Per Puttaswamy, J.
1. On a reference made by Rama Jois, J., this writ petition is posted before us for disposal.
2. In the order of reference, the facts of the case, one of the principle points that arises for determination and the reasons for making the reference are succinctly set out and, therefore, a detailed narration of the facts is not really necessary. But in order to make our order self-contained, we first propose to notice the facts as emerging from the pleadings and file Nos. SWL 99 LLD 77, SWL 111 LLD 76 of the Karnataka Government Secretariat and File No. IDA-5/CR-178/75-76 of the Office of the Labour Commissioner made available by the learned Advocate General at our request and then deal with the contentions that arise for determination.
3. M/s. Indian Telephone Industries Ltd., Bangalore, is a wholly owned Central Government Company engaged in the business of manufacture and supply of telephones in our country and has on its rolls about 16,000 employees. As a background the petitioner has referred in detail to the dismissal of one Sri V. V. Thyagaraja Iyer of the Cross-bar Division on 29-9-1973 for proved misconduct and various other details that are not really necessary for determining the issues that arise before us and, therefore, it is not necessary to notice them in detail.
4. On 6-12-1973, there was an unfortunate incident of stabbing one Shri Ajit Dutt, Works Manager of the Cross-bar Division of the factory when he was proceeding from his house in the I.T.I. Colony to the adjacent factory which in turn, let to industrial unrest and law and order problem in and around the factory. In the wake of that incident, respondent Nos. 2 to 14 and certain others with whom we are not concerned, were challenged for various criminal offences before the criminal Courts. While the criminal proceedings were pending on 18-12-1973, the petitioner, exercising the powers conferred on it by Standing Order No. 17(1) of the Certified Standing Orders of the factory, terminated the services of respondent Nos. 2 to 14 and their Labour Union-respondent No. 15, moved the Government and other authorities functioning under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') to intervene on their behalf and make a reference under S. 10(1)(c) of the Act to the appropriate Labour Court to adjudicate the validity of termination of respondent Nos. 2 to 14. In accordance with the usual practice in such matters, the claim of respondent Nos. 2 to 15 came up before the Assistant Labour Commissioner and conciliation officer, Bangalore Division II, Bangalore in the first instance, for conciliation who, true to his duties, tried his best to mediate and promote a settlement of the dispute between the parties. After hearing the parties on 20-4-1974, 3-6-1974, 15-6-1974, 20-7-1974, 4-9-1974, 7-10-1974, 19-10-1974, 15-11-1974, 2-12-1974, 20-12-1974, 15-1-1975, 18-3-1975, 31-3-1975, 28-4-1975, 28-10-1975, 28-11-1975 and on 6-12-1975, and considering the written representations filed by them, the conciliation officer by his report dated 20-1-1976 opined that the dispute deserved a reference under S. 10(1)(c) of the Act to the Labour Court. But the Labour Commissioner in his report dated 23-2-1976 addressed to the Govt. on a critical examination of the report of the conciliation officer, disagreed with his views and recommended to the Government that the dispute did not merit a reference to adjudication. At this stage, it is relevant to notice that by the time Government had to examine the matter, respondent Nos. 2, 5 to 14 had been discharged by this Court, though an appeal filed by the State against that order of discharge was pending before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. On an examination of the recommendations of the Labour Commissioner, conciliation officer, further written representations filed by the management and labour union and after affording an opportunity of oral hearing to both the parties having regard to the relevant consideration like (1) whether the action of the petitioner was prima facie legal, (2) whether an industrial dispute did exist or was apprehended and (3) whether it was expedient to make a reference or not, Government decided that it was not a fit case to make a reference under S. 10(1)(c) of the Act to the Labour Court. In examining the question as to whether a reference should be made or not, Government among others, has found that the decision of this Court in criminal proceedings filed by respondent Nos. 2, 5 to 14 and the pendency of the appeal by the State before the Supreme Court had no bearing and the action of the petitioner-management had to be examined dehors those proceedings. In pursuance of the decision taken by the Government on 27-5-1976, an endorsement bearing No. SWL 111 LLD 76 dated 28th May, 1976 Exhibit-U, was issued which reads thus :
Sub :- Industrial Dispute between the workmen and the management of
I.T.I. Ltd., Bangalore - Termination of 13 workmen under
standing orders of the management -
I am directed to state that Government consider that the dispute underreference does not merit reference to the Labour Court for adjudicationfor the reason that the action taken by the management under thestanding orders of the company in terminating the services of 13 workersis in order.
Sd./- K. Mylarappa,
Under Secretary to Govt.
Social Welfare & Labour Dept.'
Even though the said decision of the Government was against them, respondent Nos. 2 to 15 did not take any other legal proceedingavailable to them and allowed the matters to rest till 9-1-1977.
5. On 10-1-1977, respondent No. 15 presented or addressed a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Government of Karnataka requesting him to intervene in the matter and prevail on the other petitioner to reinstate respondent Nos. 2 to 14 or refer the matter adjudication under the Act having regard to the favourable views expressed by the conciliation officer. In the said representation what has been prominently urged by the respondent No. 15 is that in the case of another industry called 'Mico' at the intervention of the Government at the ministerial level, the said company had reinstated its employees and the claim of respondent Nos. 2 to 14 was similar to those employees. On the said representation, the Chief Minister minuted as under :
'Labour Commissioner :
This question has got to be taken up with the management. But if the management does not yield, then the cases will have to be referred to adjudication. Keep me informed of the action taken.
Sd./- D. Devaraj Urs,
Apparently on receipt of the said representation, the Labour Commissioner explored the possibility of reinstating respondent Nos. 2 to 14 by discussing the matter with the General Manager of the petitioner-company on 21-2-1977. In their discussion, the General Manager does not appear to have agreed to reinstate respondent Nos. 2 to 14 and appears to have stuck to the original stand that had been taken by the management in the earlier proceedings. On 23-2-1977 the Labour Commissioner made a report to Government appraising of the steps taken by him to implement the decision of the Chief Minister and to take action in accordance with the decision of the Chief Minister. In that report, we do not find any new circumstances brought to the notice of the Government by the Labour Commissioner except the efforts made by him to implement the directions of the Chief Minister and his failure in that behalf. On an examination of that report, the Deputy Secretary to Government, Labour Department, pointed out there was no change in the circumstances of the case. On an examination of the papers in File No. SWL 99 LLD 77 apart from various notes and orders that has no bearing, it appears the Chief Minister in the discussion he had with the Secretary to Government, Labour Department, stuck to his earlier stand and directed him to refer the dispute for adjudications. On 6-4-77 the Secretary made a note as under :
'I discussed with Chief Minister a few days ago and he asked me to refer the dispute for adjudication.
For perusal before issue of orders.
On 13-7-1977 the Chief Secretary to whom the file was marked before the matter was ordered to be placed before the Minister for Labour opined as under :
'The Managing Director, Shri I. K. Gupta feels that this is likely to affect the discipline adversely, and that production would suffer. He may be heard and then a decision taken.
Sd./- G. V. K. Rao,
On 23-7-1977, the Minister for Labour minuted as under :
'C.M. may decide.
Sd./- C. N. Patil.
Minister for Labour,
Finally on 28-7-1977 the Chief Minister minuted as under :
'The matter be referred to adjudication.
Sd./- D. Devaraj Urs,
In pursuance of the minute of the Chief Minister, an order bearing No. SWL 99 LLD 77 dated 2nd and 4th August, 1977 was issued by the Government (Exhibit W) the validity of which is challenged by the petitioner before us. That order reads thus :
'GOVERNMENT OF KARNATAKA
Karnataka Government Secretariat, Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore, dated No. SWL 99 LLD 77 2nd August, 1977' -------------4th