1. This petition under Article 225 of the Constitution of India by Matchwel Electricals (India), Limited, is directed against an award of the industrial tribunal, Delhi, dated 26 February 1960, and seeks to have the same set aside.
2. The petitioner company at the relevant time carried on business, inter alia, of manufacturing electric fans and had a factory near the tram terminus, Subzimandi, Delhi. On 1 August 1959, when the Ministry in the State of Kerala was dismissed and the Governor's Rule promulgated there, the workmen of the petitioner company, as also the workmen of various other industries, struck work, presumably to protest against the intervention of the Central Government in Kerala affairs. The strike ended the same day and although all other workers were permitted by the petitioner company to resume duty, six of them, namely. (1) Satpal Sharma, (2) Madan Gopal Anand, (3) Jaswant Singh, (4) Sher Singh, (5) Dhani Ram, and (6) Joginder Singh, were not so permitted. The management passed orders of suspension qua these six persons and later by means of a communication, dated 27 August 1959, charge-sheeted all these six persons.
3. A letter, containing precisely the same charges, was sent to each of them and reads as under:
With reference to your letter.you are informed that you were guilty of misconduct in so far as you were a party to a well-planned strike of the workers of the establishment on August 1959 inasmuch as you yourself abstained from work and incited others to similarly abstain from work which was connected with your political activities and had no connexion whatever with the dispute with the management or the conditions of service. The said conduct on your part amounts to a major misdemeanour within the meaning of Clause (k) of standing Order 13 of the standing orders inasmuch the abstention from work was a breach of contract to carry on work regularly and was resorted to during the pendency of conciliation proceedings before the conciliation officer, Delhi.
It has been decided to hold the enquiry into the allegations and you are required to appear before a three-man enquiry committee consisting of Sri R.P. Mehrotra, Sri M.L. Chawla and Sri D.R. Dhir on 31 August 1959 at factory premises with all material evidence which you propose to rely for the purpose. If you do not appear before the said enquiry, the enquiry would be proceeded with ex parte against you.
4. An enquiry was thereafter held by a board consisting of three members of the management and as a result of the said enquiry, the management of the petitioner company came to the conclusion that all the aforesaid persons were guilty of major misdemeanour in having indulged in activities which were illegal and subversive of discipline. By means of order passed on 12 October 1959, the petitioner company dismissed all of them and made the order of dismissal to operate retrospectively from 1 August 1959. This led to an industrial dispute between the petitioner company on the one hand and its workmen on the other, and this was referred by the Government for adjudication to the industrial tribunal by means of Notification No. F. 10 (268)/59-I and L, dated 31 December 1959.
5. The terms of reference as mentioned in the said notification were as under:
Whether the following workmen should be reinstated with full back wages and to what relief they are entitled?--
(1) Satpal Sharma.
(2) Sher Singh.
(3) Madan Gopal Anand.
(4) Dhani Ram.
(5) Jaswant Singh.
(6) Joginder Singh.
6. After a complete trial of the matter, the industrial tribunal came to the conclusion that the strike, in which the aforesaid respondents had participated, could not be termed as an illegal strike as envisaged by Sections 22 to 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act but that It was an unjustified strike. It further found that the order of dismissal was actuated by motives of victimization and that in the circumstances of the case, it was far too severe a punishment. In the result, the tribunal ordered reinstatement of all the Six persons not disallowed their claims for kick wages between the date of their dismissal add the date of reinstatement. The petitioner company feels aggrieved against the said award and seeks to have the same quashed by an appropriate writ, direction or order under Article 228 of the Constitution of India.
7. No one has appeared in this Court to oppose this petition on behalf of respondents 1 and 2, i.e., the Chief Commissioner, Delhi, and the Industrial Tribunal, Delhi. The aforesaid six workers, however, have appeared to oppose the petition and a written statement along with an affidavit has been filed on their behalf, Their case is that the Industrial tribunal was perfectly correct in reinstating them and that there is no such apparent error on the face of the award which may justify this Court's interference in its extraordinary powers under the Constitution.
8. Although various places have been taken in the petition, Sri H.L. Anand, who appears for the petitioners, has limited his arguments to three points only and they are:
(1) That there was no evidence before the tribunal on the basis of which it could be held that the action of the petitioner company was actuated by motives of victimization;
(2) that the strike in question was no? of the nature of an Industrial strike but was in effect; a political strike which should, in the circumstances of the case, have been held illegal; and
(3) that there are patent errors on the face of the award and the same is, therefore, liable to be quashed.
9. After hearing the learned Counsel for the petitions at great length, I am unable to agree with any of the aforesaid contention.
10. The tribunal has observed in Para. 18 of Its award as under:
It is Important to see that all the six workmen are, in some way or other connected with the executive of the union, or are active members of the union. It is stated before me by Joshi, that Satpal is the vice-president, and a member of the provident fund trust. Sher Singh is a member of the works committee. Madan Gopal Anand is the vice-president of the works committee, Dhani Ram is associated with the provident fund trust and is also on the working committee of the engineering mazdoor union. Jaswant Singh is an elected delegate to the works committee. So also Joginder Singh. Apparently, the active workers of the union have been singled out by the management for punishment for their union activities.
It is not denied on behalf of the petitioner company that all these six persons held the positions mentioned in the aforesaid observation of the tribunal. It is also not denied that all other workers were allowed to resume work excepting these six and that charges were framed and enquiry held only against these six. The explanation offered by the petitioner company for selecting these six persons for a disciplinary action is that they fomented the strike and incited others to go on strike. The industrial tribunal has adverted to this aspect of the case and taking all the circumstances into consideration, it has come to the conclusion that these persons were singled oat because of the fact that they held important positions in the union and the management wanted to punish them for their union activities. The finding of the tribunal that the action against the aforesaid six persona was actuated by motive of victimization seems to be based on good circumstantial evidence and there is no force in the contention that there was no evidence before the tribunal on the basis of which it could record this finding.
11. It is true that the strike in question was a sort of political strike and was not, in any way, connected with any grievance of the workmen against the management of the company. Paragraph 13(ii)(k) of standing Order 13, under which the management proceeded to take action against the aforesaid six persons, refers to a strike which is in contravention of the provisions of any law or rule, having the force of law. No such law or rule was quoted before the tribunal, nor has any been quoted before me. It is now well recognized that a strike is a legitimate weapon in the armoury of the workmen. The law with regard to illegal strikes is clearly laid down in Sections 22 to 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act and unless a case can be expressly brought within the purview of those sections, it is difficult to hold that the strike was illegal. The strike in question could at the most be held as unjustified and the tribunal did hold it so. It is important to note that even according to the finding of the enquiry committee, the six workers in question were held only to have incited other workers not to work. The finding was limited only to incitement to strike and not to any other acts of violence including those of forcibly preventing other workmen from entering the factory. The enquiry committee did not come to the conclusion that there was any picketing or any unruly scene, or even pushing or jostling. It was not found by them that there was any damage to the company's property and the industrial tribunal felt
itself unable to come to the conclusion that the aforesaid six workmen were guilty of fomenting a strike or that, they were guilty of such violent behaviour of acts subversive of discipline so as to merit punishment of dismissal. There is in these circumstances no force in the contention that the strike should have been declared to be illegal.
12. I do not find any patent error on the face of the award which should justify this Court's interference in the extraordinary powers vested in it under Article 225 of the Constitution of India. The industrial tribunal has gone into the evidence very carefully and after considering all the pros and cons of the case, he has come to the conclusion that the order of dismissal against the six workers was actuated by motives of victimization and was not a proper one. In view of the fact that the strike was unjustified, he has disallowed the claim of the workers to back wages but considering that the penalty of dismissal was too severe in the circumstances of the case and had not been imposed bona fide, he has ordered their reinstatement.
13. I do not agree with the contention of the learned Counsel that there is any error on the face of the award, much less a patent error, which should result in quashing of the award. In the result, I dismiss this petition with costs.