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Workmen of Standard Furniture Company, Ltd. Vs. District Labour Officer and Conciliation Officer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1966)ILLJ236Ker
AppellantWorkmen of Standard Furniture Company, Ltd.
RespondentDistrict Labour Officer and Conciliation Officer and ors.
Cases ReferredLtd. v. Ganguli
Excerpt:
.....are bound by the terms of the settlement. 10. such being the function and the duties of a conciliation officer, i find it difficult to accept the petitioner's case that there has been a total failure to exercise a judicial discretion and that the exercise of the same can be compelled by mandamus. as between them, the agreement is good and valid and cannot be quashed. 17. even if in law these reliefs can be claimed against respondent 1 on the ground that there has been a total failure to exercise his statutory functions, i am satisfied that on the facts disclosed, such a charge cannot be substantiated. in these circumstances, even if writ will lie against respondent 1 for the non-performance of his btatutory functions or a declaration can follow in regard to them, i am satisfied..........the statutory functions of respondent 1, it is claimed that the petitioner would be entitled to a writ of mandamus.2. in the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents a preliminary objection has been raised to the maintainability of the original petition on two grounds, namely:(1) because the petitioner is not a workman and has no locus standi to maintain the petition; and (2) because ex. p. 11 settlement has been fully implemented and accepted by all the workmen and as such, a writ of mandamus as asked for cannot lie.3. in the reply-affidavit filed on behalf of the petitioner and also in the course of the arguments, it has been contended that even if a writ of mandamus would not lie, the petitioner is entitled to a declaration that ex. p. 11 is null and void.4. as far as the.....
Judgment:

V.P. Gopalan Nambiyar, J.

1. The petitioner in this original petition prays for the issue of a 'writ in the nature of mandamus or other appropriate writ or order directing respondent 1 not to give effect to Ex. P. 11 settlement.' Respondent 1 is the District Labour Officer and Conciliation Officer, Trichur. Exhibit P. 11 settlement was in respect of certain disputes between the management and the workmen of the Standard Furniture Company, Ltd., Chalakudi, of which respondent 2 is the manager, Kallai branch, and respondent 3 is the manager of the Chalakudi branch. Respondents 4 to 8 are some of the workmen who were also instrumental in bringing about the settlement, Ex. P. 11. The conciliation proceedings started with the issuance of the notice, Ex. P. 2, dated 20 May 1964. It had a somewhat protracted course, and eventually the range of difference was narrowed down to two points, which it is unnecessary to specify. It is the admitted case that for the purposes of ironing out the differences on these two points, the representatives of the management and the workmen were holding conferences with respondent 1, the last of which, prior to Ex. P. 11, seems to have been on 14 August 1964. As the efforts at settlement did not materialize, the workers made a request to the union to convene a general body meeting for 19 August 1964. Before the proposed meeting could be convened Ex. P. 11 settlement was effected on 18 August 1964 and respondent 1 appended his signature thereto. For the purpose of effecting the said settlement, respondent 1 was approached by some workers who represented that the office-bearers of the union had been removed, and that the workers had directly settled with the management. This settlement was incorporated in Ex. P. 11. The petitioner's case is that respondent 1 without any independent, much less judicial, consideration as to whether the workers who approached him for effecting the Ex. P. 11 settlement had really any locus standi and authority to do so, affixed his signature to the settlement in abnegation of the statutory functions laid on him by Section 12 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and in so far as there has been no exercise of the statutory functions of respondent 1, it is claimed that the petitioner would be entitled to a writ of mandamus.

2. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents a preliminary objection has been raised to the maintainability of the original petition on two grounds, namely:

(1) because the petitioner is not a workman and has no locus standi to maintain the petition; and

(2) because Ex. P. 11 settlement has been fully implemented and accepted by all the workmen and as such, a writ of mandamus as asked for cannot lie.

3. In the reply-affidavit filed on behalf of the petitioner and also in the course of the arguments, it has been contended that even if a writ of mandamus would not lie, the petitioner is entitled to a declaration that Ex. P. 11 is null and void.

4. As far as the petitioner's locus standi to maintain the petition is concerned, it is stated in the petitioner's affidavit that he is acting as general secretary of the Standard Furniture Labour Union, Chalakudi. I am not inclined to deny the petitioner's right to maintain this petition.

5. The question as to whether the petitioner would be entitled to the relief of mandamus or declaration must depend upon the position and functions of respondent 1 under Section 12 of the Industrial Disputes Act and the way in which those functions have been discharged in the instant case.

6. The relevant portion of Section 12 of the Act reads as follows:

(1) Where any industrial dispute exists or is apprehended, the conciliation officer may, or where the dispute relates to a public utility service and a notice under Section 22 has been given, shall, hold conciliation proceedings in the prescribed manner.

(2) The conciliation officer shall, for the purpose of bringing about a settlement of the dispute without delay, investigate the dispute and all matters affecting the merits and the right settlement thereof and may do all such things as he thinks fit for the purpose of inducing the parties to come to a fair and amicable settlement of the dispute.

(3) If a settlement of the dispute or of any of the matters in dispute is arrived at in the course of the conciliation proceedings, the conciliation officers shall send a report thereof to the appropriate Government together with a memorandum of the settlement signed by the parties to the dispute. * * *

7. The position of a conciliation officer under the above section was stated in Employees in Caltex (India), Madras v. Commissioner of Labour and Conciliation Officer, Government of Madras 1959-I L.L.J. 520. Balakrishna Ayyar, J., observed at p. 524:

A writ of certiorari can issue only in relation to a judicial or quasi-judicial act and I am unable to persuade myself that when acting under Section 12 of the Industrial Disputes Act a conciliation officer is acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial manner. No doubt there are opposing parties and various points at issue between them. But the conciliation officer is not competent to hear or decide any of them; all he can do is to try to persuade the parties to come to a fair and amicable settlement. The Act gives him power to 'do all such things as he thinks fit for the purpose of inducing the parties to come to a fair and amicable settlement of the dispute.' His duties are to induce or persuade; he has no power to decide anything at all. He can appeal to their good sense or to their sense of patriotism or to their self-interest. Within reasonable limits he may also remonstrate with them. He may invite them to take into consideration the temper of public opinion or the hardships that the public may be put to. In fact, the matter is left entirely to his resourcefulness and powers of persuasiveness. How the discharge of such duties can be regarded as judicial or quasi-judicial, it is hard to see.

8. In the same decision it was further observed:

It is also difficult to see how the circumstances that the conciliation officer has signed at the foot of the agreement, and the agreement purports to be one under Section 12(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act can be regarded as any kind of order or decision. It is not therefore susceptible to correction by certiorari.

Sri Mohan Kumaramangalam complained that by reason of the fact that the conciliation officer has appended his signature to the foot of the memorandum of settlement which purports to be under Section 12(3) of the Act the rights of the petitioner are prejudicially affected and that it would be claimed that the petitioner and the workmen whom the petitioner represents are bound by the terms of the settlement. Even so how it becomes an order or decision I find it hard to see.

9. In Bata Shoe Company (Private), Ltd. v. Ganguli (D. N.) 1961-I L.L. J. 303 It was observed by the Supreme Court at p. 308:

As we read this provision we feel that the legislature when it made a settlement reached during the course of conciliation proceedings binding not only on the parties thereto but also on all present and future workmen intended that such settlement was arrived at with the assistance of the conciliation officer and was considered by him to be reasonable and therefore had his concurrence.

10. Such being the function and the duties of a conciliation officer, I find it difficult to accept the petitioner's case that there has been a total failure to exercise a Judicial discretion and that the exercise of the same can be compelled by mandamus.

11. Besides, I may recall the observations of Balakrishna Ayyar, J., in Caltex case 1959-I L.L.J. 520 (vide supra):

It will be appreciated that whatever may be the position of the petitioner in relation to the settlement, it does bind the employers and all the employees whom the Madras Kerosene Oil Workers' Union, represented or whom it was entitled to represent. As between them, the agreement is good and valid and cannot be quashed. When the matter is fully considered, it will be appreciated that what the petitioner really wants is a declaration that the settlement come to on 16 October 1958 does not bind the petitioner. To get such a relief it must file a suit for a declaration. The jurisdiction of this Court in relation to writs cannot be availed of for that purpose.

12. I am in entire agreement with the above view.

13. There is also the difficulty which has been pointed out in the counter-affidavit of all the respondents that the settlement, Ex. P. 11, has been fully implemented and has been accepted by all the workmen. Indeed, the counter-affidavit on behalf of the respondents 2 and 3 has alleged:

All the workmen of the Chalakudi branch, without demur or protest, accepted the terms of the settlement and they have' willingly accepted all back payments as per that settlement and executed receipts in favour of the management.

14. In such circumstances, it is not possible to issue a writ of mandamus as prayed for by the petitioner, for mandamus does not lie to undo what has been done.

15. But it is claimed that if a writ of mandamus is unavailable, it is still open to the petitioner to get the relief of declaration that Ex. P. 11 settlement, is null and void and reliance was placed on the decision of this Court in Akhileswara Ayyar case 1961 K.L.J. 389. The learned Government Pleader argued that if a writ of mandamus is unavailable, the relief of declaration cannot be substituted therefor, and has cited authorities in support of the said submission.

16. It seems unnecessary to consider the contention as to whether the relief of declaration can be given in cases and in circumstances where a writ of mandamus or certiorari is unavailable. I am clear that neither the relief of mandamus nor the relief of declaration can be claimed or obtained by the petitioner in this case.

17. Even if in law these reliefs can be claimed against respondent 1 on the ground that there has been a total failure to exercise his statutory functions, I am satisfied that on the facts disclosed, such a charge cannot be substantiated. Respondent 1 has filed a detailed counter-affidavit in which in Paras. 4 to 8 he has set out the circumstances under which he bona fide believed that there has been a settlement between the management and the workmen, and affixed his signature to Ex. P. 11 settlement. It is stated that the management did not dispute the representative capacity of those who appeared before respondent 1; nor was the fact of settlement disputed. A memorandum signed by 56 workers was presented to respondent 1 stating that the majority of the workers were in favour of accepting the settlement. A letter was also given to respondent 1 that the five representatives who appeared before him on 18 August 1964 had been elected as office-bearers of the union in a meeting held on 17 August 1964. Respondent 1 has averred that he bona fide believed that in the interests of industrial peace the settlement was acceptable to the majority of the workers and therefore brought about the settlement of the dispute in conciliation. In these circumstances, even If writ will lie against respondent 1 for the non-performance of his Btatutory functions or a declaration can follow in regard to them, I am satisfied that the facts disclosed do not warrant the grant of any such relief.

18. The original petition fails and is dismissed with costs, one set.


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