1. In this petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution the petitioner prays that the order dated 8 July 1963 passed by respondent 1 may he quashed. By that order, respondent 1 dissolved the works committee constituted for the Gokak Mills, Ltd., i.e., respondent 2, and directed the said mills to reconstitute the works committee in accordance with his department's notification No. T.8/Pr-86/61-62, dated 5 January 1962, and the Industrial Disputes (Mysore) Rules. 1957. He also directed the management to give particular attention to the Publication of the voters' list and rectify other defects before conducting the elections to the works committee.
2. Respondent 2, which is under an obligation under S. 3(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, to constitute a works committee consisting of representatives of employers and workmen engaged in the establishment, issued a notice on 21 September 1962, for the constitution of the works committee and therein it was mentioned that five workers had to be elected for the five constituencies stated therein, one seat having been assigned to each constituency. Workers were further informed to submit their nomination forms on or before 29 September 1962. Their attention was also drawn to the provisions regarding the qualifications of candidates for election and the qualifications for voters.
3. By a further notice, dated 29 September 1962, the workers were reminded that the last date for filing the nomination was Saturday, 29 September, 1962, and that nomination paper should be filed by 5 p.m. That day in the labour office. They were further informed that the scrutiny of the nomination papers would be done on Sunday, 30 September 1952, at 10 a.m., in the labour office in the presence of the candidates nominated and the latter were advised to be present in time. The attention of the loom workers was specifically drawn to the fact that they were included in doubling and winding and reeling constituency.
4. Respondent 2, having received the nomination papers, notified, on 1 October 1962, the names of the candidates nominated for the five constituencies shown therein. It would to seen that for each constituency there were two contesting candidates. It was further notified that the election would take place on Saturday, 6 October 1962 (for first and second shifts) and on Sunday, 7 October 1962 (for third shift workers only). It was also notified that the candidates shown against No. 1 in each constituency would be given white colour on the ballot-box and the candidates shown against No. 2 in each constituency wound be given green colour on the ballot-box. The workers were lastly informed that timings of voting and places of ballot-boxes would be notified by a separate notice.
5. Accordingly, by a notice dated 1 October 1962, the timings, for casting votes for the different shifts for the election to the works committee ware notified. It could be seen from the notice that the names of the constituencies and the places where the ballot-boxes would be kept, have been shown. It is farther stated that workers would be issued voting papers during the timings for casting the votes mentioned therein near the places where the ballot-boxes would be kept on presentation of their tickets or passes only. Among other things, it is also mentioned that counting of votes would be done in the labour office on Sunday, 7 October 1962, at 2-30 p.m., in the presence of candidates only.
6. Accordingly, elections were held on 6 and 7 October 1962, and the results thereof declared on 7 October 1962, declaring the petitioner and respondents 5 to 8 as duly elected to the works committee as representatives of the workmen.
7. Soon thereafter, i.e., on 9 October 1962, respondent 3, viz., the Girani Rashtriya Mazdoor Sangha, made a representation to the Commissioner of Labour that the elections to the works committee should be annulled since they were not conducted in accordance with the rules. We are told that the Commissioner of Labour called for a report from the labour officer, Belgaum, in pursuance of the complaint made by respondent 3 and the labour officer submitted a report on 6 November 1962. On 7 December 1962, respondent 1 issued a notice to respondent 2, calling its attention to certain irregularities in the conduct of elections to the works committee held by the management and directing it to show cause why action should not be taken to annul the elections in question as envisaged under rule 58 of the Industrial Disputes (Mysore) Rules, 1957.
8. The general manager of the mills (respondent 2) by his letter dated 18 December 1962. refuted the allegations of the Gokak Girani Rashtriya Mazdoor Sangha and Pointed out that there was no provision for the publication of the voters' list either in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, or the Industrial Disputes (Mysore) Rules, 1957.
9. We are further informed that respondent 1 thereafter again called for a report from the labour officer who submitted it on 4 February 1963. It also transpires that respondent 1 directed the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Belgaum Division. Hubli, to investigate into the matter. The latter submitted a report on 20 May 1963. After obtaining these reports, respondent 1 passed an order on 8 July 1963, which the petitioner seeks to be quashed in this petition.
10. Sri Datar appearing for the petitioner has submitted three points for our consideration : Firstly, that respondent 1 was not justified in setting aside the election to the works committee without issuing any notice to the successful candidates, viz., the petitioner and respondents 5 to 8; secondly, that under rule 58 of the Industrial Disputes (Mysore) Rules, 1957, the Government has delegated to the Labour Commissioner its power to dissolve a works committee after making such enquiry, as he deems fit, at any time by an order in writing if he is satisfied that the committee has not been constituted in accordance with the rules; and thirdly, that it is not permissible for him to delegate his power to hold inquiry himself to any other person. In our view, the submissions made by the learned counsel for the petitioner are well-founded.
11. I shall first deal with the second and third submissions which relate to the power of the Labour Commissioner to dissolve a works committee. Under rule 58, he is empowered to dissolve the works committee if he is satisfied. After making such enquiry as he deems fit, that the constitution of the works committee is not in accordance with the rules. The question is whether, in this case, respondent 1 has dissolved the works Committee following the procedure prescribed by rule 58.
12. No doubt, he has, in his order, stated that he is satisfied after making due enquiry that the works committee constituted by the management of Gokak Mills, Ltd., Gokak Falls, has not been constituted in a fair and equitable manner. But, in our opinion, this is factually wrong. The learned Government Pleader has drawn our attention to the fact that respondent 1 has called for two reports from the labour officer and one report from the Assistant Commissioner of Labour and that, it is only after the receipt of these reports that he has passed the impugned order dissolving the works committee.
13. Rule 58 requires that the respondent 1 himself should make such enquiry as he deems fit. In our opinion, rule 58 contemplates that it is the Labour Commissioner who himself must hold the inquiry and it is impermissible for him to delegate this power to any other person. The State Government has delegated its power to him and it is well-settled that a delegatee cannot further delegate what has been delegated to him. Therefore, since respondent 1 has not acted in conformity with rule 58, any order passed by him under it cannot be sustained.
14. The Government Pleader appearing for respondent 1 has submitted that we may not view the matter so strictly, for, according to him, when respondent 1 has made enquiry through the labour officer and the Assistant Commissioner he has satisfied the requirements of rule 58. We are unable to accede to this contention. As already stated, the rules require that respondent 1 himself should make such enquiry as he deems fit and he cannot shirk that responsibility by asking either the labour officer or the Assistant Commissioner to investigate into the matter and report to him and then act on their reports. This, in our opinion, is not what is contemplated by rule 59. Therefore, we hold that the Labour Commissioner has acted contrary to the requirements of rule 58 and, consequently, the order passed by him in such circumstances must be quashed.
15. Then, dealing with the first contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that no notice was served on his client before setting aside his election to the works committee, it is clear that respondent 1's action violates the principles of natural justice. There is no dispute that no notice has been issued to the petitioner in this case. It is well-settled that no order could be passed affecting a person without hearing him. The petitioner, having been declared duly elected to the works committee, acquired certain rights of which he cannot be deprived without due notice to him.
16. However, the Government Pleader and Sri Mariappa who appears for the respondent 3, contend that a notice was issued to the unions of which the petitioner and respondents 5 to 8 are members and therefore any notice to the unions should be deemed to be a notice to the petitioner and respondents 5 to 8. There is no notice as such issued to the unions but a copy of the notice issued to respondents 2 has been sent to them. Even otherwise, it is rather difficult conceive how a notice to a particular union can be said to be a notice to the successful candidates. In our view, there is no substance in the contention urged by the learned Government Pleader and Sri Mariappa for respondent 3.
17. I should have adverted to one of the reasons given by the Labour Commissioner to dissolve the works committee, viz., that no voters' list was Published which according to him was the basis for any election, and the non-publication thereof was a fundamental defect. He has further expressed his opinion that
'want of express rules or as it alleged, defective rules, could not be pleaded as sufficient cause to hold an election of this type without this fundamental document.'
18. Now it has to be remembered that in the mills of respondent 2, there are two labour unions, viz., the Girani Rashtriya Mazdoor Sangha and the Girani Kamagar Sangha. We are told that the majority of the workers are members of one or the other of the two unions. Rule 46 of the Industrial Disputes (Mysore) Rules, 1957, prescribes the qualification for voters. It states :
'All workmen, other than casual employees, who are not less than 18 years of age and who have put in not less than six months' service in the establishment, shall be entitled to vote in the election of the representative of workmen.'
19. In other words, the voter must not be less than 18 years of age and he must be a person who has put in not less than six months of service.
20. Our attention has not been drawn to any of the allegations or defects that a person who is not competent to vote has voted in the election. It is true that there does not appear to be a voters' list kept separately, and we do not find any Provision to that effect made in the rules either. However, it in obvious that respondent 2 has kept a register of his employees from which it has by its notice, dated 1 October 1962, intimated to all the workers that it would issue voting papers during the timings for casting the votes on presentation of their tickets or passes only. Therefore, though there is no voters' list as such, yet the register kept by respondent 2 of its employees who satisfy the requirements of rule 46 and are entitled to cost their votes in the election, may be taken as the voters' list. The policy underlying rule 46 appears to be that no separate list of voters need be maintained since the workers' register would satisfy the requirements of the voters' list. In that view of the matter, one of the objections of the Labour Commissioner that no voters' list was published, is not well-founded.
21. For the reasons stated above, we allow this writ petition and quash the order, dated 8 July 1963, passed by respondent 1.
22. In the circumstances of this case, there will be no order as to costs.