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Employers of Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd., Madras Vs. Labour Court, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Appeal No. 4 of 1961
Judge
Reported inAIR1963AP223; (1962)IILLJ200AP
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 2 and 10
AppellantEmployers of Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd., Madras
RespondentLabour Court, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and ors.
Appellant AdvocateO. Chinnappa Reddy, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateP. Ramachandra Reddi, Third Govt. Pleader, ;K. Amareswari and ;M.S. Krishnamurthy, Advs.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Excerpt:
.....courts - section 2(k) of act defines industrial dispute which affects interest of large group of workmen - union is not directly interested in employment and non-employment of a particular industry - union has no locus standi to brand dispute as industrial dispute - dispute when not an industrial dispute to be brought before ordinary court and not labour court. - - 7. it is now well established that in order to answer the description of an industrial dispute as defined in section 2(k) of the act, it must be such as would affect large groups of workmen and their employer ranged on opposite sides. the objects of the act, inter alia, are to promote measure for amity and good relations between the management of an industrial establishment and its workmen and the speedy settlement of..........judgment of our learned brother basi reddy, j. refusing to remove an order of the labour court, andhra pradesh at hyderabad on certiorari.2. the facts material for the purpose of this enquiry are shortly these. the appellant i.e., messrs. express newspapers (private) limited is a company incorporated under indian companies act and has its head office at madras. at the material time, it had a branch at hyderabad with five employees, a branch manager, two working journalists, a staff reporter and a correspondent, who are respondents 2 and 3 in this appeal, a teleprinter operator and an attender. the appellant dismissed the two respondents from service on 28-6-1959 for misconduct and gross negligence of duties. while there was a union of the appellant's workmen in madras known as the.....
Judgment:

Chandra Reddy, C. J.

1. This is an appeal against the judgment of our learned brother Basi Reddy, J. refusing to remove an order of the Labour Court, Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad on certiorari.

2. The facts material for the purpose of this enquiry are shortly these. The appellant i.e., Messrs. Express Newspapers (Private) Limited is a company incorporated under Indian Companies Act and has its head office at Madras. At the material time, it had a branch at Hyderabad with five employees, a branch manager, two working journalists, a staff reporter and a correspondent, who are respondents 2 and 3 in this appeal, a teleprinter operator and an attender. The appellant dismissed the two respondents from service on 28-6-1959 for misconduct and gross negligence of duties. While there was a Union of the appellant's workmen in Madras known as the Express Newspapers Employees' Union, there was no such union of the workmen of the appellant's establishment at Hyderabad. Respondents 2 and 3 were not members of the Madras Union but were members of the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists which had' its registered office at Hyderabad.

Respondents 2 and 3 wrote to the General Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (which will hereinafter be referred to as the Andhra Pradesh Union) apprising him of their dismissal on 28-6-1959 by the management of the Express Newspapers Limited and complaining that their dismissal was wrongful and vindictive and was an act of victimisation for their trade union activities and requesting him to convene a meeting of the general body of the Andhra Pradesh Union to espouse their cause and to secure the redressal of their grievances. Meanwhile, the other two employees of the appellant addressed letters to the Andhra Pradesh Union promising their co-operation to the Union in any steps which the Union might take in the matter of obtaining the redressal of the grievances of respondents 2 and 3.

At a meeting of the general body of the Andhra Pradesh Union held on 19th July, 1959, a resolution was passed condemning the action of the management of the Express Newspapers (private) Limited in illegally and improperly dismissing respondents 2 and 3. By the same resolution it was decided that the Union should sponsor the cause of respondents 2 and 3 and take necessary steps to secure redressal of their grievances by moving the concerned authorities. Then the Union wrote to the appellant protesting against the dismissal of respondents z and 3 to which the latter sent a reply justifying their action. Thereafter, the Union started proceedings before the Conciliation Officer, Department of Labour, Government of Andhra Pradesh. The Conciliation proceedings however did not bear fruit.

Ultimately, the Government of Andhra Pradesh referred the following matters for adjudication to the Labour Court, Hyderabad :

'Whether the dismissal of the following working journalists is justified :

1. Sri K. Sampath, Staff Reporter; and

2. T. V. Krishna, Correspondent.

If not, to what relief are they entitled?'

3. When the matter went up before the Labour Court the appellant questioned its jurisdiction to entertain the reference, inter alia, on the ground that the dispute was only an individual dispute and not an industrial dispute within the terms of Section 2(k) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) inasmuch as it was not sponsored by a substantial section of the entire establishment of the appellant's company or a recognised part of the establishment thereof or by a Union of the Workmen of the company. It is not necessary to refer to other grounds of challenge as they are not pressed before us. The Labour Court overruled this objection as in its view the cause of the two working journalists was espoused by the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists of which they were admittedly members and which was a trade Union representative of working journalists of Andhra Pradesh, and that as the number of working journalists was only two and both of them were concerned in the dispute, their cause, in so far as the Hyderabad branch of the Company was concerned, could not but be held to have been taken up not only by a majority but by the entirety of the working journalists.

4. It is to quash this order that the writ petition, out of which this appeal arises, was filed by the appellant. The same contentions were urged before our learned brother. The learned Judge disagreed with them and dismissed the writ petition. In his opinion, the Andhra Pradesh Union, of which, respondents 2 and 3 were members, being a Union of working journalists, was connected with the newspaper industry and could not be regarded as a stranger and as such it was competent for the Union to take up their cause and represent them in the dispute. It was further observed by him that the fact that the employees of the Union at Madras did not take up the cause of the dismissed workmen was of no consequence because all the workmen in the Hyderabad branch did support their cause.

5. Aggrieved by this decision, the management of the Industrial establishment has brought this appeal. In support of this appeal it is maintained that the Andhra Pradesh Union, not being a Union of the employees of the industrial concern in question, could not take up the cause of respondents 2 and 3 so as to convert what was really an individual dispute between the two dismissed workmen and the management into an industrial dispute and confer jurisdiction on the Labour Court to adjudicate upon it and that, secondly, the mere writing of letters by the other two workmen to the Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh. Union assuring him of their support in any attempt to have the grievances of the dismissed workmen redressed would not amount to an espousal of the dispute by them.

6. We will cow proceed to examine the validity of this argument.

7. It is now well established that in order to answer the description of an industrial dispute as defined in Section 2(k) of the Act, it must be such as would affect large groups of workmen and their employer ranged on opposite sides. A dispute between an employee and his or their employer I is only an individual dispute and not an industrial dispute and as such falls outside the pale of the Act. The Act is primarily meant to regulate the relations between capital arid labour. The objects of the Act, inter alia, are to promote measure for amity and good relations between the management of an industrial establishment and its workmen and the speedy settlement of disputes between the employer on the one hand and the workmen acting collectively on the other. It gives recognition to the right of labour for collective bargaining.

8. In Central Provinces Transport Services Ltd. v. Raghunath Gopal, : (1957)ILLJ27SC , this is what the Supreme Court observed :

'Notwithstanding that the language of Section 2(k) is wide enough to cover a dispute between an employer and a single employee the scheme of the Industrial Disputes Act does appear to contemplate that the machinery provided therein should be set in motion to settle only disputes which involve the rights of workmen as a class and that a dispute touching the individual rights of a workman was not intended to be the subject of an adjudication under the Act, when the same had not been taken up by the Union or a number of workmen.' That being the scheme of the Act, individual disputes cannot form the subject-matter of an enquiry before the Tribunals created by the Act. Such individual rights could be enforced only before the ordinary Courts of the land.

9. But an individual dispute may develop into a situation of general aspect containing the characteristic of a trade dispute, if it is adopted by a number of workmen or by a Union representing them. Could it be posited in the instant case that an individual dispute has attained the status of a trade dispute by reason of its espousal by the Andhra Pradesh Union? It is true that this Union is concerned with the newspaper industry and its membership is open to all the working journalists in the State of Andhra Pradesh and its objects were, inter alia, to strive for the betterment of working conditions of the journalists, especially with regard to salary, tenure of office and conditions of service and to secure redress of grievances of members in particular and of other working journalists in general, against employers. Is that sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Section 2(k) of the Act?

10. That definition means, inter alia, any dispute or difference between employers and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of the employment or with the conditions of labour of any person.

11. Thus, it is the essence of an industrial dispute that it should relate to the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person. At the outset, it should be remembered that the Andhra Pradesh Union is not a union of the employees of the appellant, though it is a Union of all the employees in the industry of journalism in Andhra Pradesh. As such, the union is not directly or substantially interested in the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment of the particular industry, they not being workmen of the employer. There should be community of interest between the workers or the union representing them and the employee or the employees whose dispute is sponsored by them. If such community of interest does not exist, the other workmen or their union cannot adopt the dispute. Any decision on the question as to whether the dismissal of respondents 2 and 3 was wrongful or not does not in any way affect the rights of the Union. The Union, which sought to raise the dispute against the appellant, cannot get any relief from it. Hence, it could not be predicated that it is interested directly or substantially in the employment or non-employment or terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of the aggrieved workmen within the scope of Section 2(k). Hence, the Union has no locus standi to sponsor the dispute so as to invest it with the status of an industrial dispute.

It was laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Bombay Union of Journalists v. Hindu Bombay, : (1961)IILLJ436SC , that, in order that an individual dispute could be converted into an industrial dispute, the persons who seek to espouse the cause of the workmen must themselves be directly and substantially interested in the dispute and those who were not employees of the same employer could not be regarded as so interested. Their Lordships observed that the support by the Bombay Union of Working Journalists to the cause of the dismissed working journalist, who was a member of that Union, would not assist his claim so as to convert it into an industrial dispute. The principle underlying that ruling applies with full vigour to this case.

12. This proposition is also established by Workmen of Dimakuchi Tea Estate v. Management of Dimakuchi Tea Estate, : (1958)ILLJ500SC . It was laid down there that the parties to the dispute must have a direct or substantial interest in it so that if a workman should raise a dispute, it must be connected with the concerned establishment or a part of it and it would not otherwise be a real dispute. The following observations of their Lordships are apposite in this context :

'It is obvious that a dispute between employers and employers, employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen must be a real dispute capable of settlement or adjudication by directing one of the parties to the dispute to give necessary relief to the other. It is also obvious that the parties to the dispute must be directly or substantially interested therein, so that if workmen raise a dispute, it must relate to the establishment or part of establishment in which they are employed.'

Again at page 1173 (of SCR) : (at p. 360 of AIR) their Lordships said :

'We recognise that solidarity of labour or general interest of labour welfare may furnish, in some cases, the necessary nexus of direct or substantial interest in a dispute between employers and workmen, but the principle of solidarity of the labour movement or general welfare of labour must be based on or correlated to the principle of community of interest; the workmen can raise a dispute in respect of those persons only in the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or the conditions of labour of whom they have a direct or substantial interest.'

13. Their Lordships extracted with approval the following passage in Narendra Kumar Sen v. All India Industrial Disputes, (Labour Appellate) Tribunal, 55 Born LR 125 at p. 131 : (AIR 1953 Bom 335 at p. 327) :

'Therefore when Section 2(k) speaks of the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or the conditions of labour of any person, it can only mean the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or the conditions of labour of only those persons in the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of whom the workmen themselves are directly and substantially interested. If the workmen have no direct or substantial interest in the employment or non-employment of a person or in his terms of employment or his conditions of labour, then an Industrial dispute cannot arise with regard to such person.'

14. As already observed, the Andhra Pradesh Union cannot be said to have a direct or substantial interest in the employment or non-employment of respondents 2 and 3 or their terms of employment or conditions of labour of the victimised employees. Thus, the test propounded in those rulings cannot be said to have been satisfied in this case. If that were so the dispute, which pertained to respondents 2 and 3 cannot be said to have be transformed into an industrial dispute so (sic) enable the Labour Court to adjudicate upon this dispute.

15. We have next to consider whether the other workmen at the Hyderabad Branch of the appellant, the teleprinter operator and the attender could be said to have made a common cause with respondents 2 and 3. Now, what are the acts that are attributable to them and that would transform the individual dispute into an industrial dispute? On 4th July, 1959, the tele-printer operator wrote to the General Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Union that he was shocked to learn of the dismissal of respondents 2 and 3 from service and he went on to say :

'I believe you are taking up the cause of Sri R. Sampath and Sri T. V. Krishna. I wish to extend my fullest support 10 any step which your union may take in this behalf. I belong to the Hyderabad Shops and Establishments Employees Union and realise the anti-labour tactics employed by the management of the Express Newspapers (P) Ltd., to suppress legitimate tcade union activities.'

16. A similar letter was sent by the at tender on 5-7-1959 to the General Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Union. By this letter, the attender also pledged his full support to the Union in regard to any steps it might take to obtain the redressal of the grievances of the two dismissed workmen. Beyond writing those two letters, they did not take any interest in the matter. Would these amount to espousal of the cause of the dismissed workmen by the other employees, so as to give the dispute the character of an industrial dispute? In our considered opinion, the mere writing of these two letters to the General Secretary o a Union, which is un-connected with the appellant, would not convert an individual dispute into an industrial dispute. They did not take any part in the initiation of the conciliation proceedings nor did they pass any resolution or address any letter to the Government. They also did not either make a protest to the appellant against the alleged victimisation of the two working journalists or make a demand upon it to re-instate them. By merely writing these two letters, it could not be said that they have made the question of the dismissal of respondents 2 and 3 an issue between them and their employer. Something more than this is necessary to make it an espousal by them of the cause of the aggrieved workmen.

17. We are re-inforced in this opinion of ours by Associated Cement Companies Ltd. v. Central Government Industrial Tribunal, Dhanbad, 1959-2 Lab LJ 639 at p. 644. It was observed there:

'There is no evidence at all to show that any of the workers at Kotma colliery or any union operating in that colliery took up their cases, raised a dispute, made a demand, passed any resolution or addressed any letter to the Government'.

18. In Lakshmi Talkies, Madras v. Muni-swami, 1955-2 Lab LJ 477 (Mad) Balakrishna Ayyar, J., while making a distinction between an association merely helping an employee and taking up his case as one which affects the general body pf workers and adopting it as its own said :

'A body of workers can make it plain to the management that it has made the cause of a particular worker its own in several other ways also as for instance by taking up his cause before the regularly constituted labour authorities.'

19. In our opinion, these observation tend support to the view that the mere promise of help to an outside agency in any attempt it may make to secure the redressal of the grievances of as individual worker is not tantamount to sponsoring the cause of an individual worker and as such an individual dispute cannot acquire the status of an industrial dispute.

20. It, is legitimate to refer here to the lad that the specific case of respondents 2 and 3 was that their case was espoused by the Union. It was not suggested by them that the other weaken were espousing their cause. In a statement of demand made under Rule 11 (2) of the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Disputes Rules, this is what the 2nd respondent stated :

'The Andhra Pradesh, Union, of working Journalists, Hyderabad, of which I am the President, has espoused my cause and has beea agitating against the highhanded and arbitrary, and vindictive action taken against me by the management. The Union is thus involved in a dispute with the management over the termination of my service'. To a similar effect is the allegation made by the 3rd respondent in his statement of demand under Rule 11 (2). We are not satisfied that by merely writing these two letters, the other workmen can be said to have adopted the dispute concerning these two victimised individuals as their own and thus converted what is prim a facie as individual dispute into an industrial dispute.

21. We have next to deal with the argument that there being only two working journalists in the establishment of the appellant and both of them being concerned in the dispute, their cause cannot but be held to have been taken up by the entirety of working journalists. It is not as if there were no other workmen in this industrial establishment, who could have espoused the cause of those workmen. As already mentioned; there were two others, besides respondents 2 and 3. We do not think we can accede to this view. It may be that there vent only two working journalists in the Hydeerabad Branch of the appellant but that does not change the nature of the dispute. It is all the same a dispute entirely personal to these two individuals and not a collective dispute. It is urged by Sri Kriahnamurthi for respondents 2 and 3 that the other two workmen could not make common cause with respondents 2 and 3 as they were not working journalists and that employees doing the same kind of work in an industrial establishment could spansor the cause of one another.

In support of this contention, reliance is placed upon The B and C Co., Ltd. v. The B and C Mills Staff Union, : (1959)IILLJ781Mad . We do not think that that case it of any help to respondents 2 and 3. One of the questions that presented itself there was whether a few workmen in one section of an industrial establishment, the workmen of which fall into a number of well defined sections, could raise an industrial dispute within the purview of Section 2(k) of de-Act and it was answered in the affirmative. It was stated there that in establishments which employ several well-defined sections of workmen and had several units it could not be said that the entire establishment should be treated as one unit to decide whether the dispute raised by the workmen in one unit has the backing of the majority or not. It is not an authority for the proposition that only workmen doing the same type of work as the victimised workmen could espouse the cause of the aggrieved workmen. The only condition that should be satisfied in this regard is that those who sponsor the dispute should be workmen attached to the Industrial establishment against which a dispute was sought to be raised.

22. It was held by the Supreme Court in New India Motors (P) Ltd., New Delhi v. K. T. Morris, : (1960)ILLJ551SC that an individual dispute could not become an industrial dispute at the instance of the aggrieved individual himself and that there should be a dispute between the employer on the one hand and his employees acting collectively on the other. This rule is contained in the following remarks of their Lordships :

'It is well settled that before any dispute between the employer and his employee or employees can be said to be an industrial dispute under the Act, it must be sponsored by a number of workmen or by a Union representing them. It is not necessary that the number of workmen of the Union that sponsors the dispute should represent the majority of workmen. Even so, an individual dispute cannot become an industrial dispute at the instance of the aggrieved individual himself.'

23. It is thus clear that there cannot be an industrial dispute unless the cause of the aggrieved workmen or group of workmen is taken up by some of the workmen employed in the establishment. If the cause of the victimised workmen is not taken up by some of the other employees of the employer, the dispute remains an individual dispute and not an industrial dispute.

24. We are not here called upon to consider as to what the legal position would be if the dismissed workmen were the only employees of the employer.

25. The pre-requisite of the jurisdiction of the Labour Court to decide the reference being the existence of an industrial dispute and that being absent here, we feel that the Labour Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the reference. Since we uphold the objection as to the competence of the Labour Court to answer the reference, the order of the Tribunal would be quashed and the appeal allowed. There will be no order as to costs.


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