1. This is a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution submitted by the workers of the Water-works Ujjain through the President of the Water-works Karmachari Sangh.
2. The petition is directed against the Public Health and Engineering Department Government of Madhya Pradesh Bhopal, and by this petition the petitioners seek to quash the order passed by the Industrial Court on a reference made by the Government of Madhya Pradesh under Section 36A of the Industrial Disputes Act. The circumstances under which the reference came to be made may briefly be stated as under:
3. The petitioners raised a dispute regarding pension scheme under which they were entitled to pension by reason of the fact that the Water-works at Ujjain was taken over by the State of Madhya Bharat on 1-4-1955 and it had been decided to allow pension to the employees of the Water-works as if they had commenced their services in the State Government Department from 2-4-1953. Many of the employees of the Water-works had put in considerable service extending over 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years and the actual dispute which the employees had raised was that they should be taken to be Government employees for the purpose of pension from the dates of their individual appointments. The Government was not agreeable 'to this position and ultimately they made a reference under Section 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Industrial Tribunal presided over by Shri G. K. Shinde gave an award holding that the employees of the Ujjain Water-works should be treated on par with the Gwalior Water-works and Shivpuri Water-works and that their services should be made pensionable from the date of their appointment. This award was given on 25th March 1960.
4. After this award another dispute was raised on behalf of the petitioners. In the year 1956 new scales were fixed for the Government employees including the employees of the Water-works and the question arose as to whether the employees of the Ujjain Waterworks were entitled to weightage in the matter of fixation of their pay in the pay-scales in accordance with the number of years of service which they had put in. On the basis of the award of the Industrial Tribunal in the matter of pension dated 25-3-1960, it was contended on behalf of the petitioners that the reasoning of that case should be applied in the subsequent dispute as to fixation of their pay. This was treated to be a matter as to interpretation of the former award dated 25th March 1960 and the Government made a reference under Section 36A of the Industrial Disputes Act. The operative part of the reference was as follows:
'Whether making the services of the employees pensionable from the date of their appointment entitles them to all the benefits of permanent employees from the said dates as if the previous service rendered was Government service.'
5. The Industrial Court to which this reference was made held that the original award in respect of which aforesaid reference was made did not contemplate that the employees of the Ujjain Water-works would automatically be entitled to all other benefits of permanent employees. This conclusion was reached on the ground that the question of advance increment in the matter of fixation of pay in the revised pay scales was an issue altogether different from the issue of pension scheme and that the question of all other benefits of permanent employees besides that of pension was never before the Industrial Tribunal at the time of the former award and therefore could not be said to have been decided by that Tribunal either expressly or by necessary implication.
6. The question now raised on behalf of the petitioner regarding increments to the employees on the basis of duration of their services while fixing their pay in the revised pay scales could, according to the Industrial Court, be independently referred to the Industrial Court by the Government in exercise of their power under Section 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act. The question referred was accordingly answered as indicated above.
7. The present petition under Article 227 of the Constitution is directed against that decision.
8. It is contended that the Tribunal has failed to act under the scope of its authority in not answering the question referred in accordance with the decision given in the former award dated 25th March 1960.
9. In my opinion this contention is not sound. The only question which was before the Industrial Tribunal on a reference under Section 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act in the former case, was whether the employees of the Ujjain Water-works were entitled to benefits of pension on the basis of their employment in the said Water-works from the date of their respective appointments. This question was answerd by the Tribunal in favour of the petitioners and one of the reasons given there was that the employees of the Gwalior and Shivpuri Water-works had been accepted by the Government to be entitled to pension as from the dates of their appointments in the said Water-works. Both these two Water-works were similarly constituted in the matter of their services and their employees as the Ujjain Water-works. At the time of the former award question regarding other benefits apart from the benefit of the pension was not at all before the Tribunal and it is difficult to say that by process of interpretation the petitioners can get what they may perhaps get on reference under Section 10(1)(c) of the Act. Section 36A of the Industrial Disputes Act is as follows:
'(1) If, in the opinion of the appropriate Government, any difficulty or doubt arises as to the interpretation of any provision of an award or settlement, it may refer the question to such labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal as it may think fit.
(2) The Labour Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal to which such question is referred shall, after giving the parties an opportunity of being heard, decide such question and its decision shall be final and binding on all such parties.'
10. This section is introduced to the Industrial Disputes Act by way of amendment by the Industrial Disputes (Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956. Till this section was enacted there was no power in the Industrial Court, Labour Court and National Tribunal to interpret their own decisions. Indeed it was thought that after the delivery of the award the Tribunal of the above sort becomes functus officio. The difficulties do arise in the matter of interpretation of the award after the award is given and the object of Section 36A is to enable the Government to make a reference in case any doubt or difficulty arises as to the interpretation of any provision of the award or settlement. This power of interpretation can only be utilized for the purpose of giving effect to the terms of the award in its true sense and is not intended to form a basis for deciding something that is ancillary. In the present case what the petitioners wanted to contend was that they were entitled to have their pay fixed on the basis of the revised scale. This was in no way a matter actually before the Industrial Court at the time of the former award. The Industrial Court was therefore right in holding that such benefit cannot be held to belong to the petitioners merely because of the former award. The decision of the Industrial Court therefore cannot be said to involve any error in the matter of exercise of its jurisdiction nor can it be said that there is obvious error committed by the Tribunal.
11. On behalf of the petitioners reliance is sought to be placed on the decisions in Madras State v. C.P. Sarathy, AIR 1953 SC 53 and Punjab N. Bank v. A.I.P.N.B.E. Federation AIR 1960 SC 160.
12. In the first of these cases it is held by their Lordships of the Supreme Court that all that is required for a valid reference under Section 10(1)(c) is that the Government must have sufficient knowledge of the nature of the dispute to be satisfied that it is an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Act. But that, beyond this, no obligation can be held to lie on the Government to ascertain particulars of the dispute before making a reference under Section 10(1)(c) or to specify them in the order. It was also held that the reference under Section 10(1)(c) is not incompetent merely because it is made in general terms and the disputes are not particularised. This is not the question before us in this case. The reference here is not one under Section 10(1)(c). It is made under Section 36A and within the scope of such a reference the petitioners can only get what they would be in a position to get by interpretation of the former award. If they are not entitled to get the relief by the process of interpretation from the former award, all that they can do is to take steps for a further reference under Section 10(1)(c).
13. As regard the second case (AIR 1960 SC 160), the learned counsel referred to the principles contained in para 57 of the report at page 179 to the effect that in Industrial adjudication Tribunal should be slow to adopt any doctrinaire or legalistic approach. This has no bearing in the present case.
14. The case in point is one reported in 1961-2 Lab LJ 310, Britania Engineering Co. v. Basu Mazumdar, where his Lordship Sinha, J., has held that under Section 36A of the Industrial Disputes Act a reference cannot be made in order to supplement the original award. All that can be referred under this section is a question as to interpretation of an award already made.
15. Consequently the reference purporting to be made under Section 36A of the Act, in fact intended to supplement the original award, ought not to be allowed to be proceeded with as that would be beyond the scope of such a reference under Section 36A of the Industrial Disputes Act. I respectfully agree with this view. The learned Judge of the Industrial court was right in answering the reference in the manner it did and no case has been made out for the exercise of this Court's extraordinary power under Article 227 of the Constitution.
16. The petition therefore is without force and is dismissed with costs. Counsel's fees shall be taxed at Rs. 50/-.