K.N. Singh, J.
1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Registrar. Trade Unions. Kanpur, dated 24-9-1973 registering changes in the office-bearers of the North-Eastern Railway Employees' Union, and the order of the General Manager. North-Eastern Railway, dated 28-9-1973 granting recognition to the office-bearers as registered by the Registrar of Trade Unions.
2. The North-Eastern Railway Employees' Union, petitioner No. 1 is the union of the employees of the North-Eastern Railway, having its headquarters at Gorakhpur. The union is registered as a trade union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, with the Registrar of Trade Unions at Kanpur, O.P. Tripathi, petitioner No. 2 claims to be the General Secretary of the union. There have been two rival groups claiming themselves to be the office-bearers of the petitioner-union, one group claimed to have been elected at the meeting of the general body of the union at Lucknow while the other group claims to have been elected at Sonepur in Bihar in 1971. Both the groups submitted their returns to the Registrar of the Trade Unions in the prescribed form for registering the change in the office-bearers of the union. The Registrar of Trade Unions at Kanpur registered the office-bearers alleged to have been elected at Lucknow in 1971 with the result Mahabir Rai, respondent No. 3 was registered as president while O.P. Tripathi, petitioner No. 2 was registered as secretary of the union. The dispute was taken to civil Court by the rival group and a suit was filed before the Munsif at Gorakhpur for declaration. During the pendency of the suit the leaders of the National Federation of Indian Railways intervened in, as a result of which both the groups agreed to settle their disputes amicably outside the Court as would appear from a letter of the General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Railways dated 8-12-1972 addressed the leaders of the two rival groups, one led by O.P. Tripathi, petitioner No. 2 and the other led by K.P. Verma, respondent No. 6 a copy of which has been filed as Annexure 3 to the petition. The two rival groups agreed to withdraw the suit without obtaining any decision on the merits of the dispute raised by them and they further agreed that the working committee of the petitioner union should be convened at the earlier to take decisions regarding the restoration of status quo which prevailed before the meeting of the general body dated 24-7-1971. It was also agreed, that the date for holding the annual general meeting of the Sangh for the election of office-bearers and members would be fixed by the working committee.
3. In pursuance of that agreement petitioner No. 2 claims to have issued a notice to all the members of the general body on 1-12-1972 convening a meeting of the general body to be held on 17-12-1972 at Mathura. It is further alleged that the meeting of the general body was held at Mathura which was attended by 95 members out of the 102 members of the general body. At that meeting an amendment of the constitution of the union was adopted permitting outsiders, who may not be employees of the North-Eastern Railway to hold office in the union. After the amendment of the constitution election of the officebearers was alleged to have been held at that meeting. Sri A. P. Sharma a member of the Parliament, who was an outsider but who became eligible after the amendment of the constitution of the union was alleged to have been elected president of the union while petitioner No. 20, P. Tripathi was alleged to have been elected Secretary and Mahabir Rai, respondent No. 3. as vice-president. Petitioner No. 2 filed a return in form 'J' prescribed under the regulations framed under the Trade Unions Act, 1926, before the Registrar. Trade Unions, Kanpur for registering changes in the office-bearers.
4. Meanwhile the other group led by Mahabir Rai convened a meeting of the general body of the petitioner-union at Sonepur on 2-9-1973. At that meeting, Mahabir Rai, respondent No. 3 was alleged to have been elected as the president while R.S. Awasthi was elected as the secretary of the petitioner-union. R.S. Awasthi also made an application to the Registrar in the prescribed form for registering the changes in the officebearers of the petitioner-union. Thus there were two rival groups of officebearers claiming registration before the. Registrar. After holding an enquiry the Registrar by his order dated 24-9-1973 registered the office-bearers alleged to have been elected at the meeting of the general body of the union held at Sonepur on 2/3rd September, 1973. He did not accept the claim of the petitioner No. 2. After the registration of the officebearers, the General Manager of the North-Eastern Railway also recognised the office-bearers as the representatives of the petitioner-union by his order dated 28-9-1973. The petitioner thereupon approached this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the legality of the order of the Registrar dated 24-9-1973 and also the order of the General Manager. North-eastern Railway dated 28-9-1973.
5. Learned Counsel for the petitioners urged that the alleged meeting of the general body of the union was not legal and that no election of office-bearers was held, therefore, the respondents are not entitled to function as office-bearers of the union. Similar arguments have been raised on behalf of the respondents challenging the validity of the meeting alleged to have been held at Mathura and they also question the claim of those office-bearers who were alleged to have been elected at that meeting. Both the parties have thus raised serious disputed questions of fact. It is neither possible nor desirable to determine those disputed questions in the present proceedings. Moreover it is not necessary to record any findings on the rival claims of the two groups of office-bearers. The petitioners have challenged the validity of the order of the Registrar of the Trade Unions in registering change in the office-bearers. Therefore, the only question which is necessary to be determined is whether the order suffers from any manifest error of law.
6. Sri S.C. Khare, learned Counsel for the petitioner urged that the enquiry held by the Registrar for effecting the changes was vitiated as the petitioners were not given any effective opportunity to lead evidence to prove that the officebearers alleged to have been elected at Sonepur were not elected according to the registered rules of the Trade Unions. He further urged that the Registrar acted in a biased manner in keeping the claim of the petitioners for making changes in the Register of Trade Unions pending although petitioner No. 2 had made an application for effecting the change as early as on 24-12-1972, while he acted hastily in upholding the claim of the respondents.
7. Section 8 of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) requires the Registrar of Trade Unions to maintain a register of trade unions wherein the name of trade unions registered under the Act is entered containing the particulars required under the Act and Regulations. One of the particulars requires the registration of the office-bearers of the union. Section 28 lays down that the union shall annually send a general statement to the Registrar in the prescribed form including the details of receipts and expenditures of the union and the changes made, if any, by the trade union in its officebearers. Sub-section (3) requires every registered trade union to submit every alteration made in the rules of the union to the Registrar within 15 days of the making of the alteration. Sub-section (4) confers, powers on the Registrar to inspect the account books, registers and other documents which may be necessary for the purposes of examining the documents required under Sub-section (1), (2) and (3) of Section 28. Section 29 of the Act confers powers on the appropriate Government to frame regulations for the purposes of carrying into effect the provisions of the Act. The State Government has framed regulations in exercise of that power.
8. Regulation 17A is the relevant provision which lays down procedure for registering changes in the officebearers. Regulation 17A requires the submission of the list of newly elected office-bearers in form 'J' to the Registrar within a week of change taking place and the Registrar is required to record the changes in the Register of Trade Unions maintained under Section 8 of the Act within 30 days under intimation to the General Secretary of the Trade Union, unless he has reason to believe that the change was not made in the manner provided in the registered rules of the trade union. Regulation 17A contemplates that the Registrar may refuse to register the changes if he has reason to believe that the change was not made according to the registered rules of the trade union. The Registrar is required to satisfy himself before making any change that the changes in the office-bearers were made in accordance to the rules of the union but he is n6t required to hold any elaborate enquiry or to determine the claim of rival factions. Neither the Act nor the Regulaion framed thereunder require the Registrar to hold any detailed enquiry, record evidence or to decide the claims of rival groups of a trade union. He is entitled to hold enquiry only to satisfy himself about the change. He is under no obligation to record evidence. In North-Eastern Railway Mazdoor Union v. Registrar of Trade Unions 1969 Lab. I.C. 209 (All.) the nature and scope of the Registrar's power and enquiry was considered at length. The learned Judge observed:
The implied power of the Registrar to ascertain actual facts from the parties where there appears to be some conflict between the two versions placed before him by means of two forms filled up and tiled by two rifal groups could not convert the inquiry held by the Registrar into a quasi-judicial proceeding in which each side has the right to lead evidence and cross-examine witnesses.... Even under Regulation 17A, the Registrar could only look at the rules and prima facie evidence and arrive at a conclusion to believe, record or not to believe and record that the change is not in accordance with the rules. He can refuse to record any change, even if he were to act under Section 17A and ask contesting parties to get an adjudication from a civil Court first.
The above observation of the learned Judge would show that the Registrar of Trade Unions while exercising his powers under Section 28(3) of the Act does not discharge any quasi-judicial function. No party is entitled to lead evidence or to cross-examine witnesses and no elaborate enquiry is required to be held. The Registrar is free to hold a summary enquiry to satisfy himself for effecting the changes. Regulation 17A does not enlarge the scope of enquiry. In this view of the matter the petitioner's contention cannot be upheld.
9. Moreover, on the material on record it is fully established that the petitioners were given full opportunity to lead evidence in support of their case. The affidavit of Sri M.S. Agarwal, Asistant Registrar, Trade Unions, Kanpur filed on behalf of the Registrar makes it clear that an application in the prescribed form was made by Sri R.S. Awasthi, the respondent for registering the change in the office-bearers of the petitioners union. On 12-9-1973 the Registrar issued notice to Mahabir Rai, respondent as well as O.P. Tripathi, petitioner No. 2. A copy of the notice has been filed as Annexure 7 to the writ petition. In that notice the Registrar clearly stated that he would hold the enquiry on 17-12-1972 with regard to the election of the office-bearers alleged to have taken place at Sonepur as well as the election of office-bearers alleged to have taken place on 17-12-1972 at Mathura and in that connection parties were directed to produce the Register of the members of the Trade Union, cash books, receipt books, vouchers, proceedings books, notices, agenda and other documents that may be relevant for the controversy. The notice further indicated that no adjournment would be granted and the parties should come fully prepared with the evidence and documents. The notice was admittedly received by petitioner No. 2, but he did not attend the enquiry on 17-9-1973; instead he sent a letter to the Registrar saying that he was ill and so he was unable to attend the enquiry. On his request the Registrar adjourned the enquiry to 22-9-1973 with the consent of the parties and a telegram to that effect was sent by the Registrar to O.P. Tripathi, petitioner No. 2 Sri Tripathi, however, did not attend the enquiry on 22-9-1973; instead he sent a telegram dated 29-9-1973 for adjournment on account of his illness. An application was also filed before the Registrar on 22-9-1973 for adjourning the enquiry for at least a period of one month on the ground of O.P. Tripathi's illness. The Registrar, refused to adjourn the hearing on 22-9-1973. He heard the respondents including R.S. Awasthi, who claimed to be the secretary elected at the meeting of the general body held at Sonepur and thereafter he passed the impugned order dated 24-9-1973. These facts would show that the petitioners failed to avail the opportunity afforded to them by the Registrar.
10. The Registrar was not holding a quasi-judicial enquiry. He was discharging an administrative function, he was not required to examine witnesses or to allow opportunity for cross-examination of witnesses. No doubt even an administrative enquiry must be held in a fair and impartial manner. In the instant case even if the Registrar was required to act in a quasi-judicial manner, the parties were given adequate opportunity but the petitioner No. 2 did not avail the same. The notice dated 12-9-1973 clearly stated that the parties should bring ail evidence whether oral or documentary with them when they appear before the Registrar on 17-9-1973. Petitioner No. 2 did not comply with that requirement. The enquiry was adjourned for 22-9-1973 with the consent of the parties but even on that date petitioner No. 2 did not appear or he produced any document or evidence in support of his case. The Registrar was not under any legal obligation to adjourn the enquiry further or to fix any other date. He had a discretion to proceed with the enquiry or to adjourn the same. Once he proceeded with the enquiry he did not violate any law. Petitioner No. 2 did not attend the enquiry on the ground of his illness. In the counter-affidavit filed by Sri R.S. Awasthi, it has emphatically been asserted that petitioner No. 2 was not confined to bed instead he had been moving about and he had performed journey from Gorakhpur to Lucknow between September 21 and 22, 1973. On these facts I am satisfied that petitioner No. 2 was given full opportunity but he did not avail the same.
11. It was then urged by Sri Khare that the Registrar acted in a biased manner. Although the petitioner had made application for effecting the changes as early as 24-12-1972, but no date was fixed, no enquiry was held and the matter was kept pending, but when the respondents made application for making changes the Registrar acted promptly and took proceedings to register the changes and refused to grant any adjournment to the petitioners for producing their evidence. The Registrar, it is urged was not fair to the petitioners. The petitioners' allegations have been denied in the counter-affidavit of Sri M.S. Agarwal med on behalf of the Registrar. In paragraph No. 19 of his affidavit it has clearly been stated that on receipt of the application by petitioner No. 2 for making the changes in the office-bearers, the Registrar fixed various dates for holding enquiry but petitioner No. 2 and his group sought several adjournments, they did not produce the necessary evidence, therefore, the enquiry could not be completed. Meanwhile R.S. Awasthi, respondent No. 4 filed another application in the prescribed form on 10-9-1973 for registering the change in the officebearers of the union. The Registrar therefore, considered it necessary to hear and decide the claims of both the rival groups simultaneously. In view of these facts I do not find any substance in the petitioners' contention.
12. The Registrar held that the election alleged to have taken place at Mathura on 17-12-1972 was in contravention of the registered rules of the trade unions inasmuch as the registered rules did not permit the election of any outsider to hold any office therein. He further held that Sri A. P. Sharma was not an employee of the Railway, hence he was not entitled Jo be elected as President of the union. The Registrar disregarded the amendment alleged to have been adopted at the meeting of the general body at Mathura on 17-12-1972 on the ground that necessary alterations had not been made in the registered rules as required by the Act, no agenda had been issued for holding the election and the agenda which was issued for the meeting of the general body held on 17-12-1972 did not contain any item relating to the election of office-bearers. With the result members of the general body could not get notice of the election. On these findings he held that the election of office-bearers at Mathura on. 17-12-1972 was not in accordance with the registered rules of the trade union, He further held that the election alleged to have been held at Sonepur on September 2/3rd, 1973 was in accordance with the provisions of the registered rules of the trade unions, and, therefore, he registered the change in the officebearers accordingly.
13. Learned Counsel for the petitioner contended that the findings recorded by the Registrar are based on no evidence. He emphasised that the item of election was included in the agenda issued for the meeting of the General Body for 17-12-72. A copy of the agenda has been filed as Annexure 4 to the petition. Reliance was placed on item No. 4 of that notice which was in the following words:
To consider steps to be taken to resolve inner tensions and conflicts in the light of a letter of N.F.I.R. No. II 1/ME R/72, dated 1st August, 1972.
On a plain reading of item No. 4 it is difficult to hold that the item related to election of office-bearers. If a notice for the election of office-bearers was to be given, proper course was to mention the matter of election of office-bearers. The letter referred to under item No. 4 was the letter which had been sent by the General Secretary of the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen to both the rival groups of the petitioner-union which incorporated the agreement reached by the leaders of the rival groups. According to that decision the working committee was to fix a date for election of officebearers. Item No. 4 of the notice, dated 1-12-1972 referred to that agreement only. In this view of the matter it is difficult to hold that the conclusion reached by the Registrar was not plausible or that the same is not supported by documents or materials on record.
14. In view of the above discussion I find no illegality in the order of the Registrar. As regards the order of the General Manager recognising the officebearers that order was passed as a consequence of the registration of the new office-bearers. Once the office-bearers were recognised by the Registrar and necessary changes were made in the register of unions, the newly elected officebearers were entitled to function as officebearers of the Union. In these circumstances, the General Manager acted within his jurisdiction in recognising the registered office-bearers. I find no illegality in that order.
15. In the result the writ petition fails and is accordingly dismissed with costs. The interim order, dated 25-1-1974, stands vacated.