1. These two writ petitions raise the question as to the jurisdiction and powers of the Registrar under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), in cases where there is a change of office-bearers in the period intervening the submission of annual audit statement of account.
2. The facts in Writ Petition No. 85 of 1967 are that the petitioner therein claims to be the president of the Sirsilk Employees' Union, Sirpur, which is a registered trade union bearing register No. 67. It is stated that in the election held on 29 January 1966, the petitioner was elected as the president and the election of the office-bearers was communicated to the Registrar of Trade Unions under the provisions of the Act along with the annual auditor's statement of account as provided for in Section 28, Sub-section (2) of the Act.
3. The union had placed before the management the demands with regard to the weaving department and a letter was addressed by the general secretary of the union to the management concerned on 4 September 1966, On the refusal of the management to accede to the said demands and on failure of the conciliation proceedings, the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued a notification making a reference to the industrial tribunal of certain demands on behalf of the union. The union was also asked to take a ballot in the last week of October 1966, in regard to the demands made on behalf of the union. It is alleged in the affidavit that the Minister for Labour and the Labour Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh made common cause with respondent 3 who had in fact nothing to do with the workmen of the Sirsilk factory. Respondent 3 tried to form a rival union and made an application for the registration of that union and registration No. 2976 was also allotted to the said union. Respondent 3 having found that the formation of the rival union was not in any way going to affect or otherwise prejudicially disturb the union of which the petitioner was the president, it is alleged in the affidavit that he formed an ad hoc committee without any reference or notice to the petitioner or to the office-bearers of the union bearing register No. 67 and elected some office-bearers disclosing respondent 3 as the president. The so-called election of respondent 3 and the office-bearers is challenged by the petitioner on the ground that they had no right or authority to convene any general council meeting and all the proceedings alleged to have been taken by them in the general council are void and ineffective.
4. The factory manager addressed a letter to the secretary of the petitioner's union on 29 October 1966, asking for comments regarding the formation of the ad hoc committee and alike. The general secretary of the petitioner's union gave a detailed reply stating that having regard to the rules and bylaws of the Sirsilk Employees' Union, the question of calling any general council without the authorization of the president or the general secretary did not arise and that the alleged formation of ad hoc committee and subsequent elections of officebearers was absolutely illegal. The Registrar of Trade Unions, who has been made respondent 1 without any reference to the petitioner or the general secretary of his union, informed the manager of the Sirsilk Factory by his letter No. G4/37435/66, dated 6 January 1967, that the new set of officebearers withG. Venkataswami (respondent 3) as the president of the Sirsilk Employees' Union, Sirpur, bearing registration No. 67, according to the assessment made by the department, are the true representatives of the union. It is this communication by the Registrar to respondent 2 that is being challenged in this writ petition as without jurisdiction and without authority.
5. Respondent 1 in his counter-affidavit has stated that as a no-confidence motion was passed by the members of the union expressing no confidence in the petitioner and the office-bearers elected earlier, the members of the union had sent a requisition to convene a meeting of the general council which was not done by the petitioner or the then general secretary as they had no hold over the union. It is further stated that the labour officer, Karimnagar, who had been deputed to make enquiry in the case, had asked the first general secretary to place before him the strength of the membership and latest membership receipts which he failed to do. As the meeting requisitioned by the members was not called for, the members formed an ad hoc committee and then proceeded to elect the new office-bearers. His contention, therefore, was that the Registrar was right in accepting the new office-bearers as the true representatives of the union.
6. In the counter-affidavit filed by the new vice-president of the union on behalf of respondent 3 it was stated that the members of the union who were surprised and taken aback by the strike notice, called upon the president and general secretary to convene a general body meeting of the union. As they failed to convene the meeting, the members of the union as per rules assembled and passed resolutions removing the president and the office-bearers from their positions. It is stated that the formation of the ad hoc committee and the election of the new office-bearers is according to the rules and bylaws of the union.
7. It is not necessary to refer to the counter-affidavit filed by respondent 2 as it does not take any sides in the matter.
8. Writ Petition No. 1457 of 1967 is filed by the petitioner styling himself as the general secretary of the Biological Employees' Union, registered with registration No. 2325. The petitioner was elected as the secretary of the union in 1965 and alleges he continues in that capacity till the filing of the petition. Respondent 5 was the president daring the period 1962-64. In the elections held in May 1965, respondent 5 was removed from the office of the presidentship and another person was elected as the president in his place. In the election held in May 1966, respondent 6 was elected as the president. The election of the officebearers was duly reported to the Registrar under the provisions of Section 28(2) of the Act. In 1962 an agreement was reached between the management and the union which was to remain in force for a period of five years ending with December 1966. The union having realized during the year 1966 that the agreement required certain drastic changes, started negotiations with the management with a view to make such modifications. The working committee meeting of the union was convened on 6 May 1967, and it was duly presided over by respondent 6. It is alleged that in the said working committee, the draft of the fresh agreement to be entered with the management was considered. Respondent 6 was not in favour of the draft under consideration. It was finally agreed in the said working committee that the draft should be considered by the general body meeting of the union. Accordingly an emergency meeting of the general body was convened on 7 May 1967, to consider the draft agreement, On that date the general body was presided over by respondent 6. Respondent 6 and his supporters found that the consensus of the meeting was against their proposal for scrapping up the agreement. They therefore suggested that the elections to the working committee should be conducted which was seriously objected to by the petitioner. As the suggestion of respondent 6 was not carried out, his supporters and some outside elements created disturbance in the meeting and the meeting was abruptly closed. The petitioner alleged that he was surprised to find the very next day, i.e., 8 May 1967, respondent 6 began canvassing that the elections of the members of the working-committee were conducted at the meeting held on 7 May 1967, and respondent 5 was elected as the president, respondent 6 as the secretary and respondent 7 as the treasurer. Respondents 5 to 7 thereafter started addressing themselves letters to the first four respondents styling themselves as the office-bearers of the union. They also started pressing upon the management to enter into negotiations with them on the said agreement. Thereupon, the petitioner convened a general body meeting of the union on 18 June 1967, by a notice dated 2 June 1967. In that meeting a resolution was adopted declaring that respondents 5 to 7 did not represent the workers of the union. Fresh elections were conducted in the meeting dated 18 June 1967 whereunder one K. Eshwar Rao was elected as the president and the petitioner was elected as the general secretary. As Eshwar Rao tendered his resignation on the ground of ill-health, another emergency meeting of the general body was called for on 22 June 1967, in which G. Sanjeeva Reddi,M.L.A., was elected as the president of the union. Intimation of this election was given by the petitioner to the Registrar and other authorities in the Labour Department and he sought the necessary registers to be amended incorporating the names of the new office-bearers.
9. After this, the management began addressing series of letters to respondents 1 and 2 inviting them to adjudicate in regard to the legality or otherwise of the elections stated to have been held on 7 May 1967. Respondent 3, i.e., the management, put up a notice on 13 July 1967, indicating that respondent 2 by his letter dated 4 July 1967, had informed that respondent 5 and other office-bearers and members of the working committee were lawful and constitutional representatives of the union. On this, the petitioner contacted respondent 2 and was informed that respondent 1 had issued memorandum No. G4/17891/67, dated 29 June 1957, that in the elections held on 7 May 1967, respondent 5 and others were elected as officebearers. It is the legality and propriety of this memorandum that is being challenged in this writ petition.
10. It is alleged that no elections took place in the general body meeting held on 7 May 1967, and that the said general body meeting-had not been convened after fifteen days' notice for purposes of conducting elections.
11. Respondent 6 has filed a counter-affidavit on behalf of respondents 5 to 7. According to him, the working committee met on 8 April 1967, and decided that the general body meeting of the union should be held on 7 July 1967, to discuss the finalization of demands and for electing new office-bearers of the working committee and for adopting the statement of accounts. As such, a notice was given to all the members and the petitioner attended all the working committee meetings held subsequently, i.e., on 9 April 1967, 22 April 1967 and 6 May 1967, and the general body meeting on 23 April 1937. Accordingly, the elections were held on 7 May 1987, and are valid. As regards the convening of the meeting on 18 June 1937 it is alleged that as per the bylaws, the general secretary had no power to convene a general body meeting and it is only the president who can call a general body meeting on requisition as per bylaw 23. It is contended that in fact no meeting was held on 18 June 1987. It is also contended that the petitioner approached respondent 1 to verify the minutes and other records of the union. The petitioner is estopped from filing the writ petition having-failed to get a favourable order before respondent 1.
12. From the affidavits and the counter-affidavits set out above, it is evident that the main dispute between the parties is in regard to the elections which admittedly cannot be decided in these proceedings. The proper remedy for the petitioners to adopt in both the writ petitions is to file civil suits challenging the elections of the new office-bearers.
13. It was argued on behalf of the learned counsel for the petitioners that these writ petitions have been filed with the limited intention of getting the proceedings of the Registrar recognizing the new office-bearers in case of both the unions set aside. The contention centres round the provisions of Section 28 of the Act. Section 28 enjoins that there shall be sent annually to the Registrar on or before such date as may be prescribed a general statement, audited in the prescribed manner, of all receipts and expenditure of every registered trade union during the year ending on 31 December next preceding such prescribed date, and of the assets and liabilities of the trade union existing on such 31 December. Sub-section (2) of that section states:
Together with the general statement there shall be sent to the Registrar a statement showing all changes of office bearers made by the trade union during the year to which the general statement refers, together also with a copy of the rules of the trade union corrected up to the date of the despatch thereof to the Registrar.
14. It is on the provisions of Sub-section (2) that the learned counsel for the petitioners contends that Section 28(2) envisages sending of the statement showing1 all the changes of officebearers along with the statement referred to in Sub-section (1). Under Sub-section (1) the statement has to be sent annually on or before the prescribed date, such prescribed date, being 31 May, For this argument, reliance is placed on the word'together' I appearing in Sub-section (2). Further reliance is placed on Sub-see. (3) of the said section wherein it is stated that a copy of every alteration made in the rules of a registered trade union shall be sent to the Registrar within fifteen days of the making of the alteration. The argument is that where the legislature intended that statement should be sent to the Registrar even otherwise than with the annual statement, specific provision was made in Sub-section (3) providing for the alteration of the rules to to be sent within fifteen days of the making of the alteration.
15. The learned Second Government Pleader did not oppose the construction put by the learned counsel for the petitioners on Sub-section (2) of Section 28 of the Act His contention was that Sub-section (2) makes it obligatory upon the office-bearers to send the statement of changes of office-bearers along with the annual statement. But if any change of office-bearers occurs during the period between the two annual statements, there is nothing to preclude the office bearers from sending such statement and the Registrar from considering such a statement. According to him, the purpose of Bending the statement to the Registrar is to enable him to keep his record up-to-date as certain duties and liabilities have been cast upon the office-bearers by the provisions of the Act. That being so, it is the duty of the Registrar to keep the record up-to-date and if necessary to enquire and come to a conclusion as to whether a particular set of office-bearers does really represent the union and has been validly elected. It cannot be said that any decision of the Registrar is binding either on any set of office-bearers or on the management as such. It may be that because of a particular proceeding by the Registrar, which has the effect of recognizing a particular set of office-bearers, the other set may have a grievance inasmuch as such set of office-bearers will not be recognized by the management and may be in a position to discharge the duties under the Act; but that does not give them any right to file a writ petition for an order to quash the proceedings of the Registrar.
16. No specific provision has been made in the Act empowering the Registrar to make an enquiry when a statement of election of office-bearers is sent to him. Similarly, no duty has been cast upon the Registrar that he should accept the statement of the change of office-bearers as sent to him. A duty for maintaining the record having been cast upon the Registrar, it follows that he has got the necessary power to ascertain for his own purpose which set of office-bearers has been validly elected and represents the union. These powers are ancillary to the main powers given to the Registrar under the Act. The contention of the petitioners cannot be accepted that the Registrar could not have enquired into the matter at all and reach his own conclusion. This observation of mine receives support from a decision of the Patna High Court in A.C.C. Rajanka Limestone Quarries Mazdoor Union v. Registrar of Trade Unions 1953--II L.L.J. 458.
17. The petitioners do not seem to complain against the Registrar making an enquiry and coming to a conclusion of his own. But the complaint is that he had no power to communicate his decision to the management. I find force in this argument of the learned counsel for the petitioners. As far as Writ Petition No. 85 of 1967 is concerned, the communication by the Registrar that the new set of office-bearers is the true representative of the union is outside the purview of the Act and cannot be justified by any provisions therein. As regards Writ Petition No. 1457 of 1967 it is a communication made by the Registrar to the Regional Assistant Commissioner with a copy to the labour officer, Hyderabad-2. Evidently this communication is only inter-departmental and is purely administrative and cannot be questioned by the writ petitioner therein.
18. It was argued by the learned Second Government Pleader that as the petitioner's rights are not affected by the two communications challenged in both the writ petitions, the petitioners therein have no right to file these writ petitions. The learned counsel for the petitioners was not able to show to me as to how the petitioner's rights are affected by the two communications. As already stated, the real dispute between the parties is the election dispute for which the only proper remedy is a civil suit, As the petitioner's rights are not affected by the impugned communications, these writ petitions are dismissed with costs. Second Government Pleader's fee Rs. 100 in each writpetition.