(1) In this petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution, the petitioner prays for the quashing of the award dated 7-3-1962 (as per annexure A) passed by the Presiding Officer of the Labour Court, Bangalore, in reference No. 5/62. The service of the present petitioner T.P. Sridharan having been retrenched by the respondent, viz., the Management of Kedukal Estate, a reference had been made by the Government under Section 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 to the said Labour Court, for adjudication. The point of dispute which was referred was:
'Whether the Management of Kedukal Estate Boikere P.O., Coorg District, were justified in retrenching the services of the Sri T.P. Sridharan Superintendent; if not, is the workmen entitled to reinstatement with back wages or any other relief?'
Amongst the contentions which had been taken by the Management before the Labour Court, the relevant one for the present purposes was that T.P. Sridharan was an Officer exercising the functions, mainly managerial and administrative in nature and as such was not a workman within the meaning of the definitions of that term under the Industrial Disputes Act 1957,(hereinafter called the Act) and as such the reference is bad in law.' The relevant issue pertaining to this contention was the first issue, which was as follows:
'(1) Whether Sri. T.P. Sridharan is not a workman and whether this is not an industrial dispute as alleged by the second party?'
(2) It should be stated that is only with the first part of the first issue, that we are at present concerned; because, it is in consequence of the Labour Court's finding on this part of the first issue that the Labour Court has rejected the reference. That finding was to the effect that Sridharan was not a workman. That finding and the portion containing the reasons therefor, as set out by the Labour Court, are as follows:
'A careful consideration of this documentary evidence, coupled with the admissions made by the witness T.P. Sridharan, convinces me that he was a person having special aptitude in agriculture and had been placed in sole charge of the Kedukal estate where his duties were of supervisory nature and the same carried certain amount of responsibility with him. There is nothing on record to show that he was doing any manual work in the estate. The fact that he was exercising directional or controlling powers negatives the contention of the first party union that he was a workman within the meaning of that term as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
Accordingly my finding on the preliminary issue is that Sri. T.P. Sridharan is not a workman and that the first party union was not competent to take up his dispute and the reference of the same by the Government for adjudication to the Court is bad in law. In these circumstances, I am of the opinion that the merits need not be gone into. In the result, I reject the reference.'
(3) The main contention of Sri. Ullal, the learned advocate for the petitioner is that the Labour Court in coming to the conclusion that the petitioner was not a workman, has completely lost sight of the statutory requisites as set out in the Section 2(s) of the Act. The relevant part of the provision is as follows:
'(s) 'Workmen' means any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any skilled or unskilled manual, supervisory, technical or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of employment be expressed or implied, and for the purposes of any proceeding under this Act in relation to an industrial dispute, includes any such person who has been dismissed, discharged or retrenched in connection with or as a consequence of that dispute, or whose dismissal, discharge of retrenchment has led to that dispute, but does not include any such person :
(i) x x x x x x
(ii) x x x x x x
(iii) who is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity ; or
(iv) who, being employed in a supervisory capacity, draws wages exceeding five hundred rupees per mensem or exercise, either by the nature of the duties attached to the office or by reason of the powers vested in him, functions mainly of a managerial nature.'
It would be relevant to note that according to the above definition, any person employed in any industry to do any supervisory work would also be a workman unless he is to be excluded by sub-clause (i) to (iv) (For the purposes of this case, sub-cls. (i) and (ii) of Sub-s. (i)(s)). It may also be stated that the petitioner, admittedly, was drawing a salary of less than Rs. 500/-.That is to say a person employed in any industry to do supervisory work would not be a workman, by reason of sub-clause (iii), if he is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity. Similarly, by reason of sub-clause(iv), he would not be a workman if he draws exceeding Rs. 500/- per mensem, or exercises functions mainly of a managerial nature. Towards the end of paragraph 10 of its award (which portion has been quoted above), the Labour Court has stated that the duties of the petitioner were of a supervisory nature. If that be so, then, forgetting for the moment sub-clauses (iii) and (iv), the petitioner would be a workman as defined in sub-s. (s).
If he is to be excluded from the meaning of 'workman', then, such exclusion ought to be on the basis of the applicability of sub-clauses (iii) and (iv). The contention of Sri. Ullal is that the Labour Court has completely lost sight of the said clauses (iii) and (iv) and without any reference to the same, has chosen to come to the conclusion that the petitioner is not a workman. It is pointed out by him that while there is a positive finding by the Labour Court that the duties of the petitioner were of a supervisory nature, the Labour Court without applying its mind to the further question as to whether the petitioner was employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity, (or was exercising functions mainly of a managerial nature) has proceeded to take the view that the petitioner was not a workman. His argument is that in deciding the questions as to whether the petitioner was a workman, there is a failure on the part of the Labour Court to properly exercise its jurisdiction, inasmuch as it has not kept in view the essential requisites of the statute.
After hearing arguments of the learned counsel, we are satisfied that there is very great force in the contentions advanced on behalf of the petitioners.
(4) It seems to us that the Labour Court has completely lost sight of the fact that when there was no dispute about the petitioner having been employed to do supervisory work and there was actually the finding to the effect that his duties were of a supervisory nature, it was essential, before holding that the petitioner was not a workman, to give a clear finding for the purposes of sub-clauses (iii) and (iv), as to whether he was exercising functions mainly of a managerial nature. In an endeavor to show that the Labour Court had in mind the provisions of Section 2(s) of the Act, Sri Narasimha Murthy, the learned advocate for the first respondent, drew our attention to paragraph 8 of the award, wherein the Labour Court has made reference to the first part of Section 2(s). For some reason which is not quite clear, the Labour Court has not made any reference to sub-clauses (iii) and (iv). It is further pointed out by Sri. Ullal, that from what has been stated by the Labour Court at the beginning of para 9 of the award, the Labour Court made an erroneous approach, completely overlooking sub-clauses (iii) and (iv). It has stated as follows:
'The criterion to decide whether an employee is a workman or not is that the main nature of work must be manual and clerical, skilled or unskilled. But if he occupies a position of command and direction and his duties are supervisory, he is not a workman under the Industrial Disputes Act. As a general principle it may be stated that it is a nature of the work done by the employee and the degree of his responsibility which determines whether he is a clerk or an officer. His designation does not matter. The salary of the employee is not the determining factor. If an employee performs works of a clerical nature with no responsibilities of an officer, he is not deprived of the protection afforded to him by the Act. Similarly, if an employee has the responsibilities of an officer, but a part of his work is that of clerical nature, he is not a clerk but officer.'
It is urged by the learned Advocate for the petitioner that the considerations may not have much relevance for the purposes of sub-clauses (iii) and (iv) of Section 2(s) as they stand at present after the amendment of Act XXXVI of 1956.
The Labour Court has nowhere considered the question as to whether the petitioner had been employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity; nor has it considered as to whether he was exercising functions mainly of a managerial nature. In other words, the Labour Court has failed to consider the relevant conditions set out in sub-clauses (iii) and (iv). From what has been stated by the Supreme Court in the case of T.C. Basappa v. T. Nagappa, : 1SCR250 , it is clear that one of the objects intended to be secured by a writ of certiorari was that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunal should be properly exercised. In the above case, the Supreme Court has referred to Ryots of Garabandho v. Zemindar of Parlakimedi,AIR1943 PC 164 to show that in England, one of the objects of the prerogative writ of certiorari was to secure by the authority of a superior Court, that the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunal should be properly exercised.
It has been further stated in the above decision of the Supreme Court that the superior Courts in India can make an order or issue a writ in the nature of certiorari in all the appropriate cases and in appropriate manner so long as they keep to the broad and fundamental principles that regulate the exercise of jurisdiction in the matter of granting such writs in English law. When the essential statutory requisites have not been borne in mind by the Labour Court when it proceeded to determine the question as to whether the petitioner was a 'workman', there cannot be any doubt that it failed to properly exercise its jurisdiction. Therefore, the award is liable to be quashed.
(5) From what has been stated by the Labour Court towards the end of para 10 of the award, it appears that the Labour Court proceeded on the assumption that the mere exercise of directional or controlling powers was sufficient to negative the claim of the petitioner that he was a 'workman'. In this connection, it may be appropriate to refer to what has been stated by the Supreme Court in Andhra Scientific Co. Ltd. v. Seshagiri Rao, reported in (1961) 2 Lab LJ 117 (SC). In that case, the Supreme Court have quoted with approval the following observations which had been made by the Andhra Pradesh High Court :
'We are of opinion that even on the assumption that the functions assigned to and exercised by the respondent 1 as stores manager are not entirely lacking in the elements of initiative command and control, they are essentially supervisory in character. Under the office order dated 31st December 1949 he had to be in charge of the maintenance of general stores, packing and despatching, stock accounts and effective check over them and in charge of stock requisitions. His functions being supervisory in character, and inasmuch as he was on the material date not receiving a salary of more than Rs. 500/- respondent 1 would be a workman within the meaning of limb I of proviso IV of Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act.'
The learned counsel before us have invited our attention to three decisions in which there are discussions to what functions may be managerial functions. They are: (i) Andhra Scientific Co. v. Seshagiri Rao, : (1959)IILLJ717AP , (ii) Standard Vacuum Oil Co. v. Commr of Labour, : (1959)IILLJ771Mad and (iii) Mcleod and Company v. Sixth Industrial Tribunal, : AIR1958Cal273 . We do not consider it appropriate to enter into a discussion as to what exactly would be the managerial functions as the same will be a matter for determination by the Labour Court, with reference to the requirements of sub-clauses (3) and (4) of Section 2(s) of the Act.
The learned Advocate for the first respondent, sought to persuade us to the view that we may ourselves consider the entire evidence which had been adduced in the case and decide as to whether the duties attached to his office and the functions performed by the petitioner, would or would not attract the said sub-clauses (3) and (4). His contention was that this was a jurisdiction fact and the conclusion reached thereon by the Labour Officer can be considered by this Court as if it was sitting in appeal. In support of this argument, the learned Advocate brought to our notice the decision of this Court in Chandra Spinning and Weaving Mills Private Ltd. v. Labour Court, Bangalore. Writ Petn. No. 827 of 1960 (Mys.). Sri Narasimha Murthy relied in particular on the following observations :
'Ordinarily or in the absence of any express provision to the contrary in the statute creating it, an inferior tribunal of limited jurisdiction does have the jurisdiction to decide the facts on the question whether its decision in respect of those facts is final or not or is open to scrutiny by a superior tribunal or the High Court will depends upon the question whether the statute creating the tribunal invests it also with the jurisdiction of finally deciding upon the facts on the existence of which its jurisdiction depends. If it is invested with such a power of final decision of those facts also, it may well be argued that even while deciding upon jurisdictional facts the tribunal is functioning within the bounds of its own jurisdiction. In such a case, jurisdictional facts may not be capable of being described as collateral facts and therefore amenable to correction either by an authority exercising the power of revision or by the High Court acting under Article 226 or 227 of the Constitution. Where, however, no such exclusive jurisdictional fact is conferred on a tribunal be the statute creating it, a correction by the High Court or an erroneous decision on collateral facts on the existence of which the jurisdiction of the inferior tribunal depends is undoubtedly necessary with the view to keep the tribunal within the bounds of its jurisdiction, because to deny such a power included in Article 226 or 227 would lead to empowering the inferior tribunals by an erroneous decision to confer upon themselves a jurisdiction which they do not possess without the High Court being able to prevent such a result.'
In the circumstances of the present case we are not satisfied that we should proceed to determine the question, by ourselves considering the evidence in the case. In our opinion, it seems to be more appropriate that the Labour Court itself should consider the evidence before it and keep in view the statutory requisites, decide the question afresh, as expeditiously as possible and in accordance with law.
(6) In the result, the impugned award is quashed. Parties shall bear their own costs.
(7) Order accordingly.