd of February 2021, in the names of Abdulkerim Abagero Abas vs Malta Public Transport Services Operations Limited, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the Industrial Tribunal’s considerations in reaching its final judgment.

In this case, the Industrial Tribunal had stated that the defendant company produced extensive documentary and witness evidence and followed procedure to the letter. Most importantly the Tribunal detailed that there was no justification for the actions of the claimant and went on to declare that ‘the company proved that it had good grounds to dismiss’.

Notwithstanding this finding of good cause for dismissal however, the Tribunal decided that the claimant still deserved compensation. In making this award the Tribunal did not rely on any specific legal ground, but merely declared what was the Tribunal’s ex-officio perception, or assumption, that the claimant might, possibly, have faced difficulty in communicating with the company during disciplinary procedures due to his cultural and linguistic differences.

In delivering its judgment, the Court of Appeal held that in reaching its decision, the Industrial Tribunal ought to strictly abide by the iuxta allegata et probata principle, in that the Tribunal ought to limit itself and rely only on the actual claims raised and evidence produced by the parties, and not make or entertain any ex-officio assertions based on generalizations or assumptions that do not result from the evidence produced before it.

The Court notably stated that an adjudicator must decide a matter based on the claims made by the instituting party after having considered the pleas raised by the defendant. The Court further noted that this sacrosanct principle ought to be stringently observed, and an adjudicator is strictly bound to limit its judgment upon the evidence adduced by the parties, be it documentary evidence or witness testimonies.

With regards to the compensation awarded by the Tribunal, the Court held that such compensation should not have been awarded owing to the fact that it had been established that the company had complied with all procedural rules, as well as proven that it had a “good and sufficient cause” to terminate the claimant’s employment.

On the basis of the above legal considerations, the Court of Appeal revoked the Tribunal’s decision in its entirety and concluded that the defendant company did have a good and sufficient cause to terminate at law.

This decision of the Court of Appeal reaffirms a point emphasised by the same Court in previous appeal judgements. If the Industrial Tribunal finds that an employer, accused of having unfairly dismissed an employee, demonstrated a “good and sufficient cause” which merited termination, as prescribed by law, then the Tribunal should not award compensation to the employee, be it out of sympathy or for any other reason which is not provided at law, especially if it is a reason not raised by the claimant in the first instance.


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©Fenech & Fenech Advocates 2021

Disclaimer │ The information provided on this Update does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only.  This Update may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information and you are advised to seek updated advice.