1. This petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution has been filed on the following allegations:
2. The petitioner-establishment is alleged to be a small concern having eighteen to twenty employees, in which respondents 3 to 6 were workers performing various duties allotted to them. On account of decrease in work and depression, there was no work left for these employees, with the result that respondent 3, Saudagar Singh, was laid off from 26 December 1959, and respondents 4 to 6, Parma Nand, Mohan Singh and Amar Singh, were laid off with effect from 13 December 1959. These respondents thereupon raised a dispute against the petitioner through the Amritsar General Labour Union, Putlighar, Amritsar, respondent 7, which was referred by the Punjab Government under Section 10(1)(c) of the Industrial Disputes Act in the following terms:--
Whether the action of the management in laying off the following workmen from the dates mentioned against each was bona fide and is in order? If not, to what relief they are entitled?--
(1) Saudagar Singh, son of Sham Singh from 26 December 1959; (2) Parma Nand, son of Mehr Chand from 13 December 1959; (3) Mohan Singh, sen of Bhan Singh from 13 December 1959; (4) Amar Singh, son of Inder Singh from 13 December 1959.
3. According to the petitioner, this reference was bad in law and without jurisdiction because there was no industrial dispute existing between the petitioner and respondents 3 to 6, as the lay-off did not entitle the said respondents to any compensation in law, nor did it entitle them to invoke any claim, the provisions of Sections 25C to 25P of the Industrial Disputes Act being inapplicable to the petitioners-respondents. The order of the labour court, dated 30 June 1960, by which the petitioner was directed to pay compensation to the workmen, has been attached with the petition and is assailed principally on the ground already mentioned by me.
4. The Amritsar General Labour Union has filed a written statement contesting the writ petition and it has been submitted on their behalf that the action of the petitioner, in fact, amounted to termination of the services of respondents 3 to 6 under cover of 'lay-off ' and was rather mala fide for the purpose of victimization of the workmen, who were active members of the trade union. It has further been averred that the expression lay-off has been used by the petitioner merely as a cover for terminating the services of the employees in question which is contrary to law and without any justification.
5. In support of the petition, Ajit Singh Sarhadi has submitted that the provisions of Sections 25C to 25E) of the Industrial Disputes Act do not apply to the establishments in which less than fifty workmen on an average per working day have been employed and that the petitioner is such an establishment. It is thus contended that compensation, according to these provisions, could not be ordered to be paid by the labour court. In support of this contention, he has relied on a decision by Bishan Narain, J. in J.R. Rolling Mills, Jagadhri v. Punjab State Civil Writ No. 530 of 1956, decided on 23 August 1957. According to J. R. Rolling Mills case, Sections 25C to 25E of Industrial Disputes Act do not apply to establishments having less than fifty work; men and no compensation can be allowed on equitable ground of social justice. The counsel has also referred me to Workmen of Bengal Electric Lamp Works Limited v. Bengal Electric Lamp Works Limited 1958--I L.L.J. 571, a judgment by P.B. Mukharji, J of the Calcutta High Court, for the proposition that the industrial tribunal has jurisdiction only to adjudicate on the points of disputes specified by the Government. The counsel has also relied upon a judgment of the Kerala High Court in South India Corporation, etc. v. All Kerala Cashewnut Factory Workers Federation, etc. 1960--II L.L.J. 103, for the proposition that compensation cannot be allowed on ground of social justice.
6. Sri Anand Sarup has sought to distinguish the decision of this Court in J. R. Rolling Mills case on the ground that there no question arose about the word 'lay-off' having been used virtually for the purpose of dismissing the workmen. It is emphasized that by utilizing the expression' 'lay-off,' no establishments should be permitted to avoid their obligation to pay compensation to workmen, whom they illegally dismiss or retrench.
7. After considering the arguments addressed at the Bar, in my opinion, the order of the labour court cannot be struck down as ultra vires or without jurisdiction. The conclusion of the labour court that the action of the management in laying off Saudagar Singh, Parma Nand, Mohan, Singh and Amar Singih was mala fide and for reasons other than those covered by the definition of 'lay-off' under Section 2(kkk) is fully justified. The pleas on behalf of the management were expressly held by the labour court to be not true. The provisions of Sections 25C to 25E of the Industrial Disputes Act, of course, do not apply to establishments with less than fifty workmen, and the labour court too has not applied the provisions of these sections in the instant case; It has merely utilized the test laid down by these sections for the purpose of awarding compensation to the aggrieved workmen. In this connexion, it would not be out of place to mention that the plea as to whether or not-the dispute was an industrial dispute was given up by the representative of the management on 4 May 1960, with the result that the preliminary issue relating thereto was decided against them. Having given up the plea of the dispute not being industrial dispute, I do not think it is open to the management to raise that question in writ proceedings in this Court and, as I understand the contention raised on behalf of the appellant, it is virtually the preliminary objection couched in slightly different language. It may at best be described to be another aspect of the same preliminary objection.
8. I may here observe it workmen's compensation statutes are enacted with the object of providing security of tenure to the labouring man. The Courts are, generally speaking, inclined--if not committed to adopt a liberal interpretation of the provisions of such statutes, so that their beneficial purpose can be effectively achieved. These provisions owe their existence to the social and economic needs of the society as a whole and are by and large responsive to those needs, having been enacted as a result of modern conditions incident to the industrial development. The rights of the work, men, therefore, deserve to be generously, treated by utilizing the standards for compensation recognized and laid down in them. Keeping in view the policy of these statutes an extended Interpretation, consistent with their spirit and reason, would, in my view, be justified and the labour court in the instant case cannot be considered to have acted either without jurisdiction or outside the statute by merely obtaining some guidance from Sections 25C to 25E for determining what in its view would be the just amount of compensation payable to the workmen on accounts of what virtually amounts to a mala fide termination of their services. The use of the expression, 'lay-off,' in my opinion, does not show that the labour court actually applied the above provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, and indeed, the labour court actually stated in the award that the measure of compensation as laid down in Section 25C would be proper and just.
9. On the merits of the order, nothing substantial was urged, as, indeed, nothing could, in law, be urged by the counsel for the petitioner in assailing the legality of the award which would justify interference under Article 226 of the Constitution.
10. For the reasons given above, this petition falls and is hereby dismissed with costs.