V.P. Gopalan Nambiyar, Actg. C.J.
1. These are two connected appeals from the common judgment of a learned Judge in two writ petitions, O.P. Nos. 4328 and 4628 of 1972. The writ petitions were by two different labour unions to quash the award of the Industrial Tribunal, Calicut. The learned Judge quashed the award and directed the Tribunal to go into the question afresh and dispose of the matter in accordance with law and in the light of the observations contained in his judgment. The Management, viz the Co operative Tea Society Ltd. literati, has preferred these appeals.
2. The appellant is the owner of the four tea estates in North Wynad with which we are concerned in these writ petitions, and one, known as the Rippon Tea Estate, in Sooth Wynad. The two unions who filed the two writ petitions which have given rise to these appeals had been functioning for a long time in the estates involved in these appeals, but not in the Rippon Estate. There was difference in the schemes of payment of wages to the workers in the tea estates, as between the Travancore Cochin and the Malabar areas of this State (These appeals relates to estates In the Malabar area) In the Travancore Cochin area, wages were on a guaranteed time-rate (G.T.R. for short) for sub-standard workers plus a piece rate for standard workers. In Malabar area, on the other hand, wages were at a fixed daily rate with an incentive, or 'over-pound' as is called With the integration of the two areas and the formation of the Kerala State on 1.11.1956, it was felt that it was very desirable and necessary, to unify the scheme of wages. This was done by three agreements dated 10.5.1969, 30.5.69 and 30.6.1969, (filed before the Industrial Tribunal as W. 10 to W. 12). These fixed the daily wages in both the areas and provided that the question of over pound would be taken up in due course. The revised rates were to take effect from 1.1.1969. Clause (6) of Agreement provided that there had been no agreement on the question of recession of over pound rates in the estate ; and Clause (8) provided that nothing in the settlement would adversely affect the existing benefits. The position after the settlement was that in the Malabrr area 5.75 ps. per kilogram were payable as over pound. The arrears on that basis had to be paid on or before 15th August. Wages were offered en 7th August, 1969 but were rejected. According to the Management, only 4.6ps. per Kg., which was the piece-rate in the Travancore-Cochin area, was payable, fiat the workers demanded payment at 3.73 ps. The intervention of the Labour Commissioner was sought by Ext. P2 letter dated 8.8.1969 addressed by the petitioner-union. Exhibits P3 to P6 are communication by the Superintendent of the Estates to the Head-office. and Ext. P7 dated 19.8.1969 is by one of the unions. On the same day by a notice (not field) the management notified that the functioning of the estates had become imposs bleowing to circumstances beyond their control. On 18.9.1969 a settlement was effected to refer he question of wages from 19.8.1969 for adjudication to the Industrial Tribunal. Tie workers came back to work on 21.9.1969. The issue referred for adjudication was:
Claim of the workers of Talapoya, Chirakara, Jessie and Tatamala Tea Estates for wages from 20.8.1969 to 21.9.1969.
The Tribunal in paragraph 20 of Ext. P 1 Award noted that the situation prior to closure and after closure had to be examined in detail. In paragraph 21 it noticed that in respect of other estates in the area where other unions were functioning the payment of wages had been accepted without demur and there had been no adjudication. The Tribunal regarded this as prima facie indicating that there was nothing wrong in the mode of calculation of wages. The paragraph 22, the Tribunal noted that the question of over pound was left to be considered by negotiating committee and ultimately the plantation labour committee had evolved rates for over pound. The controversy on that account no longer survives. In paragraph 23, the Tribunal noted the case of the workers that a large number of workers would be adversely affected by Exts. W 10 to W 12 and regarded that this case will not be correct. In paragraphs 24 and 25, the Tribunal referred to the correspondence which showed the threat of direct action by the workers and to the charges of the estate manager and the plantation writer the Court's order directing a search-warrant to be tagged. It referred in this connection to a number of letters written by the Management dated 27.8.1969, etc At the end at paragraph 25, the Tribunal concluded that the documents and oral evidence would show that the workers had resorted to some sort of direct action in furtherance of their cause. In paragraph 26, the Tribunal proceeded to state that what happened after closure is also material. It referred to the formation of a joint action council by the unions together, and the resolution dated 27.8.1969 passed by the unions (marked Ext. W7 before the Tribunal) in which it was stated that the workers will be constrained to take up the management of the estate in full tinder their control in case the problem is not solved before 1st September, 1969. The Tribunal referred to the oral evidence of the Doctor examined as M.W. 2 who deposed to the unhealthy position which prevailed in the estate resulting is the managerial staff leaving the estate on the 19th and 10th August, when he also left. The Doctor was sent back to the estate and he saw the barricades erected by the workers and pickets posted at the entry and exit gates, and entries posted to check all persons who attempted to enter the estate. From these the Tribunal concluded at the end of paragraph 26 that the managerial staff got so panicky that they left it without even considering the question of the safety of the articles or the plantation in general. In paragraph 28 it discussed the motive for closure with respect to the cute of the workers that it was to teach the workers a lesson and to coerce them to accept the terms dictated by the Management. It concluded this aspect of its discussion by finding that the various aspects referred to by It showed that the closure was for reasons beyond the control of the Management and that in the circumstances, the workers were not entitled to get wages for the period of closure. An award on the above lines was passed by the Tribunal.
3. The learned Judge's reasoning for setting aside the award is Been stated in paragraph 17 of the judgment, as follows:
17. Since the entire approach by the Tribunal is erroneous inasmuch as it has taken into account irrelevant matters such as incidents which took place long after the closure In assessing the question of justification for the closure and also in view of the several other circumstances pointed out in the matter of approach to the question which it had to decide, I should characteristic the decision not only as unsustainable but also as perverse for the reason that conclusion is not justified by the findings which cave relevancy to the conclusion.
The learned Judge then noticed the argument of counsel for the Management that the evidence may be reassessed and en independent conclusion arrived at on the question referred for decision to the Tribunal. It was rightly observed that it was not the role of this Court to do so. and that the come ional function under Article 226 cannot be equated with the appellate function. Having held so, the learned Judge concluded
The appropriate course would be to set aside the Award and direct the Industrial Tribunal, Calicut to go into the question afresh by hearing parties and disposing of the mater in accordance with law and in the light of what has been stated here. I do so.
4. We have carefully scanned the judgment of the learned Judge to rind out why the learned lodge took the view that the entire approach of the Tribunal was vitiated. They are these : In paragraph 12 of the judgment, the learned Judge noticed the workers' representation dated 8.8.1969 end remarked:
It is surprising that the Industrial Tribunal should suggest that such boycott of wages is direct action. It is quite equally surprising to think that this would be one of the reasons relevant in deciding whether the closure was proper or not.
The Tribunal's comment which provoked the learned Judge's observation was itself extracted by the learned Judge is paragraph 12 of his Judgment The Tribunal remarked that the union informed the Labour Authorities about the dispute only after they decided to boycott it wages and that before it resorted to direct action, it made no attempt to resolve the dispute without recourse to direct action. We think that the learned Judge exceeded the limits of his jurisdiction in interfering with the assessment of the evidentiary facts and the circumstance by the Tribunal. Although the limits of the correctional jurisdiction under Article 226 were correctly sketched by the learned Judge, Its practical application, we think, fell short of the exposition. There was, we think, enough for the Tribunal to make its comment in paragraph 24 of the Award. The Communication dated 8.8.1969 (Ext. P2 in O.P 4321 of 1972) by the union to the Labour Commissioner stated that unless matters are settled amicably the workers will be forced to resort to direct action before the Onam holidays itself Exhibit P6 of the same date from the General Manager of the appellant - company refers to the union leaders having told him that unless matters were settled within two or three days they will create some unpleasantness and also they are not bothered whether it is a whole Wynad dispute of Jessie dispute. Exhibit. P7 dated 19th August, 1969 from the union to the Labour Commissioner again stated that the union would be constrained to resort to hanger strike from 22nd August, 1969 for an indefinite period. These have been referred to by the Tribunal; and its finding in the light of these that the workers were threatening direct action with resorting to peaceful methods for settling the dispute cannot be said to be unjustified or unreasonable The learned Judge was wrong in understanding the boycott of wages as the direct action threatened, and in interfering with the Tribunal's finding in this aspect in writ jurisdiction. In paragraph 10 of his Judgment, the learned Judge stated that possibly, there might have been some incidents in the Estate', by way of charges or agitation; but observed that the same may not have any relevance in considering whether the closure dated 19.8.1969 was justified. The learned Judge expressed that an incident of 1st July, 1969 when a few ladies ere said to have afraid some officer in the estate (vide Ext. P11)and the complaint of some incident in another estate dated 3.7.1969 Ext. P12) were Irrelevant and the Tribunal was wrong in referring to these irrelevant materials. We are afraid we cannot share the view of the learned Judge. Even in proceedings governed by the strict requirement and rules of the Indian Evidence Act it might not be correct to rule out these incidents altogether as irrelevant. They might conceivably, become relevant as res gestae. Whether they were so or not, It for the Tribunal to assess and not for this Court under Article 226 to reassess. That apart, the Tribunal was one with wide powers in regard to industrial adjudication and was not hidebound by the niceties at the Indian Evidence Act or the principle of res gestae.
5. In Kalinga Tubes Ltd. v. Workmen 1969 I L.L.J. 557, after discussing the relevant case law on the point, the Supreme Court held that the entire net of circumstances and facts have to be taken Into account while endeavoring to find out if, in act, there has been a closure and the Tribunal or the Court is not confined to any particular fact or net of facts or circumstances. The result of the analysis of the decisions was thus summed up by the Supreme Court:
The discussion of the above decision yields the result that the entire set of circumstances and facts have to be taken into account while endeavoring to find out if, in fact, there has been a closure and the Tribunal or the Court is not confined to Any particular fact or set of facts or circumstances. In one case the management may decide to close down an undertaking became of financial or purely business reasons. In another case it may decide in favour of closure when faced with a situation in which it is considered either dangerous or hazardous from the point of view of the safety of the administrative staff or members of the management or even the employees themselves to carry on the business. The essence of the matter, therefore, is the factum of closure by whatever reasons motive.
We may only point out that the term 'closure' is not defined in the Industrial Disputes Act and its connotation has been left to rest en its well understood usage and import. The one other observation we might make is that the expression 'closure' for unavoidable reasons beyond the control of the employer' occurs to in the proviso to Section 25FFF of the Industrial Disputes Act. Whichever way viewed, we feel the learned Judge's criticism was beyond the limits of his jurisdiction tinder Article 226.
6. For the same reason we ere enable to agree with paragraph 11 of the learned Judge's judgment in which be has stated that incidents subsequent to the closure had no relevance. We cannot endorse the observation of the learned Judge at the end of paragraph 11 that the approach of the Tribunal was 'absolutely erroneous and perverse'. The learned Judge found fault with the comment made by the Tribunal that except in the four estates concerned in these writ petitions there was no boycott by the workmen in the other estates. The learned Judge felt it was Irrelevant. After all. it was for the Tribunal to assess the evidentiary value if the circumstances aid evidence before it. We do not think the circumstance was irrelevant; and a re-assessment was beyond the Ken of the limited Jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226. We cannot accept the learned Judge's observation that the Tribunal's reasoning on this aspect was pet verse.
7. We are of the opinion that there was enough material on the basis of which the Tribunal could have rented its conclusion as recorded in the Award, aid the learned Judge was wrong in characterising the finding as perverse and unreasonable or as proceeding on irrelevant considerations or as vitiated by any wrong approach. We are farther of the opinion that the learned Judge exceeded the limits of his jurisdiction under Article 226 interfering with the award of the Tribunal and setting aside the same.
8. We allow this appeal, set aside the judgment of the learned Judge in the two writ petitions and direct that O.P. Nos. 4328 & 4628 of 1972 shall stand dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.