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Eenadu Press Workers Union and anr. Vs. Government of Andhra Pradesh and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1979)ILLJ391AP
AppellantEenadu Press Workers Union and anr.
RespondentGovernment of Andhra Pradesh and anr.
Excerpt:
.....and the recommedations were accepted by the government of india and published on 1-4-1977. as the interim relief was not paid the petitioners issued a notice to the management on 1-6-1977 calling upon them to pay the interim relief on or before 16-6-1977 failing which they said they would go on strike from 1-7-1977. the second respondent filed w. it is, however, well-settled that the suspension pending enquiry does not amount to punishment--vide lakshmi devi sugar mills v. it is true that right to strike is a valuable right of the employees, but at the same time it is well settled that it is not a fundamental right. but there are well recognised exceptions to the application of the principles of natural justice. if it is not question of charging anyone individually with unfair means but..........non-working journalists employed in the newspaper industry. the wage board recommended payment of interim relief for both working journalists and non-working journalists and the recommedations were accepted by the government of india and published on 1-4-1977. as the interim relief was not paid the petitioners issued a notice to the management on 1-6-1977 calling upon them to pay the interim relief on or before 16-6-1977 failing which they said they would go on strike from 1-7-1977. the second respondent filed w.p. no. 1281/77 questioning the grant of interim relief on the ground that they had no capacity to pay and interim stay was granted by this court in w.p.m.p. no. 1920/77. the petitioners thereupon filed w.p.m.p. no. 2340 of 1977 for vacating the interim stay. meanwhile, there.....
Judgment:

Alladi Kuppuswami, J.

1. The first petitioner is the Union of Non-Working Journalists in ' Eenadu', the second respondent herein and the second petitioner is the Trade Union of Working Journalists in the State of Andhra Pradesh. In this writ petition the petitioners pray for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the first respondent, the State of Andhra Pradesh in G. O. Ms. No. 716, Labour, Employment and Technical Education (Labour-1) Dept., D/1-7-1977. Under G.O. Ms. No. 715 of the same day the Government referred for adjudication to the Industrial Tribunal, Hyderabad, the dispute between the workmen and the management of 'Enadu'. 'Whether the demand of the workmen for enhancement of wages including D,A. for non-working journalists is justified ?' On the same day the Government also issued the impugned G.O. Ms. No. 716 under Section 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act prohibiting the continuance of strike by the workers which was commenced from 24-6-1977 and the lock-out by the management of 'Enadu' Hyderabad which was declared on 26-6-1977.

2. In the affidavit in support of the writ petition it is stated that the Central Government appointed Wage Boards for Working Journalists and non-Working Journalists employed in the newspaper industry. The Wage Board recommended payment of interim relief for both Working Journalists and non-Working Journalists and the recommedations were accepted by the Government of India and published on 1-4-1977. As the interim relief was not paid the petitioners issued a notice to the management on 1-6-1977 calling upon them to pay the interim relief on or before 16-6-1977 failing which they said they would go on strike from 1-7-1977. The second respondent filed W.P. No. 1281/77 questioning the grant of interim relief on the ground that they had no capacity to pay and interim stay was granted by this Court in W.P.M.P. No. 1920/77. The petitioners thereupon filed W.P.M.P. No. 2340 of 1977 for vacating the interim stay. Meanwhile, there were meetings with the Chief Minister and the Labour Minister and ultimately the second respondents agreed to pay 25 % of the interim relief recommeded by the Wage Board. In view of this agreement, when the petition to vacate stay came up for hearing before this Court on 22-6-1977 the petitioners and the second respondent brought to the notice of the Court, the agreement reached. This Court, therefore, dismissed the petition for vacating the stay. It is the case of the petitioners that the second respondent taking advantage of this order refused to pay the interim relief. The workmen, therefore, stopped work on 24-6-1977. The second respondent on its part declared a lock-out on 26-6-1977. Thereafter, G.O. 715 was issued by the Government on 1-7-1977 referring the following industrial dispute for adjudication, namely, 'Whether the demand of the workmen for enhancement of wages including D.A. for non-working journalists is justified.' On the same day. G.O. 716 was issued prohibiting the continuance of strike by the workers and the lock-out by the management. The case of the petitioners is that under Section 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the Government is empowered to prohibit any strike or lock-out in connection with a dispute which is referred for adjudication. The strike was in connection with an industrial dispute relating to the payment of interim relief. It was not a strike in connection with ' enhancement of wages including D.A. for non-working journalists ' which was the dispute referred for adjudication. As the strike was not in connection with the dispute referred for adjudication, G.O. 716 prohibiting the strike is in contravention of Section 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act and was, therefore, illegal. Other contentions were raised in the writ petition but they were not argued before us.

3. Sri Jagannadha Rao, however, raised a contention which was not raised in the writ petition, namely, as the G.O. 716 was passed without notice to the petitioners and without giving them a reasonable opportunity to state their case, the said G.O. is contrary to the principles of natural justice and is liable to be struck down.

4. In the counter-affidavit filed by the Assistant Secretary to the Government it is stated that as far as interim relief is concerned, an agreement was arrived at between the management and the workers and this was reported to the High Court and interim stay granted was continued. The strike was only in connection with the claim for wages including D.A. and, therefore, it is not correct to say that the strike was not in connection with the industrial dispute referred for adjudication. It is also stated in the counter-affidavit that it was reported that three lady employees distributed certain pamphlets in the company premises to the other employees and outsiders, without sanction or prior permission of the concerned authority and that the contents of the pamphlets were derogatory to the image and the prestige of the company besides containing personal aspersions on the chairman. The management suspended the above three employees for the above alleged misconduct. As a protest against the action of the management the employees resorted to strike with effect from 24-6-1977.

5. In the counter-affidavit filed by the Chairman and the Chief Editor of 'Eenadu' it is stated that there was an agreement between the management and the employees whereby the management agreed to pay 25% of the interim relief. Consequent to this agreement the employees did not proceed on strike on 16-6-1977 as notified by them. There was no dispute whatsoever between the management and the employees in respect of interim relief when the employees went on strike on 24-6-1977. The management issued a show cause notice to the three lady employees who had distributed pamphlets and pending enquiry the management suspended two of them. The employees, therefore, resorted to a lightning strike on 24-6-1977 with the demand that the suspension notice should be withdrawn and the scales of pay should be fixed for non-working journalist employees. In the circumstances the contention of the petitioners that they resorted to strike in connection with non-payment of interim relief is not correct. The strike was in connection with the dispute relating to the claim for increased wages and dearness allowance and also on account of the order of suspension issued against two lady employees. In the circumstances, G.O. 716 prohibiting the strike is legal as the strike was in connection with the dispute : referred which was in existence on the date of reference.

6. In the reply affidavit in Paragraph 7 it is stated that the strike has nothing to do with the suspension. It was in protest of nonpayment of interim relief. The suspension coincided with the refusal of interim relief. But the strike was not resorted to against suspension.

7. The first question, therefore, is whether the strike was in connection with the dispute which has been referred to the Industrial Tribunal by the Government.

8. It is seen from the facts stated above that the case of the petitioners is that the strike was in connection with the dispute relating to interim relief which was not referred for adjudication to the Tribunal and hence it cannot be said that the strike was in connection with the dispute referred. No notice of the strike on 24-6-1977 was given the reason for the strike and hence the question whether the strike was in connection with the interim relief or not has to be decided with reference to the facts and circumstances of the case. A strike notice was issued on 31-5-1977 stating that there would be a strike in pursuance of the demand for payment of Interim relief from 16-6-1977. This was followed by a similar notice by the 'Eenadu' Press Workers Union. But subsequently there were talks with the Chief Minister and an agreement was reached between the management and the employees on 15-6-1977 to the effect that the management would pay 25% of the interim relief. The threatened strike on 16-6-1977 did not take place in view of the agreement arrived at. The High Court was also informed of this agreement on 22-7-1977 when the petition to vacate the interim stay came up for hearing and the petition was, therefore, dismissed. Thus, it is clear that the subsequent strike which commenced on 24-6-1977 had nothing to do with the dispute relating to the interim relief.

9. On the other hand the 'Eenadu 'Press Workers Union ' wrote a letter to the management on 8-6-1977 that the main aspects of their demands were payment of wages to the workers with basic and dearness allowance, grant of holidays with wages as per rules, etc. Though, in this letter the implementation of interim relief was also mentioned this disputewas subsequently settled by an agreement after discussions with the Chief Minister. On 23-6-1977 the lady employees were suspended for distributing the pamplets and on 24-6-1977 the employees went on strike. Thus the two matters that led to the strike were (1) the claim for wages and D.A. and (2) the suspension of the lady employees. The communication dated 24-6-1977 from the Deputy Commissioner of Labour to the union would also show that the immediate cause of the strike was the suspension of the lady employees. Though this was denied in the reply affidavit we are of the view that the immediate cause of the strike was the suspension of the lady employees and the main purpose of the strike was in connection with the dispute relating to the claim for wages and D.A. which alone remained to be settled after the agreement was reached regarding the interim relief. We are, therefore, of the view that the strike was in connection with the dispute referred, namely, dispute regarding the claim for wages and D.A. and the Government was, therefore, entitled to prohibit the strike under Section 10(3) of the Act.

10. Sri Jagannadha Rao, learned Counsel for the petitioners relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Delhi Admin. v. Workers Edward Keventers : (1978)IILLJ209SC , in which it was held that where several demands are raised by the workmen, but some of them only are referred for adjudication Section 10(3) cannot operate in regard to such disputes as are not referred under Section 10(3) of the Act. It was argued in this case that as the demand relating to the interim relief was also not referred, the Government is not entitled to issue the notification prohibiting the strike. But as we have held that the dispute relating to the interim relief ceased to exist on the date of the strike, there was no question of the Government referring the said dispute for adjudication. Even so, it was argued by Sri Jagannadha Rao that there was another dispute relating to suspension of the lady employees and this was not referred to for adjudication by the Government. This submission is inconsistent with the stand taken in the reply affidavit that the strike was not connected with the suspension of the lady employees. But as the Government and the second respondent have taken up the stand that the strike was also in connection with the suspension we may proceed on the footing that the strike also was in connection with the suspension even though it is denied in the reply affidavit of the petitioner. It is, however, well-settled that the suspension pending enquiry does not amount to punishment--Vide Lakshmi Devi Sugar Mills v. Ramsarup 0065/1956 : (1957)ILLJ17SC and Chanan Singh v. Registrar of Co-operative Societies (1976) 32 Fac. L.R. 310 : 1976 L.I.C. 1188 (S.C.) Hence the Government could not have referred the dispute relating to suspension for adjudication by the- Tribunal. In fact it was brought to our notice that subsequently, on 19-7-1977 the Government referred this matter to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication, but this reference was rejected by the Tribunal on 12-1-1978 on the ground that it was not an industrial dispute. Sri Jagannadha Rao, however, stated that W.P. No. 593/78 has been filed in this Court against the order of the Tribunal rejecting the reference and it is pending. But apart from this, it is seen that the main dispute between the employees and the management was with reference to the wages and the D.A. and this was referred to the Tribunal by the Government and the strike was in connection with this dispute. The Government was, therefore, entitled to issue the impugned G.O. prohibiting the strike. In Delhi Admn. v. Workmen, Edward Keventres (supra) it is observed that if there are twenty grounds of dispute being raised by the workmen and the appropriate Government unilaterally and subjectively decides against the workmen on 19 grounds and refers only one for adjudication, the workmen cannot be deprived on basic right to go on strike in support of their 19 demands. If the Government feels that it should prohibit a strike under Section 10(3) it must give scope for the merits of such a dispute or demand being gone into by some other adjudicatory body by making a reference of all those demands under Section 10(3) as disputes. In regard to such disputes as are not referred under Section 10(3), Section 10(3) cannot operate. In our view this decision is of no assistance to the petitioners in this case as we have found that the dispute regarding the interim relief ceased to exist on the date of the strike by virtue of the agreement earlier arrived at as a result of the discussions with the Chief Minister and the suspension of the lady employees was not a matter which could be referred by the Government to the Industrial Tribunal as suspension pending enquiry cannot be said to be punishment.

11. The learned Counsel for the respondents drew our attention to Keventers Karmachari Sangh v. Lt. Governor, Delhi 1971-II L.L.J. 375 ; where the Delhi High Court held that where three demands gave rise to the strike notice and only one demand was referred, still such a reference makes the strike with reference to all the demands, a strike ' in connection with such dispute ' within the meaning of Section 10(3). It is, however, to be noted that this decision was expressly referred to by the Supreme Court in Delhi Admin. v. Workmen Edward Keventers (supra) but they preferred to adopt the reasoning of the Delhi High Court in Workmen of Edward Keventer v. Delhi Admin. , which was the subject of appeal before them. It is, therefore, not open to the respondents to rely upon the decision of the Delhi High Court in Keventers Karmachari Sangh v. Lt. Governor of Delhi 1971-II L.L.J. 375, But as we have observed already the decision relied upon by the petitioners in Delhi Admin. v. Workmen, Edward Keventers (supra), is of no assistance to them.

12. The next contention is that as no notice was given to the petitioners before the G.O. under Section 10(3) was issued and no reasonable opportunity was afforded to them to state their case, the principles of natural justice are violated. Though this point was not raised in the writ petition we permitted the learned Counsel for the petitioners to argue this point.

13. Sri Jagannada Rao submitted that the right of the employees to strike is a civil right and this is curtailed by the impugned G.O. Further, if there is a disobedience of the G.O. the employees are exposed to criminal consequences. In these circumstances, the power conferred upon the Government under Section 10(3) of the Act to prohibit a strike is in the nature of quasi-judicial power. Hence, it is imperative that the employees should be given an opportunity to show cause against an order prohibiting the strike before the G.O. is issued. He further submitted that even assuming that the power exercised is only administrative in character, still the principles of natural justice areequally applicable. Vide, Kraipak's case : [1970]1SCR457 .

14. The learned Counsel for the petitioners relied on the decision in A.K. Kalippa Chettiar and Sons v. State of Kerala 1970-I L.L.J. 97 (Ker); in which it was held that power exercised under Section 10(3) is a quasi-judicial power and an order there under cannot be passed without giving a reasonable opportunity to all those who would be affected by the order to state and establish their case. On the other hand, the learned Counsel for the respondents relied upon the decision in Keventers Karamachari Sangh v. Lt. Governor, Delhi 1971-II L.LJ. 375 Delhi; already referred to where it was observed that the opportunity to show cause will defeat the very object to achieve which Section 10(3) was enacted and such an order is not one which requires the giving of an opportunity to show cause.

15. We are not inclined to agree with the contention of the petitioners that before an order is passed under Section 10(3) a notice to show cause why such an order should not be passed should be given to the employees of the management as the case may be. It is true that right to strike is a valuable right of the employees, but at the same time it is well settled that it is not a fundamental right. It is true that as far as possible where the rights of a party are affected by an order, the affected party must on grounds of natural justice, be given an opportunity to state its case and to show cause against the issue of any such order. But there are well recognised exceptions to the application of the principles of natural justice. As has been repeatedly observed the requirements of natural justice depend upon the circumstances of the case, the nature of the enquiry and the subject-matter that is being dealt with, etc. and no hard and fast rule can be laid down. In Wiseman v. Bornemann [1967] 3 All E. R. 1045 Lord Reid observed that 'Even a body acting judicially, there must be a balance between the need for expedition and the need to give full opportunity to the defendant to see material against him'. Again in Bihar School Examination Board v. Subhas Chandra Sinha : [1970]3SCR963 , the plea of natural justice was repelled where a whole University examination was cancelled by the UniversityAuthorities. Hidayatullah, C.J., speaking for the Court said (at p. 1272 of A.I.R.).

This is not a case of any particular individual who is being charged with adoption of unfair means but of the conduct of all the examinees or at least a vast majority of them at a particular centre. If it is not question of charging anyone individually with unfair means but to condemn the examination as ineffective for the purpose it was held, must the Board give an opportunity to all the candidates to represent their cases? We think not. It was not necessary for the Board to give an opportunity to the candidates if the examinations as a whole were being cancelled. The Board had not charged anyone with unfair means so that he could claim to defend himself. The examination was vitiated by adoption of unfair means on a mass scale. In these circumstances it would be wrong to insist that the Board must hold a detailed enquiry into the matter and examine each individual case to satisfy itself which of the candidates had not adopted unfair means.

In Pearlberg v. Varty [1971] I W.L.R. 728, Lord Denning gave several illustrations. For instance the Courts are often asked to pass urgent orders before hearing the other side, as in the case of an interim injunction or a stay of execution. It cannot be contended in such cases that the orders violate the principles of natural justice as they are made without notice to the other side.

16. The Industrial Disputes Act is designed to provide a machinery for a just and equitable settlement of disputes by adjudication, by negotiation and by conciliation, etc. instead of by a trial of strength by strikes and lock-outs. Section 10(3) enables the Government whenever an industrial dispute exists or is apprehended, to refer the dispute to a Board, the Court of enquiry. Labour Court or to a Tribunal for adjudication. Section 10(3) provides that where an industrial dispute has been referred, the appropriate Government may by an order prohibit the continuance of any strike or lockout in connection with such dispute. The main object of Section 10(3) is to maintain an atmosphere of peace and calm when the matter referred to is being adjudicated upon by the Tribunal or the Labour Court. It will not be conducive to industrial peace if side by side with the adjudication of the dispute by the Tribunal, a strike or lock-out continues. It would be like having a truce and a war at the same time. It was, therefore, felt by the Legislature that the Government which refers the dispute for adjudication should be empowered to prohibit the continuance of a strike or lock-out in connection with such dispute. If it is to be held that in such circumstances the Government is bound to issue a show-cause notice to the parties, as to why they should not prohibit the continuance of strike or lock-out, the very object of Section 10(3) would be frustrated. If a notice is given to the employees to show-cause against the continuance of a strike, the management would also insist upon an opportunity to show cause that the strike should be prohibited. Similarly in the case of lock-out, an opportunity to the management would also involve, an opportunity to the employees to rebut the case of the management. In the result the Government will be faced with the responsibility of deciding the respective cases to some extent even though the main dispute is pending before the Tribunal for adjudication. The most important step is to first prevent the continuance of the strike or lockout and the very object of Section 10(3) would be defeated if it is held that it is incumbent on the Government to issue notices to the employees and the management and to hear them, which would lead to considerable delay in passing the order prohibiting the continuance of the strike. In this connection it is to be noticed that even when a reference is made under Section 10(3) it is not contemplated that the Government should give an opportunity either to the management or to the employees to state their case before making such reference. Section 12(5) provides that if on a consideration of a report by the Conciliation Officer that the Government is satisfied that there is a case for reference, it may make such a reference and if it does not make a reference, it shall record and communicate to the parties concerned its reasons there for. Here again, the only safeguard while refusing to refer is that the Government should record its reasons and communicate them to the parties its reasons. There is no requirement that it should give an opportunity to the parties before making an order refusing to refer. Even in a case where the Government decided not to refer in the first instance and subsequently changed its mind, it has been held in Srikrishna Jute Mills v. Govt. of A.P. 1977-I L.LJ. 363 : (1977) L.I.C. 988 (Andh. Pra), that no opportunity or notice need be given to the parties. If in such a case there is no requirement of an opportunity being given, we fail to see why it should be held that an opportunity should be given at the time when an order under Section 10(3) is passed prohibiting a strike or lockout, expecially when such an order is to be made expeditiously in the interest of industrial peace. With respect we do not agree with the decision of the Kerala High Court in A. K. Kaliappa Chettiar and Sons v. State of Kerala 1970-I L.L.J. 97, that an opportunity has to be given before an order under Section 10(3) is passed. Further in our view that decision is clearly distinguishable as it relates to a case of lock-out. Unlike the right to strike, the right to closure of business is a fundamental right. Vide Workmen of I. L.T.D. v. I.L.T.D. Co., Guntur : [1969]2SCR282 and Express News Papers (P) Ltd. v. Workers : (1962)IILLJ227SC . Hence the case of a lock-out stands on a different footing from the case of a strike.

17. We agree with the view expressed in Kaventers Karamchari Sangh v. Lt. Governor, Delhi 1971-II L.LJ. 375 (Delhi), that an opportunity to show cause will defeat the very object with which Section 10(3) was enacted. It is no doubt true that the decision in Keventers Karamchari Sangh v. Lt. Governor Delhi, (supra) was not approved by the Supreme Court in Delhi Admin. v. Workmen, Edward Keventers : (1978)IILLJ209SC , in so far as it decided that where there are three demands, and only one demand is referred still such a reference makes strike with reference to all the demands a strike ' in connection with such dispute' and it is open to the Government to prohibit such a strike. But the decision of the Delhi High Court in regard to the requirement of opportunity to show cause against the proposed action under Section 10(3) remained untouched by the Supreme Court.

18. Strong reliance was placed on the decisions of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India : [1978]2SCR621 and Mohinder Singh v. Chief Election Commr. : [1978]2SCR272 . In the first of these cases one of the contentions raised was that before an order impounding a passport is made, the person concerned should be given an opportunity to show cause why the passport should not be impounded. The Supreme Court dealt elaborately with the question as to how far one of the principles of natural justice namely, principle of audi alteram partem applies to such a case and held that the order impounding the passport of the petitioner was in violation of the rule of natural justice embodied in that maxim. In the second case the Election Commissioner having been satisfied that the counting in an election was disturbed by violence in that some ballot papers had been destroyed by violence and as a consequence it was not possible to complete the counting of votes in the constituency cancelled the poll. It was held by the Supreme Court that fair hearing is a postulate of decision making in cancelling a poll and it cannot be fair if apprising the affected and apprising the representations is absent. These decisions in our view are not applicable to the facts of the present case as they deal with situations totally different from the present. It is, however, significant to note that in both these decisions the Supreme Court reiterated that there cannot be any hard and fast rule with regard to the scope and application of the principle of natural justice as it depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (supra) reference was made by Bhagwati, J. who delivered the majority judgment to the passage in Smith's Judicial Review of Administrative Action to the following effect:

In administrative law a prima facie right to prior notice and opportunity to be heard may be held to be excluded by implication where an obligation to give notice and opportunity to be heard would obstruct the taking of prompt action, especially action of a preventive or remedial nature.

It was also pointed out that the audi alteram partem rule would be excluded, if, importing the right to be heard has the effect of paralysing the administrative process or the need for promptitude or the urgency of the situation so demands. In Mohinder Singh v. Chief Election Commr. (supra), reference was made to the passage in the judgment of the Supreme Court in Bihar School Examination Board v. Subhas Chandra Sinha A.I.R. 1970 1269, referred to earlier in this judgment. It was not disapproved but distinguished. In paragraph 62 of the judgment the Supreme Court cited the passage from Wiseman v. Borneman [1968] 2 W.L.R. 320, where Lord Reid observed that there must be a balance between the need for expedition and the need to give full opportunity with approval.

19. For all the reasons above stated we are not included to accept the contention that before prohibiting a strike or lock-out under Section 10(3) of the Act it is necessary to give an opportunity to the parties concerned to show cause against such action.

20. In the result both the contentions raised fail and the writ petition is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.


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