Restrictive Clauses in Employment Contracts - Legal Position in India

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Employers often add clauses in agreements with employees that prevent employees from competing or providing services to others during the employment as well as after the end of employment. This presentation analyses the legality of such clauses.

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Restrictive Clauses in Agreements between Company and Employees – Legal Situation in India :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 1 1 Restrictive Clauses in Agreements between Company and Employees – Legal Situation in India Apoorva Dixit Anil Chawla Law Associates LLP MF-104, Ajay Tower, E5/1 (Commercial), Arera Colony, BHOPAL – 462 016 (MP) INDIA www.indialegalhelp.com indialegalhelp@gmail.com

PowerPoint Presentation:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 2 2 Overview Introduction Typical Restrictive Clauses Applicable Laws Relevant Case Laws Summary of Legal Position

Introduction :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 3 3 Introduction On joining, one is asked to sign a contract by the employer. It has a set of clauses labeled as "Non-disclosure" and another set called "Non-compete”. These are what can be called as restrictive clauses.

Typical Restrictive Clauses :

4 Typical Restrictive Clauses

PowerPoint Presentation:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 5 Non-Disclosure Clauses covering confidentiality during employment as well as after employment ceases – Such clauses typically prevent an employee from sharing confidential information with outsiders. Non-Compete Clauses during employment – These clauses prevent the employee from engaging in activities that clash with his employment responsibilities. Non-Compete Post-Employment Clauses – Some employers do not want their employees to join competitors even after the employee has quit the job. Restriction in this category may also prevent an ex‑employee from starting a competing business or even advising a relative who is in a similar line of business. Non - use Post-Employment Clauses – Such clauses are tighter than the previous ones. They not only prevent from using information gained during employment for competition use. They go a step further and even stop an ex-employee from making a non-competitive use of the information. 5

Applicable Laws :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 6 6 Applicable Laws Indian Contract Act 1872 Section 27 Constitution of India Article 19(1)g Competition Act 2002 Section 3(1), (2), (4) and section 4

Indian contract act 1872:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 7 Indian contract act 1872 Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act makes void all contracts that impose ‘restraint of trade’. The provision is as follows: ‘ “Every agreement by which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind, is to that extent void.” The only exception that is permitted to the above is when goodwill of a business is sold. The exception is not relevant to the discussion in this article. Hence, we shall ignore it. 7

Constitution of India :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 8 Constitution of India Article 19 1 (g) of the Indian constitution guarantees that all the citizens shall have the right: “to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.” However, the right to carry on a profession, trade or business is not unqualified. It can be restricted and regulated by the authority of law. The restrictions have to be reasonable and in public interest. Moreover, it is important to understand that fundamental rights are available only against the state or in other words government or government undertakings. Fundamental rights have almost no scope when the relationship is between a private employer and an individual employee. 8

Competition Act 2002:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 9 Competition Act 2002 According to Section 3(1) of the competition Act 2002, “no enterprise or association of enterprises shall enter into any agreement in respect of production, supply, distribution, storage, acquisition or control of goods or provision of services, which causes or is likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India”. According to Section 3(2) of the competition Act 2002, Any agreement entered into in contravention of the provisions contained in subsection (1) shall be void. Agreements which cause or are likely to cause appreciable adverse effect on competition in markets in India are anti-competitive and are void. 9

Competition Act 2002 (cont.):

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 10 Competition Act 2002 (cont.) 10 According to Section 4 of the competition Act 2002, (1) No enterprise or group shall abuse its dominant position. (2) There shall be an abuse of dominant position under sub-section (1), if an enterprise or a group.—- (a) directly or indirectly, imposes unfair or discriminatory— (i) condition in purchase or sale of goods or service; or (ii) price in purchase or sale (including predatory price) of goods or service.

Relevant Case laws :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 11 11 Relevant Case laws Superintendence Company of India Pvt Limited Vs. Krishnan Murgai Under agreement, employee agreed that he will not engage himself with any of the competitors during as well as post employment in any capacity. After termination the employee joined a competitor. The company brought an injunction suit against the employee. Supreme Court held (a) ex-employee can only be restrained from disclosing trade secrets of the Company (b) he cannot be prevented from carrying out any business or employment in competition with the Company.

Relevant Case laws :

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 12 12 Relevant Case laws Desiccant Rotors International Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Bappaditya Sarkar and Anr. The employee signed an obligation agreement under which he agreed that for two years after termination of employment: he will not in any capacity compete against the company, he would not disclose the confidential information to which he was privy as employee of company to any third party; In addition to this obligation agreement employee signed two declarations declaring that if he failed to comply with the declarations, he would take full liability and responsibility for the same.

Desiccant Rotors International Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Bappaditya Sarkar and Anr. (Continued):

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 13 13 Desiccant Rotors International Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Bappaditya Sarkar and Anr . (Continued) Within three months of leaving employment the employee joined one of the competitors of the company. Delhi High Court held that restrictions which interfere with the right of livelihood cannot be allowed and such negative covenant would be held invalid.

Percept D' Mark (India) Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Zaheer Khan and Anr.:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 14 14 Percept D' Mark (India) Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Zaheer Khan and Anr . Agreement with a cricketer of national repute for a period of three years. The agreement included a condition that the player could not accept any offer for endorsements or promotions and that prior to accepting any such offer, he would provide the company in writing all the terms and conditions of such third party and offer the company right to match such third party offer. The cricketer informed the company that he was not interested in renewing and/or extending the terms of the said agreement. Entered into an agreement with a third party. The company protested and pulled the cricketer to court. Supreme Court affirmed that even if a restraint is reasonable it would be null and void under section 27 of the Contract Act.

Dr. S. Gobu vs. The State of Tamil Nadu:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 15 15 Dr. S. Gobu vs. The State of Tamil Nadu Dr. Gobu was Associate Professor in General Surgery department of a Medical College. He did Post Graduate Degree as a service candidate. He executed an agreement to serve the institution for six years, failing which bound to pay six months' salary together with three months' notice pay. (1) Was he was entitled to wriggle out of an agreement reached between him and the management? (2) Was he entitled to leave his service as a matter of right without fulfilling his obligations? The High Court refused to let the employee have the benefit of section 27 of Contract Act and also ruled that the agreement executed by him does not suffer from any arbitrariness and it was not done due to any unequal bargaining power.

Summary of Legal Position:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 16 16 Summary of Legal Position Restrictions imposed during the employment are valid Post employment covenants are null and void. Fundamental Rights under Constitution relevant only for public sector / government departments or bodies The Competition Act imposes penalties on all those who make their employees sign such documents that impose post-employment restrictions on employees. Though no one has gone to Competition Commission of India challenging such restrictive clauses. Possibility exists of action similar to class action suits.

PowerPoint Presentation:

February 2012 www.indialegalhelp.com 17 17 Apoorva Dixit Intern at Anil Chawla Law Associates LLP www.indialegalhelp.com indialegalhelp@gmail.com Prepared under the guidance of Mr. Anil Chawla, Senior Partner, Anil Chawla Law Associates LLP Note: This presentation is an academic exercise. It does not offer any advice or suggestion to any employee or employer. The reader is advised to consult an advocate for any specific advice. The author and Anil Chawla & Associates do not accept any liability / responsibility either direct or indirect in relation to this presentation or with regard to any consequence arising from it. Copyright – All Rights Reserved by Anil Chawla Law Associates LLP

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