1. These are two references by the Government of Bombay under S. 10(1)(d) of the Industrial Disputes Act for adjudication of a dispute between the Kirloskar Oil Engines, Ltd., Kirkee, Poona, and the workmen employed under it over the reinstatement of certain workmen.
2. The company wishes to appear through Sri G. B. Pai who is a member of the executive committee of the Employers' Federation of India, of which this company is a member. The union objects to the appearance of Sri Pai on the ground that he is a legal practitioner. In a previous case before me of the Standard Vacuum Refining Company of India, Ltd., Bombay, and another v. The workmen employed under it : (1959)IILLJ435Bom a similar objection was taken to the appearance of Sri G. B. Pai and I disallowed it. Sri Khadilkar who has appeared for the union has, however, urged that in that case the point does not appear to have been pressed by the union. He has further relied on a recent decision by the learned industrial tribunal Sri Bilgrami in the case of the Western India Vegetable Products, Ltd., Amalner v. The workmen (excluding clerical and supervisory staff) employed under it : (1960)IILLJ609Bom . In that case the company wanted to appear through Sri Kolah who was a member of the executive committee of the Employers' Federation of India. The learned tribunal held that he was not entitled to appear. Reading that decision it is seen that one of the reasons given in the decision is that the company was not able to say what were the duties and functions of Sri Kolah as member of the committee. Therefore that case can be distinguished.
3. The constitution of the Employers' Federation of India lays down that the federation shall be under the control and management of the executive committee. The committee is empowered, inter alia, to exercise all such acts and things as the federation is authorized to exercise and do, to make, vary, amend, repeal and re-enact bylaws and regulations for the proper conduct of the federation, to enter into all negotiations and contracts on its behalf, to purchase and sell property of the federation, to institute and defend suits and proceedings on behalf of the federation and compromise or submit the same to arbitration, to invest moneys of the federations, etc. These are extensive powers. Sri Pai states that since he became member of the executive committee in 1958 he has attended and taken part in the deliberations of every meeting of the committee, and has also attended the tripartite labour conference convened by the Government of India in an advisory capacity to the representatives of the Employers' Federation of India. Also from the facts set out in the Standard Vacuum case, referred to above, in which Sri Pai was allowed to appear, it is seen that before this he was an officer and a member of the committee of an employers' federation in South India for six years. It would thus appear that Sri Pai has been actively functioning as an office-bearer of one federation or other for years, and he can properly be regarded as an 'officer of a federation of associations of employers' within the meaning of S. 36(2)(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act. Sri Khadilkar, however, argues that if a legal practitioner is elected or co-opted to the executive committee of a federation of employers, Sub-section (4) of S. 36 is circumvented. Sri Khadilkar says, at the same time, that a legal practitioner who is a member of the executive committee of a union of workers can represent workmen as of right before a tribunal, and in such case the section is not circumvented because the word 'officer' is defined in the Trade Unions Act to include any member of the executive of the union. It seems to me that probably the legislature intended to use the word in the same sense throughout S. 36, and not in one sense when referring to an officer of a union or federations of unions and in a different sense when referring to an officer of an association or federation of employers, and it is also fair to give the word the same meaning in the whole section. The word 'officer' is of indefinite content and may have to be interpreted according to the context. Commonly one would speak of the president, secretary, etc., of a corporation, society or association as an 'officer' of such body but the word is used in a wider sense also. In the Oxford English Dictionary (Vol. VII) one of the meanings given to the word 'officer' is :
'a person authoritatively appointed or elected to exercise some function in public life, or take part in the administration of municipal government, the management or direction of a corporation, institution, etc.'
4. Other definitions given are : 'office-bearer'; 'one who holds an office, post or place.' The word 'office' is defined as 'a place in the administration of government, the public service, the direction of a corporation, society, etc.' These definitions would include a member of the executive committee of a federation, the duties and functions of which are described above. As regards the question of circumvention urged by Sri Khadilkar, it would appear that if the provision in the Act can, in certain circumstances, be circumvented by appointing or electing a legal practitioner to an executive committee of an association of employers, it can, in those circumstances, be equally circumvented by appointing him to an office like vice-president, and it would appear that the provision could, in the same circumstances, be circumvented by unions also. In this connexion I may refer to the case decided by the Bombay High Court, in 1954 l L.L.J. 148. In that case the facts were that a practising lawyer was appointed director of a company on 16 September, 1953. He purchased the qualifying shares just ten days before the hearing of a pending case of the company before the industrial tribunal and was made a director a couple of days before the date of hearing. The tribunal held that he could not appear and the Bombay High Court upheld this decision holding that it was not in keeping with the dignity of the legal profession that a practising lawyer should be a party to any device whereby the provisions of a statute are sought to be defeated. It is doubtful whether the principle of this case would extend to a case where a federation of employers or unions elects or appoints a legal practitioner as a regular office-bearer, one of the objects being that his services should be available to the members if and when required in proceedings before courts and tribunals. However, it is not necessary to decide the question, for on the facts of the present case, given above, there is no circumvention of S. 36(4). I hold that Sri Pai can appear for the company.