Gangadhara Rao, J.
1. This appeal is filed by the Andhra Bank Employees' Association against the Judgment of Ramachandra Raju., in Writ Petition No. 1385/1974 dated 9th December, 1975 ((35) F.L.R. 144). The respondent is the Andhra Bank,
2. The Government made a reference to the Industrial Tribunal at Hyderabad to the following effect :
Whether the policy adopted by the Management of the Andhra Bank regarding the fitment of clerical employees on promotion to Grade III officers is uniform in respect of all employees of the Bank and whether it is fair and justified If not, to what relief the employees affected are entitled
The clerks of the respondent-Bank are promoted by fitment as Grade III officers. Grade III officer draws more than Rs. 500 per month and is a supervisory post. The respondent-Bank evolved a formula in 1966 relating to the fitment. Subsequently in 1969 and 1972 the respondent-Bank is alleged to have evolved a different formula as to the fitment. According, to the appellant, the two subsequent formulas create discrimination in the emoluments of the promotees. It is stated that nine employees of the clerical cadre declined to accept promotion as Grade III officers. Consequently, they claim that the earlier formula of 1966 has to be applied to the promotees, and the formulas of 1969 and 1972 have to be struck down as unfair and illegal.
3. The respondent-Bank raised a preliminary objection. It was contended that since the demand by the union was with regard to the fitment of Grade III officers and as those officers are not workmen within the meaning of the Industrial Disputes Act, no Industrial Dispute exists and, therefore, the reference was incompetent.
4. The Industrial Tribunal negatived the preliminary objection. Questioning that order, the Andhra Bank filed Writ Petition No. 1385/ 1974. Ramachandra Raju, J., observed that two questions arose for his consideration in the writ petition. First, whether the clerical staff of the Bank could raise the dispute because the dispute did not relate to their employment of conditions of their employment as clerks and (2) whether the Industrial Tribunal is competent under the Industrial Disputes Act to decide the dispute relating to the employment or conditions of service of Grade III officers of the Bank, who draw a minimum salary exceeding Rs. 500 per month, and, therefore, are not workmen as per the definition of the term 'Workmen ?' The learned Judge decided the first question in favour of the Employees' Association and the second question against them. In the result, the learned Judge held that there was no Industrial Dispute and thereby allowed the writ petition. Questioning that judgment the Employees' Association has filed this writ appeal.
5. It is submitted by Sri V. Jagannadha Rao, the learned Counsel for the appellant, that the fitment is not in dispute ; what is in dispute is the discrimination made in fitment ; the dispute does not refer to the conditions of non-workmen and, therefore, it is an Industrial dispute. It is also submitted by him that the second question raised by Ramachandra Raju, J., does not arise, for it is not part of the reference.
6. In the present case the dispute is raised by the Employees' Association on behalf of the clerical staff of the Bank. It is not disputed that the clerical staff are workmen. Their wages to begin with are less than Rs. 500 per month. They are entitled for promotion by fitment as Grade III officers. The salary of Grade III officers is more than Rs. 500 per month. It is stated that the nature of their duties are supervisory. It is not also disputed that a Grade III officer is not a workman within the meaning of the Industrial Disputes Act.
7. The only question for our consideration is whether the clerical staff, who are workmen, can raise a dispute with regard to their promotion by fitment into the category of Grade III officers who are non-workmen ?
8. Section 2(k) of the Industrial Disputes Act defines ' Industrial dispute ' as meaning,' 'any dispute or difference between employees and employers, or between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour, of any person.' To the extent it is the relevant for the purpose of this case, it means, first, there must be a dispute or difference ; second, it must be between the employers and workmen ; third, it must be connected with (a) employment or non-employment or (b) terms of employment or (c) the conditions of labour and, fourth it can be of any person. Promotion is a term of employment. In this case, the clerks are concerned with the method and manner of their Own promotion as Grade III officers. If so, it is an industrial dispute. They are not agitating for the grievance of any non-workman. Even otherwise, the expression used is ' any person ' and not' a workman '. The Supreme Court had occasion to consider this question in Workmen, Dimakuchi Tea Estate v. Management, D.T.E. : (1958)ILLJ500SC . They held ' that the expression 'any person ' in Section 2(k) of the Act must be read subject to such limitations and qualifications as arise from the context ; the two crucial limitations are (1) the dispute must be a real dispute between the parties to the dispute (as indicated in the first two parts of the definition clause) so as to be capable of settlement or adjudication by one party to the dispute giving necessary relief to the other, and (2) the person regarding whom the dispute is raised must be one in whose employment, non-employment, terms of employment, or conditions of labour (as the case may be) the parties to the dispute have a direct or substantial interest. In the absence of such interest the dispute cannot be said to be a real dispute between the parties. Where the workmen raise a dispute as against their employer, the person regarding whose employment, non-employment, terms of employment or conditions of labour the dispute is raised need not be, strictly speaking, a ' workman' within the meaning of the Act but must be one in whose employment, non-employment, terms of employment or conditions of labour the workmen as a class have a direct or substantial interest.'
9. Now we will refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in R.B. Employees' Asscn. v. Reserve Bank : (1965)IILLJ175SC , which throws some light in the question. In that case, the Central Government made a reference under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act on the ground that an Industrial dispute existed between the Reserve Bank and its workmen belonging to Classes II, III and IV. The order of reference specified the heads of dispute in two schedules, the first in respect of Classes II and III staff and the second in respect of Class IV staff. The first schedule consisted of 22 items and the second of 23 items. These items (a considerable number of which are common to the two schdules) bear upon the scales of pay and dearness and other allowances and sundry matters connected with the conditions of service of the three classes. The National Industrial Tribunal decided some of the items in favour of the employees and some against them. Ultimately, the dispute centre round two major points. The first concerning the employees of Class II. This class of employees was in the scales of pay ranging from Rs. 250 to Rs. 650. The Reserve Bank pleaded that the reference concerned only those employees who came within the definition of ' workman ' in the Industrial Disputes Act, and it was futile to fix a time scale for Class II staff because every incumbent in it was employed in a supervisory capacity and in course of time he would be drawing wages in excess of Rs. 500 per month. It also contended that a dispute could only be raised provided a workman continued to be a workman as defined, at the time of the dispute, at the time of the award during the currency of the award. The Employees' Asscociation contended, among other things, that persons who are workmen could raise an industrial dispute regarding their conditions of service not only at stages when they would be workmen but also at stages when they would cease to be workmen under the same employer, and that workmen could raise a dispute on behalf of non-workmen in the same establishment provided they had a direct and substantial interest in the dispute and had a community of interest with such non-workmen. The Tribunal accepted the contention of the Reserve Bank. During the pendency of the dispute, the scales of pay, dearness allowance and house-rent allowance, etc., for Class II staff were increased by the Reserve Bank. The minimum total emoluments even at the commencement of service of each and every member of Class II staff exceeded Rs. 500 per month. That was done with a view to withdrawing the whole Class from the ambit of the reference. Before the Supreme Court on behalf of the workmen the scales were accepted as generous. On behalf of the employees it was contended that the exclusion of Class II staff was based on a wrong construction of the definition of ' workman' and the misunderstanding of the duties of Class II employees who had been wrongly classed as supervisors. Alternatively, it was contended that as Class II was filled by promotion from Class III, the question should have been gone into in view of the principle enunciated in Workmen of Dimakuchi Tea Estate : (1958)ILLJ500SC . The Supreme Court held that since some at least of Class II employees were drawing wages below Rs. 500 when the reference was made, it was a valid reference and the National Tribunal was not right in ignoring that class altogether. They further held that the Tribunal was not justified in holding that if at a future time an incumbent would draw wage in the time scale in excess of Rs. 500, the matter must be taken to be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Central Government to make a reference in respect of him and the National Tribunal to be ousted of the jurisdiction to decide the dispute if referred. Supervisory staff drawing less than Rs. 500 per month cannot be debarred from claiming that they should draw more than Rs. 500 presently or at some future stage in their service. They can only be deprived of the benefits if they are non-workmen at the time they seek the protection of the Industrial Disputes Act.
10. Then the Supreme Court referred to Dimakuchi Tea Estate case (supra) and observed that the decision lays down that, ' when the workmen raise an industrial dispute against an employer, the person regarding whom the dispute is raised need not strictly be a ' workman ' but may be one in whose terms of employment or conditions of labour the workmen raising the dispute have a direct and substantial interest'. After referring to the definition ' industrial dispute ' in Section 2(k) of the Act, the Supreme Court held that, it must be a dispute which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour of any person. The word ' person ' has not been limited to ' workman ' as such and must, therefore, receive a more general meaning. But it does not mean any person unconnected with the disputants in relation to whom the dispute is not of the kind described. It could not have been intended that though the dispute does not concern them in the least, workmen are entitled to fight it on behalf of non-workmen. The subsequent observations of the Supreme Court are important. They held :
It may, however, be said that if the dispute is regarding employment, non-employment, terms of employment or conditions of labour of non-workmen, in which workmen are themselves vitally interested, the work may be able to raise an industrial dispute. Workmen can, for example, raise a dispute that a class of employees not within the definition of workmen should be recruited by promotion from workmen. When they do so the workmen raise a dispute about the terms of their own employment though incidentally the terms of employment of those who are not workmen is involved. But workmen cannot take up a dispute in respect of a class of employees who are not workmen and in whose terms of employment those workmen have no direct interest of their own. What direct interest suffices is a question of fact but it must be a real and position interest and not fanciful or remote.
(emphasis is ours).
They finally held that the National Tribunal was in error in not considering the claims of Class II employees and they observed that they would have considered the scales applicable to Class II, but for the fact that the Reserve Bank had fixed the scales which were admitted to be quite generous. We are not concerned for the purpose of this appeal with the other questions decided by the Supreme Court in that decision.
11. In view of this decision and particularly the observations of the Supreme Court underlined by us, it becomes evident that the workmen ' can raise a dispute that a class of employees not within the definition of workman should be recruited by promotion from workmen, and when they do so, the workmen raise a dispute about the terms of their own employment though incidentally the terms of employment of those who are not workmen is involved. But they cannot take up such a dispute if they have no direct interest of their own. What is the position in this case The clerical staff who are workmen are raising the dispute with regard to their terms of employment, i.e., promotion to the category of Grade III officers, who are not workmen. Their grievances is that the promotion made to that category by fitment is discriminatory. While raising a dispute about the terms of their own employments, though incidentally the terms of employment of Grade III officers who are not workmen involved, they are not agitating for revision of pay scales of Grade III officers. It cannot be disputed that they have a direct interest in the matter for their next stage of promotion is to the category of Grade III officers by fitment.
12. We may also refer to the latter decision of the Supreme Court in Workmen G.C. & Co. v. G.C. & Co. : (1971)IILLJ479SC . In that case the question was whether the Foremen (Supervisors) were not workmen within the definition given in the Act, and no wage scales in respect of the supervisors in the respondent-company should be fixed. The Tribunal held that the supervisors were not workmen within the meaning of the Act and rejected their claim for revision of their wages scales. Five contentions were raised in the Supreme Court of which we are concerned only with contentions 3 and 4. The third contention was whether supervisors getting less than Rs. 500 per month on the crucial date, namely, the date of reference can raise a dispute regarding wages which take them beyond Rs. 500 The fourth contention was whether workmen can raise a dispute about non-workmen, as regards terms of employment of non-workmen and in what circumstances The Supreme Court held that the Tribunal had jurisdiction to consider revision of wage scale, dearness allowance and other emoluments so long as there is a category of workmen who are employed in a supervisory capacity and drawing less than Rs. 500. Even where the workmen in supervisory capacity ask for a pay structure which takes them beyond Rs. 500 that by itself does not preclude its jurisdiction to determine what is the proper wage structure, for that class or category of workmen. They also held that 'there is no gain-saying that fact that once a Tribunal is vested with the jurisdiction to entertain the dispute which is validly referred, it does not cease to continue that jurisdiction merely because the claim made goes beyond the wage which takes workmen out of that category and make them non-workmen. What has to be seen is whether on the date of the reference there was any dispute in respect of the workmen which could be referred under the Act to the Tribunal'. Then, they referred to R.B. Employees' Assn. v. Reserve Bank (supra) with approval and observed :
But, if the dispute is regarding employment, non-employment, terms of employment, or conditions of labour of non-workmen in which workmen are themselves vitally interested the workmen may be able to raise an industrial dispute. Workmen can for example raise a dispute that a class of employees not within the definition of ' Workmen ' should be recruited by promotion from warkmen. When they do so the workmen raised a dispute about the terms of their own employment though incidentally the terms of employment of those who are not workmen is involved. But workmen cannot take up a dispute in respect of a class of employees who are not workmen and in whose terms of employment those workmen have no direct interest of their own. What direct interest suffices is a question of fact but it must be a real and positive interest and not fanciful or remote.
13. It is contended by Sri Srinivasa Murthy, the learned Counsel for the Andhra Bank that the decision in R.B. Employees' Asscn. v. Reserve Bank (supra) has no application to the facts of this case, for in that case there was no question of promotion from one class to another, whereas, in this case, it is promotion from the clerical staff who are workmen to the category of Grade III officers, who are non-workmen. We are of the opinion it makes no difference in principle. The observations of the Supreme Court underlined by us make this position very clear. What the workmen are agitating in this case relates to their promotion. They are not agitating for the revision of pay scales of Grade III officers. A clerk is entitled for promotion as Grade III officer. Thus, it is a condition of terms of employment in relation to the clerk. What should be his fitment on promotion is a question in which he is vitally interested. They complain that the fitment is discriminatory. They are questioning the method and manner of promotion. It matters little that on promotion the salary of a clerk exceeds the minimum of Rs. 500 or the nature of his duties becomes supervisory. Consequently, we hold that it is an industrial dispute, the reference is competent and it is entertainable by the Tribunal.
14. Ramachandra Raju, J., while holding that the clerical staff of the Andhra Bank could raise a dispute in question held that the dispute raised by them was outside the scope of the Industrial Dispute Act, because it related to wages of employees that is, Grade III officers, who draw more than Rs. 500 per month from the inception and whose duties are supervisory in nature. With respect, we are able to agree with his second conclusion. In the first instance, his findings are contradictory. Secondly, the second question posed by him does not arise, for there is no reference to that effect and the workmen were not agitating for revision of pay scales of Grade III officers. We are not able to agree with his interpretation of the Supreme Court decision in R.B. Employees' Asscn. v. Reserve Bank (supra) when he observed :
It follows from what the Supreme Court said that even workmen, though they may have a direct interest in the dispute relating to a class of employees, the post relating to those employees being their next promotion post, cannot raise a dispute if the employees of that class, are not workmen, even at the inception of their appointment to that class, their employment being in a supervisory capacity drawing wages exceeding Rs. 500 per month.
15. In this connection we may refer to the decision of Koshal, J. of the Madras High Court in Indian Bank, Madras v. Industrial Tribunal (1977) 35/F.L.R. 151. The learned Judge disagreed with the interpretation of the decision of the Supreme Court in R.B. Employees' Asscn. v. Reserve Bank (supra) by Ramachandra Raju, J.
16. In the result, we set aside the judgment of Ramachandra Raju, J., in writ petition No. 1385/1974 dated 9th December, 1975, and restore the order of the Industrial Tribunal (Central) at Hyderabad in Industrial Dispute No. 18/1971. The Industrial Tribunal will now take the case on file and proceed to dispose it of on merits. Thus, the writ appeal is allowed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 150.