N.J. Wadia, J.
1. The eight petitioners were prosecuted at the instance of opponent No. 2, the Ahmedabad Cotton ., under Sections 66 and 67 of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act, 1938. Applicants Nos. 1 to 4 were prosecuted under Section 67 read with Section 66 for having instigated and incited others to take part in an illegal strike, and the other applicants for having gone on strike or joined a strike which had been held by the Industrial Court to be illegal. They were convicted by the City Magistrate, 1st Class, Ahmedabad. They made a revision application to the Sessions Court which was dismissed by the Sessions Judge,
2. Applicants Nos. 5 to 7 and 9 were employees in the spinning department of the Ahmedabad Cotton . Applicant No. 1 was the Secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association and applicant No. 2 one of the office-bearers of that Association. Applicants Nos. 3 and 4 were the editor and printer of a magazine conducted by the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association called the Majur Sandesh.
3. On January 6, 1941, the authorities of the Ahmedabad Cotton Manufactaring Co. altered the working hours of the mill, which used to be 7-30 a.m. to 5-30 p.m., to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The altered hours were to be in force from January 7 to January 18, 1941. A notice of the alteration was given on the Notice Board of the Mill. A large number of employees, 101 in all. including applicants Nos. 5 to 7 and 9, in defiance of this order of the Mill authorities, attended the mill as usual at 7-30 a.m. and left it at 5-30 p.m. on January 7. Next day, when they turned up at 7-30 a.m. for their work the Mill authorities refused to admit them. Both the parties, the Mill authorities and the applicants, approached the Industrial Court, the Mill authorities asking for a declaration that the employees had resorted to an illegal strike, and the employees asking for a declaration that the Mill authorities had made an illegal change. The Industrial Court decided on March 20, 1942, under Section 55 of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act, that the strike of the applicants was an illegal strike, and that the change made by the mill authorities was an illegal change. On January 20, 1943, the mill authorities prosecuted the applicants under Sections 66 and 67 of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act. The trial Court convicted applicants Nos. 2 to 4 under Section 67 of the Act and applicants Nos. 5 to 7 and 9 under Sections 66 and 67 of the Act; applicant No. 1 was convicted under Sections 66 and 67 of the Act read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code.
4. The contention urged on behalf of the applicants both before the trial Magistrate and before the Sessions Judge was that persons can be punished under Sections 66 and 67 as strikers or as instigators of a strike only if the strike continues after it has been declared illegal by the Industrial Court, and that they cannot be punished for any act of theirs in instigating or taking part in a strike prior to the declaration that the strike was illegal. In my opinion the contention is clearly wrong. Section 66 provides that any employee who has gone on strike or who joins a strike which has been held by the Industrial Court to be illegal, shall be punished in a certain manner, and in the case of a continuing offence with an additional fine which may extend to Re. 1 per day for every day during which the offence continues after his last conviction for such offence. The plain meaning of the section seems to be that participation in a strike which is afterwards declared to be illegal is punishable. If the meaning of the section had been as contended by the applicants, the section would have been differently worded and would have provided that any employee who continues to take part in a strike which has been declared to be illegal is liable to punishment. The fact that the section provides for the punishment of those who have gone on strike or who join a strike which has been held to be illegal shows that its intention was to make penal not merely the joining or taking part in a strike after it has been declared to be illegal, but also the participation in it prior to the declaration of illegality. The object of the section seems to have been to penalise those employees who go on strike without resorting to the remedies provided by Sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act. If we were to put upon the section the interpretation which the applicants ask us to, it would mean that persons who had instigated and taken part in an illegal strike would never be punishable unless they continue to instigate and take part in the strike after it had been declared to be illegal. The language of the section clearly indicates that this was not the intention of the framers of the Act. The view taken by the learned trial Magistrate and the Sessions Judge is correct. The rule is discharged.
5. A strike is illegal if it is commenced or continued in the circumstances mentioned in any of the eight clauses of Section 62(1) of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act, 1938. Section 55 empowers the Industrial Court to decide whether any strike or lock-out is illegal. When once a strike is declared by the Industrial Court to be illegal, Section 60 prohibits its being called in question in any civil or criminal Court. Sections 66 and 67 prescribe punishment for an employee, who has gone on strike or who joins a strike which has been held by the Industrial Court to be illegal, as well as any person who instigates or incites others to fake part in, or otherwise acts in furtherance of such a strike. This does not mean that only those who join or take part in the strike after the declaration of its illegality by the Industrial Court are liable to conviction and punishment under these sections. Such an interpretation would render the sections nugatory. Section 62(17) renders illegal not merely the continuation but also the commencement of any strike which falls within the eight clauses of that section. Sections 66 and 67 are not intended to allow illegal strikes and incitement to such strikes to be commenced and continued with impunity till the declaration of their illegality by the Industrial Court. Otherwise when a strike is declared to be illegal, it may be formally ended, and the strikers may nominally join their work for a day and go on a fresh illegal strike on the next day, if they can do so with impunity until that strike also is declared illegal by the Industrial Court. The Industrial Court may take several months before giving its decision, and it cannot be said that till then an illegal strike can be continued, and that the strikers and those who instigated it can go unpunished. An illegal strike is illegal from its commencement, and does not become illegal only after it is, declared to be illegal by the Industrial Court. The decision of the Industrial Court is required for starting the prosecution, and not for rendering a strike or a lock-out illegal Section 65 which penalises an illegal lock-out is similarly worded, and it would be meaningless if it is construed in the same way as Sections 66 and 67 are sought to be interpreted. There is no doubt that Sections 65, 66 and 67 are intended to punish an illegal strike, and an illegal lock-out, and instigation to an illegal strike and an illegal lock-out, provided they are declared to be illegal by the Industrial Court, whether the illegal act is committed before or after the declaration. The applicants have been rightly convicted and the rule must be discharged.