(1) This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution in which it is sought to obtain an appropriate writ or direction from this Court to the effect that an award made by the Industrial Tribunal on 1st December, 1956 ordering reinstatement of respondent No. 3 and payment of back wages etc., is not enforceable against the petitioner-society.
(2) It appears that previously there was a society by the name of Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society Ltd. Certain disputes arose between that society and its employees which were referred to the Industrial Tribunal for adjudication in March 1955. There have been certain differences among the members of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society itself and for that reason an application had been made to the Registrar, Co-operative Societies, for dissolution and cancellation of the aforesaid society. On 7th December, 1955 the Registrar ordered the cancellation of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society. It further appears that the members of the aforesaid society formed themselves into two groups, and got themselves registered under the provisions of the Punjab Co-operative Societies Act, 1954. One group was registered as the Modern Co-operative Transport Society Ltd., and other group was registered as the Model Co-operative Transport Society Ltd., but before the permission for dissolution of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society was given by the Registrar, a resolution was passed by that Society on 15th November, 1955 in the following terms:
'All the previous employees have filed a case in the Tribunal for their rights. Whatever the final decision of the Tribunal shall be, both the societies shall be responsible to pay the dues of their respective employees in accordance therewith. Moreover, both the societies shall look after the service rights of the previous employees.'
(3) While the industrial dispute was pending between the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society and its employees, the services of Sardara Singh, one of the drivers, were terminated on 4th April, 1955. He filed a complaint under the provisions of section 33A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, before the Tribunal. His complaint was decided by means of the award dated 1st December, 1956. The Tribunal after considering the evidence came to the conclusion that the services of the complainant had been terminated as alleged by him without any lawful excuse. It was directed that he should be reinstated on his old job with continuity and without any change in the conditions of his service.
It was further directed that the management shall pay him the basic wage plus dearness allowance that he was getting on the date of the termination of his service from the date of dismissal to the date of reinstatement. The present petition was filed by the Modern Co-operative Transport Society Ltd., which consisted of one group of members of the erstwhile Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society. It is, however, the case of the aforesaid society that it had also another member who was not a member of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society.
The present petition was filed on 5-3-1957 and it is stated in paragraph 9 of the petition that the State of Punjab through its agent, namely, the Labour Inspector, was making a demand on the petitioner-society to comply with the terms of the award. He had approached the petitioner-society and had asked it to reinstate Sardara Singh respondent No. 3 and also to pay the amount due from the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society under the award given by the Industrial Tribunal. It is further stated that the Labour Inspector threatened the petitioner with consequences of incurring risk of prosecution and recovery of the money as arrears of land revenue. It was for this reason that this Court was approached.
(4) One of the points that had been raised in the petition was that the disputes relating to co-operative societies could not be referred to an Industrial Tribunal, but must be dealt with in accordance with section 50 of the Punjab Co-operative Societies Act, 1954. This point was referred by Bishan Narain J. on 21st August 1957 to a hearing by a larger Bench. The decision of the Bench has now been given and according to that decision the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act are in no way affected by the Punjab Co-operative Societies Act, 1954.
(5) Mr. Hans Raj Sodhi, who appears on behalf of the petitioner-society, has sought to raise two points before me. His first contention is that the award dated 1st December, 1956 was not enforceable against the petitioner-society which was a separate legal entity, the same having been given against the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society, which no longer existed and which had been dissolved, Mr. Sodhi relies on the provisions of section 22 of the Punjab Co-operative Societies Act, according to which all societies registered under that Act are to be bodies corporate with power to hold property and to enter into contracts etc.
It is contended that the petitioner-society is a body corporate and is entirely a separate entity body corporate and is entirely a separate entity. The award, therefore, cannot possibly be executed against the petitioner-society which consisted not only of the former members of the Gurgaon co-operative Transport Society but also of certain other persons who were strangers to the previous society. On behalf of the respondents reliance has been placed on the provisions of section 18(3)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
According to these provisions, an award shall be binding on all parties to the Industrial dispute and, where a party is an employer, his heirs, successors or assigns in respect of the establishment to which the dispute relates. According to the learned counsel, who appear on behalf of the respondent, the petitioner-society as well as the Model Co-operative Transport Society are the successors of the Gurgaon Co-operative Society and, therefore, the award is clearly enforceable against either or both of them. The real point, therefore, to be considered is whether in the context the petitioner-society is one of the successors of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society.
The word 'Successor' has been used in various enactment's and is also used for purposes of convincing but it will not be helpful to refer to the meaning of the word 'Successor' as employed in different enactment's or in conveyance deeds. The aforesaid expression will have to be given its plain meaning. According to the Law Lexicon by Ramanatha Aiyar, the word 'successor' is an apt and appropriate term to designate one to whom property descends, and in association with the words 'heirs, administrators, and assignees', plainly imports a devolution or charge upon the obligators' estate. In Wharton's Law Lexicon the word 'successor' is stated to mean.
'one that follows in the place of another. The correlative of predecessor in the succession.'
It seems to me that in view of the resolution dated 15th November, 1955, the petitioner-company must be held to be a successor so far as the rights and liabilities were concerned with regard to the matters which had been referred to the Tribunal. By virtue of the provisions contained in section 33A of the Industrial Disputes Act, the complaint of Sardara Singh respondent No. 3 was to be deemed to be a dispute referred to or pending before the Tribunal.
The two societies which were formed after the dissolution of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society, took over responsibility to pay the dues of their respective employees in accordance with any award given by the Tribunal. Both the societies also undertook to look after the service rights of the previous employees. This means that there was a clear undertaking to honour and carry out any award which may be given by the Industrial Tribunal in any dispute between the employees of the erstwhile Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society and that society. I am, therefore, of the view that the matter would be covered by the provisions of section 18(3)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act and the petitioner-society would fall within the meaning of the word 'successor' appearing in the aforesaid provision.
Moreover, according to the written statement of Sardara Singh, S. Nihal Singh was the President of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society and S. Sant was its secretary. Now S. Nihal Singh is the President of the Modern Co-operative Transport Society and S. Sant Singh is the President of the Model Co-operative Transport Society. It is further stated that in April 1956 both these gentlemen entered into a compromise with the workmen and their Union before the Industrial Tribunal as representatives of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society and on the basis of that compromise the Tribunal awarded bonus to the workmen for certain years. Both these new societies which are stated to be the successors of the Gurgaon Co-operative Transport Society had paid the bonus for the aforesaid period to the workmen employed.
According to the written statement of Sardara Singh, these societies have accepted the liability created under the award given by the Industrial Tribunal with regard to bonus and, therefore, it does not now lie in the mouth of the petitioner to deny the liability under the second award of the same date. The statement of the aforesaid facts is supported by the affidavit of Sardara Singh and nothing has been put on the record by the petitioner-society to controvert the same. There is a good deal of force in the contention raised on behalf of Sardara Singh that after the petitioner-society has accepted the position of a successor with regard to bonus, there seems to be no reason why it should now be allowed to wriggle out of its liability to give effect to the award given in favour of Sardara Singh.
(6) Mr. Sodhi sought to raise another contention with regard to the award being arbitrary, vague and not in accordance with the principles of fair-play. This point has not been raised in the petition and I am not inclined to allow Mr. Sodhi to raise it for the first time.
(7) There is yet another objection which has been raised on behalf of the respondents which is noteworthy. Uptil now no tangible steps have been taken towards the execution of the award so far as the petitioner-society is concerned. As stated before there is only an allegation that the Labour Inspector has been approaching the petitioner-society and has been asking that the award be carried out. From this point of view the petition in premature as it is possible that the award with is impugned may never be executed and it may be sought to be executed against the other society.
(8) For all the reasons stated above, this petition fails and is dismissed. There will, however, be no order as to costs in this Court.
(9) Petition dismissed.