1. This petition under Art. 227 of the Constitution seeks to set aside an interlocutory order made by respondent 1 who is a member of the industrial court, Bombay, in an industrial reference pending before him. The order which is impugned is an order directing commission to reissue for the examination of one respondent 2 company's witnesses. The reference in question arose out of a dispute relating to the claim of nine employees of respondent 2 company for reinstatement. The case of the petitioners, who represent the workmen of respondent 2 company in the said reference, is that these employees were wrongfully dismissed from service on 3 January 1964, while respondent 2 company's contention is that the termination of the services of these employees was a discharge simpliciter in accordance with the provisions of standing order 19(a). It is not necessary to set out each stage of the long drawn, tortuous and yet unfinished course of this industrial reference. Suffice it to say that the order of reference was made by the Government on 27 February 1964. Over five years have passed and we are still at the stage of debate whether a commission should be reissued or not for the examination of a witness. On looking at the order sheet, we find that except for a few months which can be attributed to the two special civil applications filed earlier, the rest of the time was taken up in adjournments, in allowing time and yet further time for filing pleadings and further pleadings, applications and cross-applications and replies and objections thereto. A preliminary objection raised by respondent 2 company was negatived. Against that order, respondent 2 company filed a Special Civil Application No. 1702 of 1964 which was dismissed, and on 3 May 1965 the matter was remanded to the industrial court. Thereafter, the petitioners thought it necessary to file an application for permission to lead oral evidence to prove the petitioners' case. A reply was filed there to. That application was vehemently argued and finally granted. We fail to see why a separate application should be required from a party for permission to lead oral evidence to prove his case. If hearing of an industrial reference is allowed to proceed in this dilatory fashion and is to be bogged down by such cumbersome procedure, it would frustrate the very object for which industrial courts and tribunals are set up, namely, to bring about a speedy conclusion in industrial disputes so that industrial peace may prevail and industrial unrest be quietened.
2. Turning now to the facts essential for the disposal of this petition, during the course of hearing on 17 September 1967 respondent 2 company made an application for issue of a commission to examine one Killa who was the manager of respondent 2 company at the relevant time and who had left its service and was carrying on his own business at Gauhati in Assam and was thus not under the control of respondent 2 company. This application was opposed by the petitioners. On 11 October 1967, the industrial court made an order directing commission to issue. As it was one of the contentions of the petitioners that they could not afford to go to Gauhati for the cross-examination of the said witness, the industrial court permitted the petitioners to submit instead interrogatories for being put to the said witness. The industrial court also directed respondent 2 company to pay the costs of the commission. Against the said order directing the issue of commission, the petitioners filed a writ petition, being Special Civil Application No. 2898 of 1967, which was summarily dismissed on 13 December 1967. Thereafter, the petitioners filed their interrogatories in the industrial court, and on 15 January 1968, the writ of commission was issued to the District Judge, Gauhati, returnable on 15 March 1968. The District Judge, Gauhati, appointed Sri S. C. Das, advocate, to be the commissioner. Through inadvertence on the part of the office of the industrial court, the addresses of the advocates of the parties were not forwarded along with the commission papers. Accordingly, the commissioner sent the notice of the date of hearing fixed by him, namely, 3 March 1968, to the advocates of the parties, care of the industrial court. It is an admitted fact that respondent 2 company's advocate was not informed about the receipt of this notice. Accordingly, on 3 March 1968 the commissioner had no option but to put the interrogatories submitted by the petitioners to the witness and to record his answers thereto. Obviously, those interrogatories were confined merely to such points as the petitioners considered necessary to be elucidated in cross-examination. On 6 March 1968, it was discovered by the office of the industrial court that the addresses of the advocates had not been forwarded to the District Judge, Gauhati, and accordingly that omission was repaired on that day, by which time it was obviously too late. In due course, the commission was returned to the industrial court. On 20 January 1969 respondent 2 made an application for reissue of commission. This was opposed by the petitioners, and by its order dated 30 January 1969 the industrial court directed the commission to reissue to the District Judge, Gauhati. It also directed respondent 2 to pay the additional fees of the commissioner, and further gave liberty to both parties to remain present themselves or through their representatives before the commissioner and examine and cross-examine the witness or send their interrogatories if they so choose. Against this order, the petitioners have approached this Court under Art. 227.
3. We feel that it is time, a half was called to this tendency on the part of parties to rush to this Court with a writ petition at every interlocutory stage of an industrial reference. This is the third writ petition filed during the course of this reference. The order impugned is merely an interlocutory order, and we do not see any reason why we should, at this stage, interfere with it and accordingly we decline to do so. Lest what we have just said should be seized upon as a pretext to make the alleged impropriety of this order, a ground of challenge in any writ petition which may hereafter be filed to set aside the award, which we trust will now be made as expeditiously as possible, we would like to make it clear that even on the merits we see no defect or impropriety in this order as would justify our setting it aside. Through a mistake on the part of the office of the industrial court, the addresses of the advocates were not furnished to the District Judge, Gauhati, and accordingly respondent 2 company and its advocate remained in ignorance of the date of hearing fixed by the commissioner. The answers which were recorded by the commissioner do not make any coherent reading inasmuch as they were merely answers to unrelated questions submitted in their interrogatories by the petitioners. It would be a travesty of justice and fairplay to deny respondent 2 company an opportunity of examining-in-chief its own witness for no fault of its, nor can the Court permit the petitioners to gain such an unfair advantage over respondent 2 company.
4. We, accordingly, dismiss this petition and discharge the rule.
5. The petitioners will pay to respondent the costs of this petition.