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Bangalore Woollen Cotton and Silk Mills Co. Ltd. Vs. the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtKarnataka High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Petn. Nos. 4 and 21 of 1952-53
Judge
Reported inAIR1953Kant59; AIR1953Mys59; (1954)ILLJ306Kant
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226; Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, 1950 - Sections 18; Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 10(1) and 33; Mysore Labour Act - Sections 10
AppellantBangalore Woollen Cotton and Silk Mills Co. Ltd.
RespondentThe Labour Appellate Tribunal of India and anr.
Appellant AdvocateE.S. Venkataramanan and ;O.T.G. Nambiar, Advs. in No. 4/1952-53 and ;G.V. Ramachar, Adv. in No. 21/1952-53
Respondent AdvocateE.S. Venkataramanan and ;O.T.G. Nambiar, Advs. in No. 21/1952-53 and ;G.V. Ramachar, Adv. in No. 4/1952-53
Excerpt:
.....years having been passed in between is immaterial. conviction of accused, proper. - although the board of revenue was situated within the presidency town of madras and had issued their order in that town the parties as well as estate concerned in the dispute were not within the original civil jurisdiction of the madras high court; though that by itself may not be a very relevant consideration we think that even on grounds of convenience to the parties the high court within whose jurisdiction the dispute has arisen and the parties reside or carry on business would be a more appropriate forum in a matter like the present. an act like the one with which we are concerned' they observe'sets up a court of limited jurisdiction and such court must be confined to the functions and powers which..........why in the interests of peaceful relations between the employers and the employees of these mills the tribunal who were required to decide such a question involving real and unavoidable hardship on both sides granted as a kind of 'via media' such retrenchment relief.it is also difficult to see how it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the tribunal to give such a conditional permission. the reduction permanently in the strength of the number of workmen employed by the company may even amount to seeking of a change in the standing orders as contemplated by section 10 read with the first schedule to the mysore labour act and if instead of splitting the proceedings on the application made by the employers in the way suggested, if the, tribunal considered on this employers'.....
Judgment:

Vasudevamurtky, J.

1. C. P. No. 4/52-53 is an application by the Bangalore Woollen, Cotton and Silk Mills Co., Ltd., Bangalore under Article 225. Constitution of India, praying for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of Respondent 1 dated 14-3-52 only in so far as it imposes certain conditions on the petitioners while granting permission to discharge some workmen who were employed in the petitioners' Mills. Respondent 1 is the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India constituted under the Indian Appellate Tribunal Act, 1950 and is described as having its office at Fort, Bombay and Respondent 2 is the Binny Mills Labour Association with its office in Bangalore City.

The application is accompanied by an affidavit wherein the circumstances under which the present application has come to be made are set out. In May 1950, the Government of Mysore referred to the Industrial Tribunal, Bangalore under Section 10(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act (Act XIV of 1947) for adjudication, several disputes which were pending between the management of the Petitioners-Mills and Respondent 2 as regards the workmen's demands. During the pendency of those proceedings, the Petitioners felt the necessity to retrench 179 workmen who were engaged in their Woollen Department, and under Section 33, Industrial Disputes Act. they made an application to the Tribunal for permission to do so. That Tribunal after hearing the parties passed an order refusing to allow the Petitioners to pay off these workmen.

The Mills then preferred an appeal before the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India who, sitting at Bangalore, heard the parties and passed a considered order on 14-3-1952. By that order they gave permission to the Petitioners to retrench the 179 workmen but made it subject to the condition that they should be paid by way of 'retrenchment relief' a sum equivalent to one month's basic wage, for every year of completed service in the Company; and they went on to define how that basic wage was to be calculated. They also directed that those workmen should be deemed to have been in service and entitled to the usual emoluments till the date of their order. The Petitioners feel aggrieved on account of the first of the conditions attached to the order and have prayed that the same may be quashed. The Labour Association has filed a similar application (C.P. No. 21/52-53) praying for the quashing of the entire order permitting retrenchment.

2. We have heard Mr. O. T. G. Nambiar, learned Counsel for the' Petitioners', and Mr. G. V. Ramachar, learned Counsel for Respondent 2. Mr. Ramachar has raised a preliminary objection to the hearing of this application. He contends that the office of Respondent 1 is located in the Fort area at Bombay and that any writ which is to be effective against them can only be issued by a High Court having territorial jurisdiction over that Tribunal, In that view he urges that this application should have been made in the High Court of Bombay. It appears to us that there is no force in this contention.

In -- 'Ryots of Garabandho v. Zemindar of Parlakimedi' (A), a similar question came up for consideration before their Lordships of the Privy Council. In that case the Madras High Court had issued a writ at the instance of some ryots against the Board of Revenue whose office was situate within the town of Madras quashing an order which had been passed by the Board in connection with a settlement of (rents) dispute between the ryots and the zamindar of Parlakimedi which was in Ganjam District.

Though, on appeal to the Privy Council, their Lordships of the Privy Council found that the jurisdiction of the Madras High Court to issue writs was confined to the local limits of the ordinary original Civil jurisdiction of that High Court, they held that in spite of the circumstance that the Board of Revenue had its office in Madras town, the Madras High Court could not issue a writ as the zamindari lands in respect of which the Board of Revenue had passed such an order was situated beyond the local limits of its original jurisdiction.

Their Lordships pointed out that the question of jurisdiction must be regarded as one of substance and not merely one of form; although the Board of Revenue was situated within the Presidency town of Madras and had issued their order in that town the parties as well as estate concerned in the dispute were not within the original civil jurisdiction of the Madras High Court; the mere location of the Revenue Tribunal within the town of Madras according to their Lordships afforded no ground to claim jurisdiction for the Madras High Court to issue a writ in a matter of the kind concerned in that case.

3. The Bombay High Court had recently to consider a similar though converse question in -- 'The Madras Electric Tramway Ltd. v. M. K. Rangenattian', reported in : (1952)ILLJ176Bom (B). In that case, the Labour Tribunal had passed an order refusing to reinstate certain dismissed employees of the Company. Against that order, an application for a writ of certiorari was made by the concerned workmen and Shah J. took the view that the order of the Labour Appellate Tribunal was without jurisdiction and quashed the order.

On appeal Chagla C. J. and Gajendragadkar J. upheld the objection on behalf of the Company that the Bombay High Court had no jurisdiction to issue a writ in that matter; the fact that the Labour Appellate Tribunal had its office in Bombay they said would not afford any ground for such jurisdiction; it was an All India Tribunal acting as an appellate authority from the decisions of various Labour Tribunals all over the country and it also sits at other places in India; both the Company and the workmen were not within the jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court and the -subject-matter of the dispute between the parties was not also within its jurisdiction. The Bombay High Court could not, therefore, issue a writ though the Madras High Court may be able to quash the order and make a decision binding upon the parties who would be before the Court as being within its jurisdiction. Reliance was placed in this connection on -- .

4. In the connected civil petition (C. P. 21/52-53) the Binny Mills Labour Association has made an application to this Court for a writ. Though that by itself may not be a very relevant consideration we think that even on grounds of convenience to the parties the High Court within whose jurisdiction the dispute has arisen and the parties reside or carry on business would be a more appropriate forum in a matter like the present.

5. Mr, Ramachar hag raised another preliminary objection to the hearing of this petition. He contends that under Section 18, Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, the award of a Tribunal shall become enforceable only on the expiry of 30 days from the date of publication or decision and that this application which has been filed a few days before the expiry of that period is premature.

Mr, Nambiar for the Petitioners has urged that the period of 30 days provided by that section is analogous to the time which may be granted for carrying out the terms of a decree or order of a Civil Court and in such a case it can certainly be not suggested that the period o limitation for filing an appeal or taking some other proceeding to challenge that decree would be kept in abeyance. In our opinion, the provision as to 30 days in that section can only mean that the award cannot be enforced and no penalty or punishment can be incurred or inflicted if the directions contained in the award are not carried out within that period. There is, therefore, no substance in this preliminary objection raised for the 2nd Respondent either.

6. On behalf of the Petitioners, Mr. Nambiar has contended that under Section 33 of Act XIV of 1947 the Board or Tribunal could either grant or refuse permission in the matter of discharge of the concerned workmen and could not impose conditions such as they have done in this case for payment of retrenchment bonus. We think that such an interpretation of Section 33 would be putting rather too narrow a view on the powers of the Tribunal in arbitration proceedings under the Act. Those powers Ere much wider than those of arbitrators in an ordinary arbitration proceeding between individuals who may bring a dispute before them arising out of ordinary contractual or other obligations. As pointed out by Fazi All, J. in -- 'Bharat Bank Ltd., Delhi v. Employees of the Bharat Bank Ltd., Delhi', : (1950)NULLLLJ921SC (C) an Industrial Tribunal may have to override contracts and create rights which are opposed to contractual rights. In 'Western India Automobile Association v. Industrial Tribunal, Bombay' at p. 120 (D) the following passage from Ludwick Teller's book at p. 137 has been quoted with approval :

'Industrial arbitration may involve the extension of an existing agreement or the making of a new one or in general the creation of a new obligation or modification of old ones while commercial arbitration generally concerns itself with the interpretation of existing obligations and disputes relating to existing agreement.'

Labour legislation has been designed not merely to define the rights and liabilities of the employer and the employee and their enforcement as against each other but to provide suitable and special machinery by which disputes between the employer and the employee may be settled reasonably with a view to maintain peaceful relations between them and to avoid as much conflict as possible. If in order to bring about such a result the Industrial Tribunal passed an order granting retrenchment bonus to the employees we do not think it can be said that they acted without, jurisdiction. Even the wording of Section 33 would not justify the placing of such a narrow construction on that section.

It requires the permission of the Tribunal not merely for discharging or dismissing the employees but also for imposing other punishments on any workman except for misconduct not connected with the dispute. It would be difficult to contend that if an employer proposes to fine a workman heavily or to suspend him without pay or to reduce his salary the Board cannot direct the employer to levy a lesser fine or make a smaller reduction in the salary or in the period of suspension by way of punishment when dealing with an application under Section 33.

7. Mr. Nambiar has next contended that the liability of an employer with regard to any payment which he may be called upon to make to his employee must be determined only by reference to the standing orders. He urges that the only liability which an arbitrator to whom a dispute has been referred has jurisdiction to determine is the liability flowing from and arising out of the standing orders which have been settled between the Mills and its workmen and that he has no jurisdiction to override the standing orders. For this position he has relied on -- 'Digamber Ramchandra v. Khandesh Spinning & Weaving Mills Co. Ltd.', : AIR1950Bom174 (E) decided by Chagla, C. J. and Bhagwati, J, which fully supports him. In that case they have also pointed out that any order passed by an Industrial Court which is without jurisdiction or which is in excess of jurisdiction conferred upon by it by statute can always be questioned in a Civil Court.

'An act like the one with which we are concerned' they observe'sets up a Court of limited jurisdiction and such Court must be confined to the functions and powers which are conferred upon them by the statute which creates/the Courts.'

8. As against this Mr. G. V. Ramachar has relied on a case decided by the Madras High Court in (1952) Mad L J 655 (sic) where Rajamannar, C. J. and Somasundaram, J. have held that it cannot be said that a direction to pay gratuity to a workman who is being discharged is beyond the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal. They point out that it is true that neither under the common law nor any express provision under the contract between the parties is there liability on the part of the management to pay such gratuity on retirement or compulsory discharge. 'But' they observe that 'it is too late in the day to contend' that the Industrial Tribunal cannot go into the question of such payments which may not strictly speaking come within the ambit of the contract. It is, however, unnecessary for us to deal further with this question in the present case in the view we have taken that the petitioners cannot ask this Court to cancel what is only a part of the order of the Tribunal which, in our opinion, cannot bo separated from the rest of the order.

9. By the order in question the Appellate Tribunal while giving permission to the Mills to retrench the workmen made it expressly subject to the condition that in view of the circumstances disclosed in the course of the proceedings the workmen sought to be retrenched, other than temporary workmen, shall be paid by way of retrenchment relief a sum equivalent to one month's basic wage for every year of completed service in the Mills. The 'Tribunal observed:

'We are satisfied on the facts before us that owing to circumstances beyond their control the Management is obliged to reduce its staff by means of the proposed retrenchment, and the necessity for retrenchment has been proved. Retrenchment is always regrettable but unfortunately it becomes inevitable at times. The workmen have put in long andloyal years of service in the Company, which has had the benefit of it and the employees must therefore be shielded from the worse rigours of retrenchment.'

If the Mills were not willing to pay such retrenchment relief it was open to them not to pay off these workmen. Mr. Nambiar has, however, suggested that the permission to retrench may be permitted to be availed of by the Mills while the relief by way of payment of retrenchment relief must be left to be sought by the workmen by initiating other arbitration proceedings of their own and that it could only be granted if the standing orders permitted it. And, in the present case, it is urged that the standing orders make no provision for the grant of any such relief. We do not think that that would be a very reasonable construction to place either on the powers of the Tribunal or the only reasonable way of resolving the differences between the employers and the workmen.

The employers took the extreme position that they were entitled to pay off these workmen and should be permitted to do so unconditionally while the workmen denied altogether the existence of any circumstances which would justify such retrenchment of persons who were in the service of the employers for longer or shorter periods on a permanent basis. There appears to be no objection in principle why in the interests of peaceful relations between the employers and the employees of these Mills the Tribunal who were required to decide such a question involving real and unavoidable hardship on both sides granted as a kind of 'via media' such retrenchment relief.

It is also difficult to see how it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to give such a conditional permission. The reduction permanently in the strength of the number of workmen employed by the Company may even amount to seeking of a change in the standing orders as contemplated by Section 10 read with the first schedule to the Mysore Labour Act and if instead of splitting the proceedings on the application made by the employers in the way suggested, if the, Tribunal considered on this employers' application alone the relative claims of the employers and the workmen and passed a conditional order it is difficult to see how the same is beyond tho powers of the Tribunal.

10. Mr. Nambiar has made it quite clear to us that the petitioners do not want tho whole order to be cancelled. Indeed that is the relief which has been asked by the workmen in the connected civil petition. In these circumstances we think that the present is not a case in which we could issue a writ as prayed for for quashing part of a conditional order. By this we should not, however, be understood as saying that the order is otherwise liable to be quashed. We have not at all gone into the merits of the applications nor were the same argued before us.

11. In the result C. P. No. 4/52-53 is dismissed.

12. C. P. No. 21/52-53 is an application by the workmen for tbe quashing of the same order in its entirety. Mr. Ramachar, learned Counsel for the petitioners in this application, intimated that they would not be pressing their application if the relief asked for by the employers in C. P. No. 4/52-53 was not granted by this Court. C. P. Nr. 21/52-53 is, therefore, dismissed

13. As both the petitions have been dismissed, we think in the circumstances of the case the parties should be directed to bear their own costs in these petitions and we order accordingly.

14. Petitions dismissed.


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