P. Subramonian Poti, J.
1. An interesting question has been raised in this original petition by the Hindustan Insecticides Limited, which figured as a party in Industrial Dispute No. 49 of 1973 before the Industrial Tribunal, Kozhikode. Exhibit P2 is the order of reference of the Government to the Tribunal. The parties to the reference were the Hindustan Insecticides Limited and .its workmen represented by two unions, the Hindustan Insecticides Limited Workers' Union, and the Hindustan Insecticides Employees' Union. These unions are respectively respondents 2 and 3 in this petition. It appears that even prior to the order of reference the management had reached an understanding with the 3rd respondent-union which according to the management represents the majority of workmen and a settlement had been reached on 13-3-1973. Pursuant to this Ext. P 9 notice was put up on the notice board on 12-5-1973 intimating the workmen that they may receive payments in accordance with such settlement. It is said that such payments were made on 18-5-1973. It is nearly 4 months thereafter that the order of reference was made by the Government. Admittedly it was the 3rd respondent-union that was party to the agreement with the management. The agreement was not one reached in any conciliation. Under Section 18(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, an agreement would be binding on the parties to it. That would mean that the workers who were not parties to the agreement would not be bound by the settlement reached between the petitioner-company and the 3rd respondent-union. But the stand taken by the management before the Tribunal was that there was no subsisting industrial dispute in view of the settlement reached prior to the reference. The Tribunal was moved to here this question as a preliminary issue and the management evidently reserved its right to file statement on the merits. This was objected to by the second respondent which claimed that it represented majority of the workmen, that it was not bound by the settlement reached between the 3rd respondent-union and the petitioner-management and that, therefore, the Industrial Dispute subsisted. It too had raised a charter of demands and those demands led to the industrial dispute. Evidently the answer of the management as well as the 3rd respondent-union to the absence of junction of the second respondent-union in the settlement was that it was nevertheless binding upon all the unions since on Ext. P9 notice which particularly made mention of the agreement dated 13-3-1973 payment was received by all the workmen which would mean that even the workmen represented by the second respondent-union had willingly received the payment. It appears that on the facts there could be no dispute as to the receipt of benefit under the settlement reached between the petitioner and the 3rd respondent union by all the workmen. But the case of the second respondent is that a large number of workmen received such payment only as an interim measure in satisfaction of the demands urged. In other words the case was that there was ho acceptance of the terms of the settlement.
3. The Tribunal by its order which is under challenge here held that at that stage preliminary issue could not be decided, for, it called for evidence. It also found that the preliminary point had to be found against the petitioner. Evidently there is some error in the order as pointed out by the petitioner's counsel. Reference is made to certain declarations. It is assumed that those declarations by the workmen related to the settlement reached in March, 1973 between the petitioner and the 3rd respondent-union. As a matter of fact they are not. Exhibits P14 and P15 are specimen copies of such declarations and they show that the declarations relate to some ad hoc payment. But the circumstance does not vitiate the order to the extent of inviting interference by this Court. Essentially the point that had to be decided was whether the workmen who were not parties to the settlement reached between the petitioner and the 3rd respondent-union were bound by the settlement. If they were not, the Industrial dispute subsisted and adjudication was called for. If they were bound there was no industrial dispute and, therefore, the reference was incompetent.
4. The best that the petitioner could say is that those workmen who had not been parties to the settlement reached between the petitioner and the 3rd respondent-union were also bound by the settlement in view of the acquiescence by them, such acquiescence being indicated by their conduct in receiving payments in spite of the fact that they were notified by Ext. P9 that such payment were being made pursuant to the settlement and not otherwise. Possibly it could further be said that in so far as they did not raise any objection or protest in receiving such payment in terms of such settlement any afterthought or any indication on a later date that they had not received it pursuant to the settlement may not be sufficient to say that the persons who had so received payments have not acquiesced in such settlement. In short, the plea could only be that the settlement is binding on those workmen who are not parties to it that is evidence by their conduct which indicates acquiescence. If that be the plea, the petition must nevertheless fail as the question in covered directly by a decision of the Supreme Court in Jhagrakhan Collieries (P) Ltd. v. G.C. Agarwal 1975--I L.L.J. 163 The facts of that case were more or less similar to the facts here and the question there was, as indicated in paragraph 15 of that judgment, whether the receipt of variable dearness allowance in accordance with the settlement to which respondents were not parties would be sufficient to consider the workers as having accepted the settlement and in consequence would be effective against them as if they were parties to it. The argument was noticed to be attractive, but was found to be one which did not stand a close examination. The Court said--
We have already noticed that according to the scheme of Section 18 read with Section 2(P) an agreement, made otherwise than in the course of conciliation proceedings to be settlement within the meaning of the act must be a return agreement signed in the manner prescribed by the Rules framed under the Act. As rightly pointed out by Mr. Ramamurthy, learned Counsel for the respondents an implied agreement by acquiescence, or conduct such as acceptance of a benefit under an agreement to which the worker acquiescing or accepting the benefit was not a party, being outside the purview of the Act, is not binding on such a worker either under Sub-section (1) or under Sub-section (3) of Section 18. It follows, therefore, that even if 99% of the workers have impliedly, accepted the agreement arrived at on October 22, 1969, by drawing V.D.A. under it, it will not-whatever its effect under the general law put an end to the dispute before the Labour Court and make it functus officio under the Act.
5. Section 18(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act makes a settlement arrived at by agreement between the employer and the workmen otherwise than in the course of conciliation proceeding to be binding on the parties to the agreement. If the settlement is reached at a conciliation proceeding by reason of Sub-section (3) of the Section it becomes enforceable also as against the other workmen who are not parties to the settlement. Section 18(1) evidently refers to a settlement arrived at by agreement between parties. May be that subsequently by acquiescence or by conduct this agreement is acted upon by others too. But as indicated by the Supreme Court, it appears that in such cases it is only the parties to the settlement that are bound by the agreement. In view of the decision of the Supreme Court, I should find that the Industrial Tribunal which decided the question as a preliminary issue was right in its conclusion. No interference is called for.
6. In the result, the original petition is dismissed. No costs.