1. The petitioners are defendants and the respondent is the plaintiff in Original Suit No. 652 of 1963 on the file of the Second Munsif, Bangalore. The plaintiff, an employee of the defendants, sued for declaration that the punishment imposed on him by the defendants is illegal and for a mandatory injunction to retransfer him to his original department. The defendants, inter alia, contended that the civil Court's jurisdiction to try the suit is barred by the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. On the said contention, the trial Court raised the following issues :
(1) Is the suit not maintainable in view of the plea in Para. 20 of the written statement
(2) Is the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts barred under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act
2. Paragraph 20 of the written statement referred to above reads :
'The plaintiff is the vice-president of one of the unions and in spite of it he has not chosen to seek relief under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. His object in having recourse to the civil Court is to side-step the provisions of the special enactment and have protracted proceedings in the civil Court though the scope of enquiry even in the civil Court is limited to ascertaining as to whether or not the domestic enquiry conducted by defendant 1 has been in order. The suit as laid is wanting in bona fides and not maintainable and has to be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.'
3. The Munsif heard arguments on the above issues concerning jurisdiction and rejected the contention of the defendants. Against the said decision, defendants have preferred the above revision petition.
4. In the Court below, the defendants urged that a reference by the State Government of a dispute between the workmen and the management of the Bharat Electronics, Ltd., Bangalore, was pending before the labour court till July 31, 1964, and in view of that fact the plaintiff could have obtained reliefs under S. 33A of the Industrial Disputes Act. The Munsif held that the reference to the labour court was of a dispute between one Michan Louis and the management of the Bharat Electronics, Ltd., and therefore, the plaintiff could not have filed a complaint before the labour court under S. 33A, and, consequently, the Industrial Disputes Act is not a bar to the plaintiff's suit.
5. I have perused the award on the reference by the Government. The dispute referred was one between the workmen and the management of the Bharat Electronics, Ltd. The plaintiff is a workman of the Bharat Electronics, Ltd., and the Munsif, in my opinion, was clearly in error in holding that the plaintiff was not a party to the proceedings before the labour court.
6. The question for determination, therefore, is, whether the tendency of an industrial dispute between the workmen and management of the Bharat Electronics, Ltd., in the labour court, constitutes a bar to the plaintiff's suit. The plaintiff is aggrieved by the disciplinary action taken by the management. He has alleged that the principles of natural justice have been violated in the conduct of the enquiry and the standing orders have been contravened and, therefore, the punishment ordered is illegal. The learned counsel for the plaintiff-respondent, conceded that the civil Court has no jurisdiction to grant the mandatory injunction of retransfer prayed for and that in the Court below the plaintiff would give up that relief. Grant of reliefs like reinstatement, fixation of fair wages, grant of paid holidays, bonus, etc., are within the special jurisdiction of the tribunals constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act. But, where an employee or workman does not claim reliefs which can be granted only by the industrial tribunals, but merely challenges as illegal an order of punishment imposed in disciplinary proceedings, on the ground of breach of rules of natural justice, or the terms of the contract of service, he is not raising any industrial dispute exclusively cognizable by industrial tribunals, but he is merely seeking to establish his civil right, which is cognizable by the civil Courts. Suits by dismissed employees for damages for wrongful dismissal are well-known in such suits. Civil Courts may be required to decide the legality of the punishment imposed by the employer. Where the civil Courts find that the dismissal challenged is wrongful, they have no jurisdiction to order reinstatement of the employee, but can award damages.
7. The learned counsel for the petitioners fairly conceded that there is no provision in the Industrial Disputes Act expressly barring the jurisdiction of the civil Court to entertain a suit by an aggrieved employee, but it is only by implication that the jurisdiction of civil Courts is barred. The learned counsel for the petitioners did not contend before me that if the Industrial Disputes Act had not been enacted, civil Courts could not have entertained the plaintiff's suit for the relief which he now seeks. To a specific question put to him, the learned counsel submitted that his contention is not that the plaintiff's suit is not of a civil nature. If the suit is of a civil nature, as conceded by him, he has to show that the Civil Court's jurisdiction is ousted by necessary implication. Barring the provision in S. 33A of the Industrial Disputes Act, the learned counsel for the petitioner was unable to show any provision under which the plaintiff could have obtained the reliefs sought in the suit.
8. In order to entitle the plaintiff to seek relief under S. 33A in the labour court, he has to establish that the provisions of S. 33 of the Act have been contravened by the defendants. It is not the case of either party in this case that the employer has contravened the provisions of S. 33. In the absence of any such plea, it is not open to the defendants to contend that the plaintiff could have sought relief under S. 33A. Though in the Court below, the defendants appear to have contended that the plaintiff could have sought relief under S. 33A of the Act, in this Court, Sri Parthasarathi, the learned counsel for the petitioners, contended that the plaintiff could have raised through his union an industrial dispute and persuaded the State Government to refer the dispute to the labour court. There is no substance in this contention. An individual workman or even a class of workmen have no right to approach the labour court or the tribunal, directly. The tribunal gets no jurisdiction unless the Government refers the dispute for adjudication. It is not the case of the petitioners that any dispute concerning the plaintiff has been referred for adjudication by the Government. When no reference is made for adjudication under the Industrial Disputes Act, with reference to the grievance of the plaintiff and he cannot seek any remedy under S. 33A, I am unable to appreciate the argument of the petitioner's learned counsel, that the Civil Courts' jurisdiction is ousted by necessary implication.
9. In my opinion, the conclusion arrived at by the Court below that the Civil Courts' jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff's suit is not ousted by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, was right, though the reason on which the said conclusion rested cannot be supported. What relief the civil Court can grant to the plaintiff is a matter for decision in the suit. As stated earlier, plaintiff's learned counsel has submitted that the plaintiff would give up the relief of injunction and I express no opinion whether plaintiff's suit for a bare declaration would be maintainable when the relief of injunction is given up.
10. For the above reasons this revision petition fails and is dismissed with costs.