1. The first petitioner is the Maharashtra Co-operative Housing Finance Society having its registered office in Bombay and business in other parts of Maharashtra. The second and third petitioners are the office-bears of the first petitioner. For the purpose of the disposal of this petition we will refer only to the first petitioner as the petitioner and it will hereinafter be referred to also s 'the petitioner Society'.
2. The first respondent, hereinafter referred to as 'the respondent', was employed by the petitioner-society sometime in the year 1976. He became the manager of a branch of the petitioner Society at Aurangabad. When he was holding this officer his services were terminated by an order dt. 4th Feb. 1981. The respondent made an attempt to get reinstated by approaching the Commissioner for co-operative and there were pursuant need be made here. Ultimately the registrar of co-operative societies by his order dt. 5th April 1982 held that the dispute relating to the dismissal of the respondent from the service of the petitioner-society was a dispute within the meaning of S. 91(1) of the Maharashtra co-operative societies Act, hereinafter referred to as 'the co-operative societies Act', and directed that it should be referred to the co-operative Court No. 1, Bombay, for disposal according to law.
3. Accordingly, the dispute was referred to the co-operative Court. Original the plaint presented to the Court by the respondent prayed for a declaration that the order dt. 4th Feb. 1981 be declared null and void ad initio and therefore ineffective and illegal. The effect of granting this prayer would undoubtedly have been the reinstatement of the respondent in the service of the petitioner-society. Realising the insurmountable difficulties in the way of granting a relief of this type the respondent amended the plaint extensively land in particular made amendment in the prayer clause. The prayer clause based upon the dismissal order being void was retained but in the alternative it was prayed on behalf of the respondent that the petitioner-society should be ordered to pay to the respondent damages equivalent to the emoluments which he actually drew at the time when the notice of termination was served upon him. It was further prayed that damages at that rate shall be made parable to the respondent until he secures an alternative job carrying not less than the emoluments which he was earning with the petitioner-society. In other words, it was the case of the respondent that if the prayer for reinstatement could not be granted, he should be awarded damages calculated in the manner in which it has been mentioned in the prayer-clause. Thus the suit before the co-operative Court is not a suit for mere reinstatement of the respondent in the petitioner-society; the suit includes a prayer for the award of damages on the averments which have been made in the body of the plaint alleging that the order of dismissal was.
4. At this stage we may briefly refer to the broad averments in the plaint which has been presented to the co-operative Court because in the Course of his arguments Mr. Rane, appearing for the petitioner-society, often referred to the same in support of his arguments. The respondent has given the history of his service with the petitioner-society. Thereafter he has made mention of certain circumstances which according to him indicated that the petitioner-society has taken action of dismissing him from the service of the petitioner-society mala fide with the intention of victimising him of accounting of malice borne by the petitioner-society towards him. the respondent has also mentioned that the order and the resolution forming the basis of the resolution forming the basis of the termination of his service were without the prior approval of the Registrar pf co-operative Societies and, therefore, the said order and the resolution were invalidand wrong. It has also been mentioned that the resolution has not been passed by following proper procedure and it has been further alleged that the resolution and the subsequent order based on the same are in excess of the jurisdictionvested in the board of management of petitioner-society. Reading the plaint as a whole, it can easily be said that the case of the respondent before the co-operative Court was that his services had been wrongfully terminated by the petitioner -society and, therefore, in the first placehe should be reinstated in the service of the petitioner-society failing which appropriate damages calculated in the manner mentioned by him should be awarded to him.
5. The petitioner-society has now approached this court under Art. 226 of the Constitution for a writ of prohibition for quashing the proceedings before the co-operative Court on the ground that the co-operative Court has no jurisdiction to hear and decide the dispute referred by the respondent. The basis of the challenge is that the dispute raised by the respondent is not the one that is comprehended by S. 91(1) of the co-operative Societies Act. If it is so, then the co-operative Court could not proceed to hear and decide the dispute raised by the respondent. Hence the plea for a writ of prohibition.
6. Before proceeding to examine the various contentions which has been raised by Mr. Rane in support of this plea of the petitioner-society in would be naturally necessary to notice relevant legal statutory provisions relating to the jurisdiction of the Co-operative Court under the Co-operative Societies Act. A Co-operative Court will naturally have jurisdiction to decide a dispute provided that the dispute falls under S. 91(1) of the Co-operative Societies Act. That provision, in so far as it is relevant for the disposal of this petition, is in the following terms :--
'91(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, any dispute touching the constitution, election of the office-bearers, conduct of general meetings, management of business of a society, shall be referred by any of the arties to the dispute, or by a federal society to which the society is affiliated or by a creditor of the society, to the Co-operative Court if both the parties thereto are one or other of the following :--
7. a society, its committee, any past committee, any past or present officer, any past or present agent any past or present servant or nominee, heir or legal representative of any deceasedofficer, deceased agent or deceased servant of the society, or the Liquidator of the society;
8. Section 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act has been the subject matter of interpretation in a long line of decisions not only of this Court but also of the supreme Court. It is not necessary to refer to all of them. It is necessary to refer to only those decision which deal with a dispute between a society and a past of present servant of the society. Mr. Rane has contended that a dispute between a society and any past or present servant of the society will not fall under S. 91(1) of the Co-operative Societies Act unlessthat dispute touches the management or business of a society.
9. He has also argued that respondent's claim before the Co-operative Court is basically and essentially a claim for his reinstatement in the service of the society. Such a claim cannot be entertained or granted even by a Civil Court and what could not be granted by the Civil Court could not also be granted by the Registrar or by a Co-operative Court under S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. He has also suggest a view for our acceptance that the dispute between the petitioner-society and the respondent is essentially an industrial dispute which can be properly adjudicated upon by the machinery provided under the industrial law.
10. In support of his contention Mr. Rane has relied upon a recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Gujarat State Co-operative Land Development Bank Ltd. v. P. R. Mankad, : 2SCR1023 , We will refer to this judgment in greater details in a short while. It may only be noted for the present that the facts in the case of Gujarat State Co-operative Bank show that the second respondent before the supreme Court one Nagracha had been removed from service by the society. Aggrieved by the termination of his services the employee had filed an application in the Labour Court praying for the setting aside of the order of termination of his services and for reinstatement with full back wages. This was done because Gujrat State Co-operative Land Development Bank was covered by the Bombay Industrial Relation Act, 1946 prevailing in the State of Gujarat. The Bank resisted the claim of the employee by contending that the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946 prevailing in the State of Gujarat. The Bank resisted the claim of the employee by contending that the Bombay Industrial Relations Act was not applicable to it because the Bank was governed by the Gujarat Co-operative Societies Act. Therefore it was the Registrar or his nominee under the Act who alone had the jurisdiction to decide the dispute and the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain and decide the dispute raised by the employee. The supreme Court ultimately held that a claim such as reinstatement ins service with full back wages, which was not enforceable even in a Civil Court, was outside the scope of the expression 'touching the management or business of a society' used in S. 96(1) of the Gujarat the forum under the Co-operative Societies Act was not available to the employee in that case the proper remedy was to file an application in the Labour Court under the Bombay Industrial Relations Act.
11. While holding as above, the Supreme Court noted that the scope of the jurisdiction of a forum under the Co-operative Societies Act could not be wider than the scope of a Civil Court under S. 9, Civil P. C. If in a suit filed in a Civil Court the claim for reinstatement could not be granted by the Civil Court such a claim could not obviously be granted by an authority under the Co-operative Societies Act. Before examining the authorities in some details we shall refer to S. 9, Civil P. C. which is in the following terms:--
'The Court shall (subject to the provisions herein contrained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their congnizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.'
12. The claim of a former employee of an employer that he has been wrongfully dismissed is without doubt a dispute of a civil nature which could be entertained by a Civil Court under S. 9 of the Code. If, however, the employeeclaims by way of relief reinstatement in service of his previous employer that claim cannot be granted by the Civil Court because under S. 14(1)(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (corresponding to S. 21(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1877) the specific performance of contract of service cannot be specificallyenforced. It has been held, as we will show presently, that if a Court cannot grant a relief it should be held that it has no jurisdiction to entertain a suit wherein that relief is claimed.
13. We have mentioned earlier that the respondent had made an alternative prayer for awarding damageson the ground that his services have been wrongly and illegally terminated by the petitioner-society. This entitles him, if the claim for reinstatement cannot be granted, to get damages as mentioned by him in the alternative prayer caluse.
14. A dispute based upon an allegation of an employee that his services have been involving a claim on damages of the wrongful termination of his services is necessarily a dispute of a civil nature as mentioned in S. 9, CPC. If this is so, in the case of an employee of a Co-operative Society, instead of the Civil Court, the authority under the Co-operative Societies Act will have jurisdiction to entertain this dispute.
15. Mr. Rane, however, insists that even such a dispute is barred by the provisions of S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act as interpreted by the decision of the Supreme Court. He has based his contentions entirely on the decision of the Supreme Court in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case but before we proceed to read that decision we think it profitable to notice an earlier decision.
16. In Co-operative Central Bank Ltd. v. Addl. Industrial Tribunal, Andhra Pradesh, : (1969)IILLJ698SC , it was held that a dispute relating to alteration of condition of service could not be a dispute touching the business of a Co-operative society under the Andhra Pradesh Co-operative Societies Act. The bye-laws of a Co-operative societies Act were not law or could not have the force of law. Apart from that it was noticed by the Supreme Court in that case that the jurisdiction to alter the conditions of service or to impose a new contract in place of the one existing between the employer and the employee is vested in the adjudication authorities under the relevant industrial law, for example, Industrial Tribunal or the Labour Court under the relevant industrial law, for example, Industrial Tribunal or the Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act. the supreme Court pointed out (Para 7) :--
'The dispute related to alternation of a number of conditions of service of the workmen which relief could only be granted by an Industrial Tribunal dealing with an industrial dispute. The registrar, it is clear from the provisions of the Act, could not possibly have granted the reliefs claimed under this issue because of the limitations placed on his powers in the Act itself. It is true that S. 61 by itself does not contain any clear indication that the Registrar cannot entertain a dispute relating to alternation of conditions of conditions of service of the employees of a registered society; but the meaning given to the expression 'touching the business of the society', in our opinion, makes it very doubtful whether a dispute in respect of alteration of conditions of service can be held to be covered by this expression.'
17. From the aforesaid portion extracted from the judgement of the Supreme Court in Co-operative Central Bank's case it is clear to us that where a party seeks not the enforcement of the contract, not even damages on account of the breach of contract, but alteration of conditions of contract, whether it is of employment or of any other nature, then a Civil court cannot have jurisdiction to entertain such a suit. If this is so, the Registrar or other authority under the relevant Co-operative law could not have jurisdiction to entertain such a claim.
18. We now turn to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Gujarat State co-operative Bank's case : 2SCR1023 . Here, as we have already mentioned earlier in this judgement, an employee of a Co-operative Bank who was otherwise covered by the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, had been removed from the service by the Bank. He had approached the labour Court for the relief of reinstatement. The employer had contended that it was the Registrar under the Co-operative Societies Act who had jurisdictionto entertain and decide the dispute raised by the employee and the Labour Court did not have jurisdiction to give to the employee the relief he claimed. Various contentions had been urged on behalf of both the parties. After examining the same the Supreme Court noted that the claim made by the employee in that case was essentially a claim for being reinstated in the service of his former employer. The Supreme Court noted that what the employee was claiming was not enforcementof any term of contract of employment. He alleged that his services had been unfairly and vindictively terminated. Therefore, the relief claimed by the employee was of reinstatement in service with back wages. The Court held as follows:--
'the rights and reliefs which he is claiming could ot be determined and granted by a Civil Court in a suit'.
19. Noticing the new industrial jurisprudence that has arisen the Supreme Court observed that the Civil courts lack jurisdictionto make contracts for the parties and the Civil Courts reach their limit of power when they enforcecontracts which the parties had make. But the authorities created by the laws enacted for the purpose of adjudication of industrial disputes could not only alter termsof the contract between the employer and the employee but in certain cases impose a new contract upon the parties. It was thus essentially an industrial dispute which on the facts in that case was covered by the Bombay Industrial Relations Act. The Supreme Court accepted a submission made by a counsel appearing before it that :
'If a court is incapableof granting the relief claimed, normally, the proper construction would be that it is incompetent to deal with the matter.'
20. The Civil Court, therefore, could not have granted that relief and, therefore, the authority under the Co-operative Societies Act also could not have granted the same.
21. Thereafter the Supreme Court referred to its judgment in Co-operative Central Bank's case : (1969)IILLJ698SC (supra) and pointed out how the Court had held, relying upon its own observations in the earlier decision in Deccan Co-operative Bank's case : 1SCR887 , that in respect of disputes relating to alteration of various conditions of service the Registrar or other person under the Co-operative Societies Act was not competent to grant the relief claimed by the workmen at all.
22. This such must, therefore, be accepted that when an employee of a Co-operative Society seeks a relief of reinstatement that relief cannot be granted either by a Civil Court or by an authority under the relevant co-operative law; if an employee seeks alteration of various conditions of service that relief also cannot be given by a Civil Court and therefore, also by an authority under the Co-operative Societies Act. In view of the fact that this cannot be done it was also held by the Supreme Court that the dispute involving such question did not touch the business of the Co-operative Societies.
20.A contention had been advanced by the learned Advocate for the appellant before the Supreme Court that :
'The phrase 'any dispute touching ........... the business of the Society', particularly the word 'touching' therein, is of very wide amplitude.... That being so, the payment of wages, appointment and removal of its servants under law is a part of the business or 'touches' the business of the Society.'
21. The Court held that the observations in Co-operative Central Bank's and Deccan Merchants' Co-operative Bank's cases negated the contention. This means that the Supreme Court has now held that the questions relating to 'the payment of wages, appointment and removal of its servants' were matters not 'touching the business' of the society.
22. We are examining this question in the light of the finding which we have already given earlier that the claim made by the respondent in the instant case is a claim for damages on the basis of the alleged wrongful dismissal. This question will not touch the business of the society as mentioned in section 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act because of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case : 2SCR1023 . The question still remains as to whether such a dispute does not touch the management of the society as mentioned in S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. Mr. Rane says that the Supreme Court has necessarily held that anything in dispute between an employer and an employee does not touch even the management of the Co-operative Societies and he relied upon what has been mentioned in paras 34 to 36 of the judgment in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case. In paragraph 34 of its the case of Co-operative Central Bank's case : (1969)IILLJ698SC the words 'constitution and management' occur in the collocation of words 'constitution. Management or business.' It was, however, noticed that no specific argument had been advanced before the Supreme Court that a dispute between a society and its former servants relating to the conditions of service comes within the purview of the expression 'touching the management of the society'. It was taken for granted that if the disputewas not comprehended by the expression 'business of the Society'. It would not be covered by the words 'management of the Society' either. It was noted that though there was no discussion in the judgement about the ambit and import of the expression 'management', in conclusion the Court had held in that case that the dispute was outside the scope of S. 61. One could not at this stage forget the fact that what was decided in Co-operative Central Bank's case was the question about the demand made by the employees for alteration of the conditions of service and not other claims that may arise between the employer and the employees for alteration of the conditions of service and not other claims that may arise between the employer and the employees of the Co-operative Societies. We have also noticed in this context two other judgments of the Supreme jCourt; one in U.P. Co-operative Cane Union Federation Ltd. v. Liladhar : (1981)ILLJ156SC and the other in Allahabad District Co-operative Ltd. v. Hanuman Dutt Tewari, AIR 1982 SC 120. In neither of these decisions is there any advance over the law laid down by the Supreme court in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case.
23. In para 35 of the judgement in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case : 2SCR1023 the Supreme Court noted that the word 'management' had different meanings. One meaning was that the management meant the board of Directors of the apex body or the Executive Committee. In that sense it did not include the individuals who are under the overall control of the governing body or Committee. Another meaning of the term 'management', said the Supreme Court, may be 'the act or acts of managing or governing.' These two meaning were only noted in para 35 of the judgement para 36 may be reproduced.
'A still wider meaning of the term which will encompassthe entire staff of servants and workmen of the Society, has been canvassed for by Mr. Kdholakia. The use of the term 'management' in such a wide sense in S 96(1) appears to us, to be very doubtful.
Mr. Rane has sought to contend that if these three paras are read cumulatively, the conclusion is inescapable that the SupremeCourt necessarily held that a dispute between the employees of Co-operative Societies and the society was outside the ambit of the term 'management.' We are unable to accept this interpretation made by mr. Rane of the judgment of the Supreme Court. In para 34 to 36 various meaning of the word 'management' have only been noted and that is why para 37 of the judgment begins with the words 'Be that as it may'. The Supreme Court did not decide the question as to whether a dispute arising between an employee of a Co-operative Societies and the society touches the management of the society. A careful reading of para 37 of the judgment of the Supreme Court which we have made shows that a dispute involving a claim for reinstatement in the service of a society could not be said to touch the management of the society. A careful reading of para 37 of the judgment of the Supreme Court which we have made shows that a dispute involving a claim for reinstatement in the service of a society could not be said to touch the management of the society. This is because of the rule that the claim for reinstatement could not be granted by an authority under the Co-operative Societies Act. in para 37 the Supreme Court observed.
'............... What has been directly hidden 'out of bounds' for the Registrar by the very scheme and object of the Act cannot be indirectly inductedby widening the connotation of 'management''.
24. The following is also to be found in para 37 of the judgment:
'A construction free from contexual constrains, having the effect of smuggling into the circumscribed limits of the expression 'any dispute', a dispute from its very nature is incapable of being resolved by the Registrar, has to be eschewed. Thus considered, a dispute raised against the society by its discharged servant claiming reliefs such as reinstatement in service with back wages, which are not enforceable in a Civil Court is outside the scope of the expression 'touching the management of the Society' used in S. 96(1) of the Act of 1961, and the Registrar has no jurisdiction to deal with and determine it.'
25. We have no hesitation in holding that what the Supreme Court has said in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's was that a dispute involving a claim for reinstatement in service of an employee of a Co-operative Societies was nether touching the business of the society nor was touching the management of the society. The claim, such as the one made by the respondent in the instant case namely the claimfor damages on the allegation that the society has wrongfully terminated his services cannot be said to be outside the ambit of the term 'management' in S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. A society or for that matter any institution must work through human beings and in the cse of a Co-operative Societies the managementof the society must be carried on through and with the help of the employees of the society. The employment of persons itself may not be a part of the business of the society; it may not be even touching the business of the society but employing persons is necessarily a part of the management of the society and therefore when a dispute involves a claim which could be granted by an authority under the Co-operative Societies Act that dispute must be held to be touching the management of the Co-operative Societies. It will be total misunderstanding of the judgments governing the field to hold that a claim made by an employee of a Co-operative Societies for wages could not be included in the dispute under S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. Clause (a) of S. 91(1) of the Co-operative Societies Act includes 'any past or present servant'. If the interpretation suggested by Mr. Rane is accepted these words will be rendered redundant. For the same reasons we are of the opinion that a claim arising out of a contract between a Co-operative Societies and its employees or a claim based upon a breach of the said contract which could have been taken cognizance of by a civil court can also form a dispute touching the management of a society under S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act.
26. We may, however, briefly refer to the judgement of the Division Bench of this Court in W. S. Pasarkar v. Ashok Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd., Shrirampur (Spl. Civil Appln. No. 1734 of 1969 decided on 10th Jan 1974 : Reported in 1978 UCR Bom 57 by S. K. Desai J. (with Sawant J.)). The petitioner before the Division Bench was a medical practitioner whose services had been determined by the respondent Co-operative Societies. He had raised a dispute asking for reinstatement in service or in the alternative damages on the ground of wrongful dismissal. The Division Bench held that a Civil Court was certainly not entitled to grant reinstatement or pass an order regarding the payment of the disputant's back salary on the footing that he continued to be in service. The Division Bench further observed :
'But a Civil court undoubtedly can proceed and would have the jurisdiction to decide that the termination was improper inasmuch as reasonable notice was not given and thereafter proceed to award the claimant damages for such improper termination, which damages, it is now well settled, would be equivalent to his emoluments and benefits during the period of such resonablenotice.'
27. This reliefwas certainly one which a Civil Court was entitled to award and to that extent it fell within the ambit of S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act.
28. Proceeding further the Division Bench noted that even for the main activity of the society which was manufacture of sugar the society would be required to engage services of several employees some of whom would be concerned with rendering maintenance and repair service to the machinery. The Division bench noted that such an employee would directly touch the main business activity or sphere of employment would directly touch the main business activity of the society. This necessarily led to the result that such an employee's purportedwronglydismissal may give rise to a dispute touching the business of the society within the meaning of S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. We have shown earlier how the Supreme Court in gujrat State Co-operative Bank's case had laid down the law which is directly in conflict with what has been mentioned in the judgement of the Division Bench. The law of the Supreme Court is to be found in paragraph 32 of its judgment read with para 14 (ii). To that extent the view of the Division Bench must be held to be incorrect. However, on a proper analysis of the judgments in the field and the relevant provisions of the Act, we are of the opinion that a dispute between an employee of a Co-operative Societies and the society which would be normally entertained by a Civil Court would be a dispute touching the 'management', though not the 'business' of a Co-operative Societies.
29. We may now summarise our findings briefly as follows :--
A claim which is not entertainable by a Civil Court under S. 9 of the Civil P. C. cannot also be entertained by a Registrar or other authority under S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. Such a claim will include a claim by an employee for reinstatement in the service of his previous employer and/or a claim by an employee for alteration of the conditions of service. Such a claim could only be entertained and decided by the adjudication authorities under the relevant Industrial Law.
30. Any dispute, therefore, involving such a claim is not one touching the management or the business of a society.
31. A question such as the payment of wages on account of the termination of the services by a Co-operative Societies will also not be the subject-matter of a dispute touching the 'business' of a Co-operative Societies (See para 32 read with para 14 (ii) of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Gujarat State Co-operative Bank's case).
32. However, a claim based upon contract between the employees of a Co-operative Societies and the society or claimsfor damages arising out of breach of such contracts can be part of a dispute touching the 'management' of a Co-operative Societies within the meaning of S. 91 of the Co-operative Societies Act. Hence such a claim can be entertained and decided by the machinery provided under the Act.
33. This petition must, therefore, fail. Rule is accordingly discharged with costs. The Co-operative Court will naturally not be able to give the relief of reinstatement claimed by the petitioner before it.
34. Petition dismissed.