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Adoni Cotton Mills, Ltd. (by N. Vembu, Director) Vs. State of Andhra and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1961)ILLJ27AP
AppellantAdoni Cotton Mills, Ltd. (by N. Vembu, Director)
RespondentState of Andhra and ors.
Excerpt:
- - it is well-settled that before any dispute between the employer and his employee or employees can be said to be an industrial dispute under the act, it must be sponsored by a number of workmen or by a union representing them. in our opinion, the expression includes all workmen on whose behalf the dispute has been raised as well as those who would be bound by the award which may be made in the said dispute......section 33a of the act was filed by nachamma, the respondent 2 herein, and was an offshoot of the main industrial dispute which formed the subject-matter of industrial dispute no. 12 of 1954 before the same industrial tribunal which concerned the dismissal of four workmen of adoni cotton mills, ltd., adoni. the complaint of nachamma was that during the pendency of the main dispute before the industrial tribunal, the management of the mills had dismissed her on 20 july 1954 without any justifiable cause and without the express permission of the tribunal as required by section 33 of the act.2. section 33a enacts that where an employer contravenes the provisions of section 33 during the pendency of proceedings before a tribunal, any employee aggrieved by such contravention may make a.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Basi Reddi, J.

1. In this writ petition, the director and managing agent of the Adoni Cotton Mills, Ltd., Adoni, challenges the correctness of the award made by the industrial tribunal, Visakhapatnam, in Petition No. 3 of 1954 which was filed under Section 33A of the industrial Disputes Act. This complaint under Section 33A of the Act was filed by Nachamma, the respondent 2 herein, and was an offshoot of the main industrial dispute which formed the subject-matter of industrial Dispute No. 12 of 1954 before the same industrial tribunal which concerned the dismissal of four workmen of Adoni Cotton Mills, Ltd., Adoni. The complaint of Nachamma was that during the pendency of the main dispute before the industrial tribunal, the management of the mills had dismissed her on 20 July 1954 without any justifiable cause and without the express permission of the tribunal as required by Section 33 of the Act.

2. Section 33A enacts that where an employer contravenes the provisions of Section 33 during the pendency of proceedings before a tribunal, any employee aggrieved by such contravention may make a complaint in writing to such tribunal and on receipt of such complaint the tribunal shall adjudicate upon the complaint as if it were a dispute referred to or pending before it in accordance with the provisions of the Act and shall submit its award to the appropriate Government and the provisions of the Act shall apply accordingly.

3. Section 33, as it stood before the amendment and in so far as is material for the present purpose, provided that during the pendency of proceedings before the tribunal in respect of any industrial dispute no employer shall discharge or punish whether by dismissal or otherwise, any workman concerned in such dispute, save with the express permission in writing of the tribunal.

4. The tribunal below found that Nachamma was a worker concerned in the dispute which was pending before the tribunal and during such pendency, she had been illegally dismissed, and in that view ordered her reinstatement with back-wages from the date of dismissal.

5. Two contentions are urged on behalf of the petitioner. One is that Nachamma was not a worker 'concerned in such dispute' within the meaning of that expression in Clause (b) of Section 33, as it stood before the amendment. It is argued that the main dispute related to the dismissal of four workmen on the ground that they had incited and taken part in an illegal strike and Nachamma was not concerned in that dispute although her wrongful suspension by the management was the occasion for the strike. It is contended that the expression 'concerned in such dispute' means directly involved in the dispute. The question as to the true connotation of the expression 'concerned in such dispute' is now concluded by a recent decision of the Supreme Court in New India Motors (Private), Ltd., New Delhi v. K.T. Morris 1960 I L.L.J. 651, There, their lordships have held that the expression should not be given a narrow interpretation. Gajendragadkar, J., expounded the legal position thus:

Prima facie the argument that workmen concerned in such dispute should be limited to the workmen directly or actually concerned in such dispute appears plausible, but if we examine the scheme of the Act and the effect of its material and relevant provisions, this limited construction of the clause in question cannot be accepted.

6. Let us first consider the definition of the industrial dispute prescribed by Section 2(k). It means, inter alia, any dispute or difference between employers 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. It is well-settled that before any dispute between the employer and his employee or employees can be said to be an industrial dispute under the Act, it must be sponsored by a number of workmen or by a union representing them. It is not necessary that the number of workmen of the union that sponsors the dispute should represent the majority of workmen. Even so, an individual dispute cannot become an industrial dispute at the instance of the aggrieved individual himself. It must be a dispute between the employer on the one hand and his employees acting collectively on the other. This essential nature of an industrial dispute must be borne in mind in interpreting the material clause in Section 33(1)(a).

7. Section 18 of the Act is also relevant for this purpose. It deals with persons on whom awards are binding. Section 18(3) provides, inter alia, that an award of a tribunal which has become enforceable shall be binding on

(a) all parties to the industrial dispute,

(b) all other parties summoned to appear in the proceedings as parties to the dispute unless the tribunal records the opinion that they were so summoned without proper cause,

(c) ., and

(d) where a party referred to in Clause (a) or Clause (b) is composed of workmen, all persons who were employed in the establishment or part of the establishment, as the case may be, to which the dispute relates on the date of the dispute, and all persons who subsequently become employed in that establishment or part.

It is thus clear that the award passed in an industrial dispute raised even by a minority union binds not only the parties to the dispute but all employees in the establishment or part of the establishment, as the case may be, at the date of the dispute and even those who may join the establishment or part subsequently. Thus the circle of persons bound by the award is very much wider than the parties to the industrial dispute. This aspect of the matter is also relevant in construing the material words in Section 33(1)(a).

In this connexion the object of Section 33 must also be borne in mind. it is plain that by enacting Section 33 the legislature wanted to ensure a fair and satisfactory enquiry of the industrial dispute undisturbed by any action on the part of the employer or the employee which would create fresh cause for disharmony between them. During the pendency of an industrial dispute states quo should be maintained and no further element of discord should be introduced. That being the object of Section 33, the narrow construction of the material words used in Section 33(1)(a) would tend to defeat the said object. If it is held that the workmen concerned in the dispute are only those who are directly or immediately concerned with the dispute, it would leave liberty to the employer to alter the terms and conditions of the remaining workmen and that would inevitably introduce further complications which it is intended to avoid. Similarly it would leave liberty to the other employees to raise disputes and that again is not desirable. That is why the main object underlying Section 33 is inconsistent with the narrow construction sought to be placed by the appellant on the material words used in Section 33(1)(a).

Even as a matter of construction pure and simple there is no justification for assuming that the workmen concerned in such dispute must be workmen directly or immediately concerned in the said dispute. We do not see any justification for adding the further qualification of direct or immediate concern which the narrow construction necessarily assumes. In dealing with the question as to which workmen can be said to be concerned in an industrial dispute, we have to bear in mind the essential condition for the raising of an industrial dispute itself, and if an industrial dispute can be raised only by a group of workmen acting on their own or through their union, then it would be difficult to resist the conclusion that all those who sponsored the dispute are concerned in it. As we have already pointed out, this construction is harmonious with the definition prescribed by Section 2(s) and with the provisions contained in Section 18 of the Act. Therefore, we are not prepared to hold that the expression 'workmen concerned in such dispute' can be limited only to such of the workmen who are directly concerned with the dispute in question. In our opinion, the expression includes all workmen on whose behalf the dispute has been raised as well as those who would be bound by the award which may be made in the said dispute.

8. Applying the above test, it is clear that Nachamma was a worker concerned in the main dispute. The parties to the dispute were the management on the one side and the workers' union known as the Cotton Spinning Mill Mazdoor Sangh, Adoni, on the other. Nachamma was a member of that sangh, and the award in that dispute would be binding upon, the sangh and upon all the members including Naohamma under Section 18 of the industrial Disputes Act. Moreover the central issue in that dispute was whether the one-day strike by the workmen of the mill was justified or not. It follows that Nachamma was a worker concerned in the main dispute.

9. It is next contended on behalf of the petitioner that the main dispute was not pending before the tribunal on the date on which Nachamma was dismissed, i.e., on 20 July 1954, inasmuch as, although the main dispute referred for adjudication to the tribunal was dated 7 July 1954, a copy of that order was sent to the management of the mills only on 20 July 1954 and was received by them on 22 July 1954; therefore, on the date of dismissal of Nachamma, the management was not aware of the pendency of the dispute before the industrial tribunal. This contention overlooks the deeming provision contained in Sub-section (3) of Section 20 of the Act. The subsection before its amendment read as follows:

Proceedings before a tribunal shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of the reference of a dispute for adjudication....

10. Now Section 10 of the Act provides that where the Government is of opinion that an industrial dispute exists or is apprehended, it may at any time, by order in writing, refer the dispute or any matter appearing to be connected with, or relevant to, the dispute to a tribunal for adjudication. In the present case, the order of reference was dated 7 July 1954 and by virtue of Sub-section (3) of Section 20 of the Act, the proceedings shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of reference of the dispute for adjudication. The dismissal of Nachamma was on 20 July 1954 and on that date proceedings in respect of the main dispute were pending before the industrial tribunal and therefore Nachamma's dismissal without the express permission of the tribunal was in contravention of the provisions of Section 33 of the Act for which a complaint could be filed under Section 33A of the Act.

11. It follows that there are no merits in this writ petition and it is accordingly dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.


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