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Burmah-shell Oil Storage and Distributing Co. of India Ltd. and ors. Vs. Industrial Tribunal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1957)IILLJ51Ker
AppellantBurmah-shell Oil Storage and Distributing Co. of India Ltd. and ors.
Respondentindustrial Tribunal and ors.
Excerpt:
- .....take the concession divorced from its setting and proceed to utilize it for purpose of an interim award. interim relief, if any, could be granted only, if a prima facie case regarding the subject-matter of the dispute is made out. and to the extent that no prima facie case had been made out, by the workmen here, as i have already found, the interim award passed in their favour cannot stand.5. i therefore issue a writ of certiorari as prayed for quashing ex. e award. as the tribunal below would appear to have come to very definite conclusion already i think it desirable that the matter is hereafter heard and disposed of by some other tribunal. the parties have expressed their wish before me that industrial dispute herein and all matters involved may be heard by the industrial tribunal,.....
Judgment:
ORDER

N. Varadaraja Iyengar, J.

1. The three petitions herein have been filed by three different oil companies at Ernakulam, viz., the Burmah-Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India, Ltd., the Caltex (India), Ltd., and the Standard Vacuum Oil Company, under Article 226 of the Constitution. The common respondents are firstly the industrial tribunal, Ernakulam, secondly the general secretary, Petroleum Worker Union, Ernakulam, representing the workmen of the respective petitioner company and thirdly the workmen themselves. The question raised by all these petitions is the same and concerns the validity of an interim award passed by the first respondent tribunal on 1 December 1956 in favour of the third respondent workmen and filed as Ex. E.

2. By order dated 24 August 1956 the Travancore-Cochin State Government referred an industrial dispute between the three oil companies and their workmen to the. first respondent tribunal, covering a single matter:

What should be the bonus payable for the workmen for the year 1955?

After the companies and the workmen had filed their respective statements a petition was filed on 24 October 1956 on behalf of the workmen as O.P. No. 80 of 1956 praying for the passing of an interim award granting an interim bonus of four months' wages to the workmen of the three companies. The main case had not been posted on that day. So the petition was adjourned first to 6 November 1956 and then on agreement of parties to 30 November 1956 for the objection of the companies. Meanwhile on 22 November 1956 fresh petition was filed as M.P. No. 98 of 1956 on behalf of the workmen praying for advancement of the hearing of the petition for interim relief from 30 to 26 November 1956. The notice of this petition was issued to the companies fixing the date of hearing thereof on 29 November 1956. The companies appeared on 29 November 1956 to file their objections to the application for interim relief but represented through their counsel that as the petition for interim relief and the main dispute involved the very same question, they may be posted together for evidence to 8 December 1956 and disposed of as expeditiously as possible. There is a controversy between the parties as to whether anything more happened on that day, that is to say, whether M.P. No. 80 of 1956 was also argued on the merits but whatever it was, the tribunal came out with Its interim award on 1 December 1956 as if the matter had been fully argued. It is this interim award which is attacked herein and that is mainly on two grounds, firstly that the matter had not been heard and there was consequently a denial of natural justice and secondly that the order is wanting in jurisdiction and is vitiated by error apparent on its very face.

3. As I am clear that the order is liable to be quashed on the second of these grounds, I do not think it necessary to go into the first question except to say that it is rather unfortunate that there should be any difference on that vital matter.

4. Now, the principal reason which prompted the learned tribunal below to pass the interim award herein would appear to be that a large number of the employees of one of the oil companies, viz., the Burmah-Shell, had already been given bonus on basis of one-third of the basic wages by way of 'interim awards in this proceeding itself' and there was no justification for making others wait any more for their quota. What really had happened in this connexion was that subsequent to the filing of the statement by the parties on the main matter, four applications Nos. 70, 87, and 93 and 95 of 1956 were filed on behalf of a total number of 144 workmen of the Burmah-Shell Storage and Distributing Company of India, Ltd., praying for passing interim awards in their favour. The company filed objections to the tenability of those petitions but expressed their willingness, however, to pay bonus calculated on one-third of the basic wages earned by the workmen during the year 1955 in full and final satisfaction of their claim for bonus for that year. This position was accepted by the workmen and awards not exactly interim were passed on all the four applications accordingly. It was following this that O.P. No. 80 of 1956 with which we are concerned was filed. But the workmen on whose behalf this application was made wanted the basis adopted in the prior awards to be rather by the way than a final adjudication So the companies had their objections and required that the matter should be dealt with not on any concessional basis but formally after evidence taken and arguments heard. One would has expected that the matter was disposed summarily and finally on basis of mutual agreement or piecemeal, in interim and final stages, on basis of some evidence and arguments thereon. As it stood, there was absolutely no evidence before the court except what may be implied from a concessional offer, if at all. The mistake in which the tribunal fell was to take the concession divorced from its setting and proceed to utilize it for purpose of an interim award. Interim relief, if any, could be granted only, if a prima facie case regarding the subject-matter of the dispute is made out. And to the extent that no prima facie case had been made out, by the workmen here, as I have already found, the interim award passed in their favour cannot stand.

5. I therefore issue a writ of certiorari as prayed for quashing Ex. E award. As the tribunal below would appear to have come to very definite conclusion already I think it desirable that the matter is hereafter heard and disposed of by some other tribunal. The parties have expressed their wish before me that industrial dispute herein and all matters involved may be heard by the industrial tribunal, First Bench, at Ernakulam. That may be done.

6. Ordered accordingly, I make no order for costs however.


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