G.P. Singh, C.J.
1. This is a reference made by a Division Bench consisting of Hon'ble K. K. Dube, J. and Hon'ble J. P. Bajpai, J., referring to a Full Bench the following question:
'Whether or not a revision would lie to the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure from a decision by the Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act, deciding a dispute under Section 19(2) of that Act?'
2. The revisional power of the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure is available against 'any Court subordinate' to it. The important point that arises before us is whether the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation is a Court within Section 115 of the Code.
3. Section 2(1)(b) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, defines 'Commissioner' to mean a Commissioner for workmen's compensation appointed under Section 20. The State Government is empowered under Section 20 to appoint any person to be a Commissioner for workmen's compensation by a notification for such area as may be specified in the notification. Section 19(1) provides that if any question arises in any proceedings under the Act as to the liability of any person to pay compensation (including any question as to whether a person injured is or is not a workman) or as to the amount or duration of compensation (including any question as to the nature or extent of disablement), the question shall, in default of agreement, be settled by a Commissioner. Section 19(2) provides that no Civil Court shall have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any question which is by or under the Act required to be settled, decided or dealt with by a Commissioner or to enforce any liability incurred under the Act. Section 23 provides that the Commissioner shall have all the powers of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for the purpose of taking evidence on oath and of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents and material objects. This section also provides that the Commissioner shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for all the purposes of Section 195 and of Chapter 35 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. Another section to be taken notice of is Section 3(5). The scheme of this provision is that if a workman has instituted suit in a Civil Court for damages in respect of an injury, he has no right to claim compensation before a Commissioner under the Act. Similarly, if a workman has instituted a claim for compensation in respect of an injury before a Commissioner under the Act, he has no right to institute a suit for damages in respect of the injury before a Civil Court.
4. Using the word 'Court' used in a generic sense, will include a tribunal. Indeed, the features of a Court and a tribunal are very much similar. Both are vested with the judicial powers of the State. Both are empowered to give binding decisions. The procedure is also similar except this that the procedure of a Court is regularly prescribed, whereas the procedure of a tribunal may not be that strictly prescribed; but the approach adopted by a tribunal is the same as adopted by a Court. The main distinction between a Court and a tribunal is that a Court is a tribunal constituted by the State as a part of the ordinary hierarchy of Courts. A tribunal, on the other hand, is constituted [Under a special Act to exercise some J special jurisdiction.
5. The distinction between a Court in the strict sense and a tribunal was pointed out by the Supreme Court in A. C. Companies v. P. N. Sharma (AIR 1965 SC 1595 at p. 1599) in the following words:
'The expression 'Court' in the context denotes a tribunal constituted by the State as a part of the ordinary hierarchy of Courts which are invested with the State's inherent judicial powers. A sovereign State discharges legislative, executive and judicial functions and can legitimately claim corresponding powers which are described as legislative, executive and judicial powers. Under our Constitution, the judicial functions and powers of the State are primarily conferred on the ordinary Courts which have been constituted under its relevant provisions. The Constitution recognised a hierarchy of Courts and to their adjudication are normally entrusted all disputes between citizens and citizens as well as between the citizens and the State. These Courts can be described as ordinary Courts of Civil judicature. They are governed by their prescribed rules of procedure and they deal with questions of fact and law raised before them by adopting a process which is described as judicial process. The powers which these Courts exercise are judicial powers, the functions they discharge are judicial functions and the decisions they reach and pronounce are judicial decisions.
In every State there are administrative bodies or authorities which are required to deal with matters within their jurisdiction in an administrative manner and their decisions are described as administrative decisions. In reaching their administrative decisions, administrative bodies can and often do take into consideration questions of policy. It is not unlikely that even in this process of reaching administrative decisions, the administrative bodies or authorities are required to act fairly and objectively and would in many cases have to follow the principles of natural justice; but the authority to reach decisions conferred on such administrative bodies is clearly distinct and separate from the judicial power conferred on Courts, and the decisions pronounced by administrative bodies are similarly distinct and separate in character from judicial decisions pronounced by Courts.
Tribunals which fall within the purview of Article 136(1) occupy a special position of their own under the scheme of our Constitution. Special matters and questions are entrusted to them for their decision and in that sense, they share with the Courts one common characteristic; both the Courts and the tribunals are 'constituted by the State and are invested with judicial as distinguished from purely administrative or executive functions.' (vide Durga Shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh (AIR 1954 SC 520 at p. 522)) They are both adjudicating bodies and they deal with and finally determine disputes between parties which are entrusted to their jurisdiction. The procedure followed by the Courts is regularly prescribed and in discharging their functions and exercising their powers, the Courts have to conform to that procedure. The procedure which the tribunals have to follow may not always be so strictly prescribed, but the approach adopted by both the Courts and the tribunals is substantially the same, and there is no essential difference between the functions that they discharge. As in the case of Courts, so in the case of tribunals it is the State's inherent judicial power which has been transferred and by virtue of the said power, it is the State's judicial function which they discharge judicial functions and judicial powers are one of the essential attributes of a sovereign State, and on considerations of policy, the State transfers its judicial functions and powers mainly to the Courts established by the Constitution, but that does not affect the competence of the State, by appropriate measures, to transfer a part of its judicial powers and functions to tribunals by entrusting to them the task of adjudicating upon special matters and disputes between parties. It is really not possible or even expedient to attempt to describe exhaustively the features which are common to the tribunals and the Courts and features which are distinct and separate. The basic and the fundamental feature which is common to both the Courts and the tribunals is that they discharge judicial functions and exercise judicial powers which inherently vest in a sovereign State.'
6. The same distinction was pointed out by the Supreme Court in Engineering Mazdoor Sabha v. Hind Cycles Ltd, AIR 1963 SC 874. In that case, it was laid down that the expression 'Court' in the technical sense is a tribunal constituted by the State as a part of ordinary hierarchy of Courts which are invested with the State's inherent judicial powers. It was also laid down that a tribunal as distinguished from a Court, exercises judicial powers and decides matters brought before it judicially or quasi-judicially, but it does not constitute a Court in the technical sense.
7. In Jugal Kishore v. Sitamarhi Central Co-operative Bank (AIR 1967 SC 1494: (1967 Cri LJ 1380) it was held that the Assistant Registrar functioning under the Bihar and Orissa Co-operative Societies Act is a Court subordinate to the High Court for purposes of Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952. In that case, the word 'Court' was construed in a generic sense, having regard to the context of that Act. Jugal Kishore's case was decided by a Bench of two Judges. That case cannot be so read as to overrule the distinction between a Court and a tribunal pointed out by the Supreme Court in A. C. Companies case (AIR 1965 SC 1595) and Engineering Mazdoor Sabha's case (AIR 1963 SC 874) which were decided by larger Benches.
8. In our opinion, the word 'Court' as used in Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure is used in a narrow sense, meaning only a Civil Court in the normal hierarchy of Courts. The word 'Court' as it occurs in Section 115 will not include tribunals which are established under special Acts and exercise special jurisdiction. The view taken by us is strongly supported by the decision in Sawatram Ramprasad Mills v. Vishnu Pandorang (AIR 1950 Nag 14) which is a Division Bench case decided by Hidayatullah, J. (as he then was) and R, Kaushalendra Rao, J. The same view was taken by a Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court in H. C.D. Mathur v. E. I. Rly. (AIR 1950 All 80 (FB)). In both these cases it was held that the authority invested with jurisdiction under the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, is not a Court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Although these decisions do not deal with the position of the Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act, yet the principles laid down in them are fully applicable here. The main question is whether the word 'Court' in Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure also includes tribunals, or whether it is restricted to Civil Courts subordinate to the High Court. So far as this broad question is concerned, the matter is fully dealt with in both these decisions, and we respectfully agree with the opinion expressed in them that the word 'Court' in Section 115 is restricted to Civil Courts and does not include tribunals.
9. We have already referred to the relevant provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Commissioner appointed under this Act is a tribunal, and not a Civil Court. The provisions of Section 19(2) to he effect that no Civil Court shall rave jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any question which is by or under the Act required to be settled, decided or dealt with by a Commissioner or to enforce any liability incurred under the Act go to show that the Commissioner appointed under the Act is not a Civil Court. Similarly, the provisions of Section 3(5) which exclude the jurisdiction of the Commissioner in the event a suit is earlier filed in a Civil Court also lead to the inference that the Commissioner is not a Civil Court, It is also noteworthy that the Commissioner does not exercise all the powers of a Civil Court but exercises only those powers which are mentioned in Section 23 of the Act. It is true that an appeal lies to the High Court against certain orders of the Commissioner under Section 30 of the Act; yet, having regard to the aforesaid provisions of the Act, it cannot be said that the Commissioner is a Civil Court or a Court in the technical sense. The Commissioner, in our opinion, is not a Court within the meaning of Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure and an order passed by him under Section 19 of the Workmen's Compensation Act is not revisable by the High Court.
10. The view taken by us was also taken by Shiv Dayal, J. (as he then was) in General Manager, Bhilai Steel Project v. M/s Bhutani & Co. (Civil Revn. No. 587 of 1964, D/- 21-12-1964: 1965 MPLJ (Notes) 73).
11. A contrary view has, however, been taken by S. B. Sen. J. in Shaikh Amir v. Jardar Beg, CR No. 224 of 1965, D/- 26-11-1965: 1970 MPLJ (Notes) 68 : (1970 Lab IC 1656). Contrary view has also been taken in the following cases : Firm G. D. Gianchand v. Abdul Hamid (AIR 1938 Lah 855); Abdul Rashid v. Hanuman Oil & Rice Mill (AIR 1951 Assam 88); Dirji v. Goalin (AIR 1941 Pat 65) (FB); Mohanlal Fine Knitting Mills Co. (AIR 1960 Bom 387) and Rajiyabi v. M.M. and Co. (AIR 1970 Bom 278). For the reasons given above, we respectfully differ from the view taken in these cases that the Commissioner is a Court within Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
12. Before concluding, we may also refer to the case of Krishna Gopal v. Dattatraya, 1972 MPLJ 485: (AIR 1972 Madh Pra 125) where it was held by Bhave, J., on a difference of opinion between S. B. Sen and Raina, JJ., that a Claims Tribunal constituted under Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act is a Civil Court subordinate to the High Court and that the orders passed by the tribunal are revisable under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The question whether a Claims Tribunal is a Civil Court has also been examined by a Full Bench in Mangilal v. Union of India, 1974 MPLJ 216: (AIR 1974 Madh Pra 159) the judgment of which was also delivered by Bhave, J. The correctness of the view taken in Krishna Gopal's case was not disputed before the Full Bench (Sea p. 223). We are not here directly concerned with the question whether a Claims Tribunal under the Motor Vehicles Act is a Civil Court amenable to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 of the Code. We may, however, point out that in none of these cases the distinction between a Court and a tribunal, as pointed out by the Supreme Court in A. C. Companies' case (AIR 1965 SC 1595) and Engineering Mazdoor Sabha's case (AIR 1963 SC 874) was noticed, although Jugal Kishore's case (AIR 1967 SC 1494) is referred to and relied upon in Krishna Gopal's case. We have earlier stated that Jugal Kishore's case cannot be taken to have overruled the distinction between a Court and a tribunal pointed out by the Supreme Court in A. C. Companies' case and Engineering Mazdoor Sabha's case. Be that as it may, as we are not directly concerned with a Claims Tribunal constituted under the Motor Vehicles Act, we need not say anything further on this point.
13. We answer the question referred to the Full Bench as follows:
'A revision would not lie to the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure from a decision of the Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act deciding a dispute under Section 19(2) of that Act.'
There shall be no order as to costs of this reference.
14. The appeal shall now be laid before a single Judge for final disposal.