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The Sirsilk Limited Vs. the Secretary to Govt., Labour Dept., Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Appeal No. 120 of 1959
Reported inAIR1960AP373; (1960)ILLJ614AP
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 15, 17, 17(1), 19(4) and 36A
AppellantThe Sirsilk Limited
RespondentThe Secretary to Govt., Labour Dept., Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and anr.
Appellant AdvocateN.A. Athalye and ;I. Panduranga Rao, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateP. Ramachandra Reddy, 3rd Government Pleader
DispositionAppeal dismissed
.....enquiry before publication of award under section 17 - section 17 only contemplates publication of award by government within prescribed time - legislature was not intended to give government power of inquiry under section 17 - held, no inquiry is required. - maximssections 2(xv) & 3(1) & (3): [v.v.s. rao, n.v. ramana & p.s. narayana, jj] ghee as a live stock product held, [per v.v.s. rao & n.v. ramana, jj - majority] since ages, milk is preserved by souring with aid of lactic cultures. the first of such resultant products developed is curd or yogurt (dahi) obtained by fermenting milk. dahi when subjected to churning yields butter (makkhan) and buttermilk as by product. the shelf life of dahi is two days whereas that of butter is a week. by simmering unsalted butter in a pot support of this appeal that the tribunal had become functus officio as soon as it submitted its award to the government under section 15. the point presented is that the industrial tribunal being a creature of the statute, it has no powers except those that are conferred by it either expressly or by necessary implication and that therefore it had no power to cancel the award already made and make a new award in its stead. we think that there is force in the contention. this is not controverted by the government. it is only when the matter is referred back to it by the appropriate government for consideration whether the period of operation should be shortened or for removing difficulties in regard to the interpretation of any of the clauses as envisaged by sections 19(4) and 36a.....

Chandra Reddy, C. J.

1. In this Writ Appeal filed against the judgment of Bhimasankaram J., the controversy revolves round the interpretation of Section 17 of the Industrial Disputed Act, 1947.

2. The facts material for this enquiry are in a narrow compass. The appellant is a company known as the Sirsilk Ltd., limited by shares incorporated under the Indian Companies Act with its registered office at Hyderabad and is the employer. The 2nd respondent is the General Secretary, the Sirsilk Ltd. Employee's Union, and represents the workmen of the company. Some time in 1956 a dispute arose between the workmen and the management and efforts at conciliation having failed, the Government referred the dispute to the Industrial Tribunal. After an elaborate enquiry, the Tribu-nal submitted its award in the middle of September, 1957. Some time thereafter, but before the award could be published i.e., on 1-10-1957, the management and the workers arrived at a settlement which provided inter alia that all the cases pending before the Industrial Tribunal, the High Court, or any judicial or Governmental authority or with the Payment of Wages Authority will stand withdrawn and settled.

Three days later, a letter was sent to the Secretary, Labour Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh, by the management along with a letter signed by the General Secretary of the Employees' Union intimating the Government that the dispute between the parties had been settled. It also contained a request that urgent directions should be issued to the printing press to withhold the publication of any award forwarded by the Industrial Tribunal. The appellant was informed that this could not be complied with as the Government was bound to publish it under the terms of the Act.

3. Thereupon the appellant filed the petition giving rise to this appeal seeking the issuance of a Writ in the nature of mandamus to direct the Secretary, Labour Department, to forbear from publishing the award. The main ground urged in support of the petition was that as the dispute had been settled between the parties, it was unnecessary for the Government to make the publication and that the publication would disturb the industrial peace and harmony that was sought to be achieved by the settlement and thus defeat the very object of the Act which was designed to secure amity and harmony between workers and employers. The petition was contested only by the 1st respondent the Secretary to Government, Labour Department and the workmen remaining ex parte.

4. The learned Judge thought that the apprehension entertained by the appellant as regards the effect of the publication of the award was reasonable and it was therefore necessary that some procedure should be devised to prevent the publication of the award. In this view he held that it was open to the parties to bring the settlement to the notice of the Tribunal and ask it to make its award and when the new award was submitted, the Government would be bound to publish it and that it would be enforceable between the parties. In his opinion it was competent for the Tribunal to submit a second award incorporating any settlement that had been arrived at between the workmen and the employer.

5. This conclusion of the learned Judge is assailed by the appellant as also by the Government.

6. It is urged in support of this appeal that the Tribunal had become functus officio as soon as it submitted its award to the Government under Section 15. The point presented is that the Industrial Tribunal being a creature of the statute, it has no powers except those that are conferred by it either expressly or by necessary implication and that therefore it had no power to cancel the award already made and make a new award in its stead.

We think that there is force in the contention. This is not controverted by the Government. It is only when the matter is referred back to it by the appropriate Government for consideration whether the period of operation should be shortened or for removing difficulties in regard to the interpretation of any of the clauses as envisaged by Sections 19(4) and 36A respectively that the Tribunal will be seized of the matter and for the purposes mentioned in those two provisions of the Act.

The appropriate Government can refer the award only in those two contingencies and in none other. Our attention is not drawn to any other provision in the enactment which enables the Tribunal to cancel its award already submitted to the Gov-eminent and make a new one. We are inclined to hold that when once an award is made by a Tribunal, it has no jurisdiction to make another award in supersession of the first either suo motu or on being moved by the parties. It is only when a reference is made under Section 19(4) and 36A that the Tribunal could either shorten the period of operation or interpret its award.

7. It is further maintained that apart from) these considerations if the procedure indicated by the learned Judge is to be adopted, the workmen would repudiate the settlement and the matter will be re-agitated once again. We are not here called upon to express any opinion on this matter as we are only concerned with the question whether the Government could be prevented from publishing the award.

8. The chief point presented in support of this appeal is that the dispute having ceased to exist by reason, of its having been settled, the jurisdiction of the Government to proceed further in the matter has come to an end. It is also urged that the publication of the award would revive the acrimonious controversies between the parties and affect the harmonious relations that are likely to result fromi the settlement. On the other hand, the stand taken by the Government is that Section 17 casts a duty on the Government to publish the award and, therefore, the Government cannot withhold it, whatever might be the consequences of giving effect to Section 17. It is also submitted that the publication would not adversely affect the position of the management because under Section 18 the settlement arrived at between the parties would bind the parties to the agreement and any breach of the settlement is punishable Under Section 29 of the Act.

9. IN order to appreciate the relative conten-tions, it is useful to bear in mind the scheme of the Act. This legislation was designed to secure and preserve good relations between the management and their employees and to maintain industrial peace and amity. It is for this purpose that Section 3 was enacted to establish Works Committees, which have to initiate measures for bringing about har-mony and good relations between employers and) employees. In the event of the failure of this Committee to settle disputes, Conciliation Officers and Boards of Conciliation would assist parties to amicably settle matters,

It is only when the machinery contemplated by Sections 3, 4, 5, 12 and 13 is unable to effect a settlement between employers and workmen that the Govern- ment steps in to refer the dispute either to Labour Courts or Tribunals under Section 10 of the Act, Government performs only an administrative function when it acts under Section 10. Before Section 10 is invoked, the appropriate Government should he satisfied that an industrial dispute exists or is apprehended. But once the Government is convinced that a dispute exists or is likely to arise and makes a reference, it cannot either withdraw the reference or cancel it.

Thereafter, it is the Tribunal that is seized of the matter that has to enquire into the depute and make an award on the basis of its enquiry or embody the terms of a settlement if one is arrived at between the parties during the pendency of theproceedings before the Tribunal. The Government as no further concern with the matter except to perform the functions assigned to them under Sections 17, 17A, 19(4) and 36A. In the present case, the Government is not called upon to give effect to Section 17A or 19(4) or 36A. Having received the report of the Tribunal, it proposes to have recourse to Section 17.

10. The only question is whether the Government is bound to publish the award on receipt of it from the Tribunal or to withhold it taking note of the fact that the parties have arrived at a settle-ment. At this stage, it is convenient to read Section 17 :

'(1) Every report of a Board or Court together with any minute of dissent recorded therewith every arbitration award and every award of a Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal shall, within a period of thirty days from the date of its receipt by the appropriate Government, be published in such manner as the appropriate Government thinks fit.

(2) Subject to the provisions of Section 17A the award published under Sub-section (1) shall be final and shall not be called in question by any court in any manner whatsoever.' ... It is clear that the Section is couchedin a mandatory form, thus making it obligatory on the appropriate Government to publish the award within a period of thirty days.

11. We have next to consider whether the jurisdiction of the Government to resort to Section 17 is determined, the moment the parties have reached a settlement as contended by the counsel for the appellant. This argument implies that the Government has power to enquire into the question whether there nas been a binding settlement of the dispute between the parties. In other words, the Government has to decide whether, in fact, an agreement has been reached between the parties and whether that binds them. For this purpose, they have to embark upon an enquiry because they must be satisfied that in fact a settlement has been arrived at between the representatives of the management and the workmen and also that it binds all the workmen involved in the dispute.

Supposing after the memorandum of agreement is sent to the appropriate Government, the representative of the workmen represent to Government that the agreement was the result of fraud or misrepresentation or undue influence or that it does not bind all of them since their representative had bartered away their interests for personal considerations. The Government has to investigate into the matter and then only decide whether it should publish the award or not under Section 17, if the argument of the learned Counsel for the appellant is to prevail. But we do not think that any such power is contemplat-ed by the Act. Our attention is not drawn to any statutory provision enabling the Government to undertake such an enquiry or even to take note of the settlement and drop further proceedings.

That would be clothing the appropriate Gov-ernment with enormous powers which was not the intention of the legislature to do. It should be remembered that Government has no inherent powers in this behalf and that it has only such jurisdiction with which it has been invested by the statute.

12. In State of Bihar v. D N. Ganguly, : (1958)IILLJ634SC , the Supreme Court has laid down that, when once a reference has been made by the appropriate Government under Section 10, It is not competent for the Government to cancel the reference though the parties have settled the dispute and it was exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to make an award embodying the settlement and bind the parties subject to the special powers conferred on the Government under Sections 17A and 19 as the Act contains no provision empowering the Government to revoke the reference. On the analogy of this ruling, we must hold that it is not within the competence of the appropriate Government to launch upon an enquiry as to the continuance of an industrial dispute. The absence of provisions in that behalf is inconsistent with such a power. When once the appropriate Government puts into operation Section 10, it stands outside the purview of further proceedings except to discharge the duties imposed on it by Section 17.

13. It was alternatively contended that the publication of the award being discretionary with the Government, in exercise of that discretion, the publication should be withheld for the reasons already mentioned. The word 'shall' as used in that section is not imperative but has only permissive force; the language is one of permission. The word 'shall' need not always be regarded as imperative and that in certain contexts it is used as a language of permission, continued the learned Counsel. The last proposition is not open to any exception.

14. But it is a golden rule of construction that words should be given their ordinary meaning and that phrases and sentences should be construed according to rules of grammar. As pointed out in Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes :

'It is very desirable in all cases to adhere to the words of an Act of Parliament, giving to them that sense which is their natural import in the order in which they are placed.'

There is no reason why we should not give the natural and ordinary meaning to that word occurring in that Section. Therefore, wo should give that expression its prima rfacie meaning. We are not aware of any circumstance which warrants a departure from this rule of construction and to interpret it as having only a permissive force. On the other hand, having regard to the considerations pointed out above, we think that the word is used in an imperative sense and that the legislature did not want to leave it to the discretion of the Government either to publish an award or not to publish it. There Can be little doubt that the word has compulsory force and that the section has not invested the Government with discretion in the matter. Assuming that the Government possesses such a discretion this Court cannot compel the Government to withhold publication as it is for the concerned authority to consider whether the award should be published in a particular context or not.

15. For the above reasons, we hold that the directions asked for could not issue to the Government and the appeal has to be dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/-.

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