1. This is a petition for the issue of a writ of prohibition directing the industrial tribunal, Hyderabad, from proceeding further with the adjudication of the dispute in Industrial Dispute No. 3 of 1958 on its file. The petitioners are the owners of the Rice Mills, Kothavalasa, Visakhapatnam district. Between them and the Rice, Oil and Mica Workers' Union, Kothavalasa, there had been certain disputes. By G.O. No. 1199, dated 18 November 1957, the Government of Anclhra Pradesh referred the following issues for adjudication by the industrial tribunal :
(1) Whether the demand of the workmen for enhancement of wages and clearness allowance is justified?
(2) Whether the demand of the workmen for the payment of bonus for the year 1955-56 is justified?
(3) If so what should be the quantum of bonus?
The tribunal registered the industrial dispute as No. 24 of 1957, along with I.D. No. 22 of 1957 arising outs of G.O. dated 9 November 1957. After considering the statement of claims and the counter-statement and the arguments addressed the tribunal held that some of the workmen were not workmen within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. As to the claim for bonus for the year 1955-56 the tribunal held that the claim for bonus was a belated one, and it was shown conclusively that the profits had been distributed between the partners and there was no good reason shown to open the closed accounts. Further, it held that there were no available surpluses to justify the claim for the payment of' the bonus, which in the opinion of the tribunal was not properly and clearly formulated. In the result, the tribunal rejected the demands of the workmen.
2. Aggrieved by that order the workmen filed in this Court Writ Petition No. 918 of 1958. By an order dated 18 February 1959 [1959 I L.L.J. 563], Mohammed Ansari, J., dismissed the writ petition. The decision of the tribunal must therefore be regarded as having become final. During the pendency of I.D. Nos.22 and 24 of 1958 the workmen would appear to have raised a claim with respect to the bonus for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55. On 3 May 1958, in G.O. No. 928 the Government of Andhra Pradesh made reference under Section 10(1)(d) of the Industrial Disputes Act the following questions for adjudication by the industrial tribunal :
(a) Whether the demand of the workmen for the demand of bonus for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55 is justified?
(b) if so, what should be the quantum of bonus?
This writ petition is filed for the issue of a writ of prohibition restraining the indus trial tribunal from further proceeding with the said industrial dispute.
3. On behalf of the petitioners, the main contention urged is that the matters referred to in G.O. No. 928 dated 3 May 1958 are the same as those raised and decided in the I.D. Nos. 22 and 24 of 1957. It is contended that the principle of res judicata applies to proceedings under the Industrial Disputes Act and that it has been authoritatively held so by the Supreme Court in Burn & Co. v. their employees 1957 I L.L.J. 226. Therefore it is contended by the petitioners' learned advocate that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to proceed further with the industrial dispute.
4. The writ of prohibition la a prerogative writ issued by this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to interdict to a judicial or a quasi-judicial tribunal from proceeding with a matter in which it has no jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in Hari Vishuu Kamath v. Syed Ahmed Ishaque and Ors. : 1SCR1104 both writs of prohibition and certiorari have for their object the restraining1 of inferior Courts from exceeding their jurisdiction and they could be issued not merely to courts but to all authorities exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. But there is one fundamental distinction between the two writs. They are issued at different stages of the proceedings. When an inferior Court takes up for hearing a matter over which it has no jurisdiction, the person against whom the proceedings are taken can move the superior Court for a writ of prohibition, and on that an order will issue forbidding1 the inferior Court from continuing the proceedings. Of the other hand, if the Court hears that cause or matter and gives a decision, the party aggrieved would have to move the superior Court for a writ of certiorari and on that an order will be made quashing the decision on the ground of want of jurisdiction.
5. In this case no decision has yet been rendered. The writ of prohibition could therefore issue if the other conditions warrant such an issue.
6. It has been contended by Mr. Kalyan Raman Who appeared in this case as amicus curiae at my request (as the respondent 2 was unrepresented) that there can be no question of res judicata here for the reason that the matter in both I.D. Nos. 22 and 24 of 1958 was wish respect to the bonus for the year 1955-56, while in the present reference the claim for bonus is with respect to years 1953-54 and 1951-55. In those circumstances, it is alleged there could be no question of res judicata because the matters are not identical. It is true that in the reference under Section 10(1)(b) made in G.O. No. 1199, dated 18 November 1957, the claim for the bonus is confined only to the year 1955-56. But it seems to me that that is not the end of the matter. In the conciliation report filed by the labour officer, it is stated that
an industrial dispute arose between the workers and the management of six rice and oil mills, viz, Varahalakshmi Rice and Oil Mill No. 1, Kothavalasa, and others on the issue of dismissal of certain workers in some mills and the payment of bonus for the years 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56 and the question of increase in wages and daily allowances. I have enquired into the above dispute on 27 April 1967, 1 June 1957 and 12 June 1957 and submit my report as follows..
7. In the statement of claims filed by the workmen in I.D. Nos. 22 and 24 of 1957 on 28 November 1957 they have stated that ' as detailed in Sen. B over the years and for each of the years 1953-54, 1954-55, and 1955-56 the mills had earned 2 lakhs of rupees and therefore in these years the wages paid to the workers of the six mills in question had remained static.' They claimed their wages, daily allowances as well as the grant of bonus at the rate of three months' wages for every period of 12 months' wages for the years 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56. The management on the contrary pleaded first that the claim for the bonu3 for the years in question was belated and, secondly that there were not enough surpluses to justify the grant of bonus. Even when in G.O. 1199 dated 18 November 1957 the dispute as to bonus has been confined to 1955-56, the parties had gone to trial practically on the question of bonus relating to 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56. The tribunal did not go further into the question because it was satisfied that the claim even for 1955-56 was belated and was not justified by the surpluses that the mills were proved to have had for the year in question. In those circumstances, I am of opinion that the question as to the bonus for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55 also must be deemed to have been raised and decided by the tribunal under its award dated 24 July 1958 (?).
8. If the tribunal had decided the case once, then, it has no jurisdiction to entertain and decide the same dispute once over again. In Burn & Co. v. their employees 1957 I L.L.J. 226 at 230, the Supreme Court has held that the principle of res judicata applied to proceedings before the industrial tribunals. Even if Section 11 of the. Civil Procedure Code may, in terms, be not applicable to proceedings before the industrial tribunal, yet the principle underlying it expressed in the maxim interest rei publicae ut sit finis litlum is founded upon a sound principle of public policy and is of universal application. Their lordships cited with approval the dictum of Sir Lawrence Jenkins, C.J., in Sheoparsan Singh v. Ramnandan Prasad Narayana Singh that the principle of res judicata is dictated by a wisdom which is for all time.
9. I have therefore reached the conclusion that the matter of demand of bonus for 1955-56 having been concluded by the specific decision of the tribunal and in it is implicit the finding that the claim for the bonus for 1953-54 and 1954-55 is also untenable by reason of belatedness and that such a finding will operate as a bar to the investigation of the claim which is now pending before the Labour Appellate Tribunal.
10. Mr. Kalyan Raman then contended that assuming that the present claim for bonus for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55 is barred by the principle of res judicata, still inasmuch as that is a matter that could well be agitated before the industrial tribunal, there is no justification for interference under Article 226. It is also contended by the learned advocate that res judicata is a plea of defence and that it would not amount to a total or inherent lack of jurisdiction in a judicial or a quasi-judicial authority or tribunal.
In British India Corporation, Ltd. v. Industrial Tribunal Punjab, and Anr. A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 364 a somewhat similar question came up before their lordships of Supreme Court. Certain industrial disputes arose between the management and the workmen, and the Government made a reference to the industrial tribunal for adjudication of certain matters. Further, disputes having arisen between the parties, the same were also referred to the industrial tribunal in a subsequent reference. The tribunal made its award on both the references and submitted it to the Government. In the meantime, certain further disputes were alleged to have arisen between the parties and those were referred for adjudication to the same tribunal and a third reference was made. The tribunal issued notice to the management of the mill to file written statement. The management filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of mandamus against Government. The main contention urged for the petitioner mills was that the matters referred to in the third reference were almost identical and relative to the matters heard and decided by the tribunal on references 1 and 2 and that, therefore, the further investigation in pursuance of the third reference should be interdicted. The High Court dismissed the application filed by the mills in limine. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court and their lordships held that it was incumbent upon the High Court to have addressed itself to this question and decided the case and not rejected the petition as prima facie untenable. In that view, their lordships remanded the matter to the High Court. After remand, the High Court of Punjab by its decision dated 4 November 1967 [1959 I L.L.J. 68] in the aforementioned case held:
So long as a previous award is in force in respect of certain industrial disputes, these disputes cannot be referred afresh to the industrial tribunal by merely changing the phraseology of the disputes, and the industrial tribunal will not have jurisdiction to entertain the fresh reference in respect of these matters of dispute.
In that view, a writ of prohibition was issued directing the industrial tribunal not to consider the disputed items in the reference. I am therefore of opinion that this is a fit case in which, in the events that have happened, the claim for the bonus for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55 must be deemed to have been decided in the earlier decision of the I.D. Nos. 22 and 24 of 1957 dated 24 July 1958 (?), The writ of prohibition will accordingly issue.
11. I cannot leave this case without expressing my thanks to Mr. Kalyan Raman who as the friend of the Court studied the case and rendered valuable assistance.
12. There shall be no order as to costs.