Bombay Industrial Relations Act - Sections 73A and 119D; Payment of Bonus Ordinance, 1965 - Section 10
1. The Ahmedabad Miscellaneous Industrial Workers' Union, Ahmedabad (which would hereinafter be referred to as the union), a representative union for the employees in the electricity industry in the local area of Ahmedabad City, gave a notice of change to the Ahmedabad Electricity Company, Ltd., Ahmedabad (which would hereinafter be referred to as the company), demanding adequate bonus permissible under law for the year 1964-65. As the dispute could not be settled in conciliation, a reference under S. 73A of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act was made by the union to this Court on 28 September, 1965. The union then filed its statement of claims on 5 October, 1965 and also made an application on the same day praying for interim orders, for payment of some bonus subject to adjustment in the amount that may be awarded as a final result of this reference. Contentions raised by the union in the said application were that adjudication of the reference is likely to take some time and is not likely to be over before Diwali which falls on 24 October, 1965. For the last several years the employees of the company have been receiving bonus before Diwali and if in this year they do not get any bonus before Diwali, they would suffer considerable hardships, especially when the cost of living is rising so high. The union then contended that the Payment of Bonus Ordinance, 1965, would apply to the company, and under S. 10 of the said Ordinance, it would be bound to pay to each of its workmen at least 4 percent of the salary or wages earned by him during the year. According to the union, the company has made enough profits and the employees are bound to be awarded more than the minimum bonus. The union also alleged that the company has made a provision in its balance sheet for the year 1964-65 for payment of at least the minimum bonus under S. 10 of the Ordinance. It, therefore, prayed for an interim award directing the company to pay at least the minimum bonus to its employees before the Diwali.
2. A notice was issued to the company to file its written statement against the application for interim bonus and also intimating it that that application would be heard on 13 October, 1965. The company did not file any written statement against the application for interim bonus; but at the time of hearing, opposed it. Sri V. B. Patel, the learned advocate for the company, urged that ordinarily interim bonus is not granted by the Courts in such cases. He also urged that the minimum amount of bonus would become payable under the Ordinance, only if it is valid. He further urged that the company's main written statement so far as the reference is concerned is not yet ready and hence it could not be said what contentions would be taken and whether any bonus would be granted to the employees or not. So, according to him, it would not be proper to issue any direction to pay interim bonus.
3. Considering the contentions of the parties, it does not seem that in fit cases, the Courts do issue interim orders for payment of some amount which would be adjustible with the amount that would become payable under the final awards. The Court is also empowered under S. 119D of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act to pass just and proper interim orders. The question, therefore, to be considered is, whether this is a fit case in which any interim award should be made. It was urged that the question of payment of minimum bonus would arise only if the Payment of Bonus Ordinance, 1965, is valid. The company has not yet filed its written statement in the reference, and so it cannot be stated at this stage whether it would challenged validity of the Ordinance or not but the fact remains that at the time of hearing of this application, validity of the ordinance was not seriously challenged. An enactment would be presume to be valid till held otherwise by a competent Court. It then appears that the fact that for the last about five to six years the employees of the company were given some bonus round about the Diwali festival days, has not been seriously challenged. Looking to the stage at which the reference is pending at present, it is amply clear that its hearing is not likely to be over before the ensuing Diwali festival. So, naturally, if the employees of the company do not get any amount, as usual before the Diwali festival, they are bound to suffer some hardship which may lead to serious discontent. The union stated that the company has made some provision in its balance sheet for making payment of bonus to its employees. That statement has also not been seriously challenged. So, if any award for payment of interim bonus is made, the company is not likely to suffer serious hardship. Considering, therefore, the circumstances of this case, I think that an interim award for the payment of some amount to each of the some existing employees covered by this reference, should be made with a condition that the amount that would become payable under this interim award would be adjustible against either the amount that would become payable to him under the final award in this reference, viz., Reference (I.C.) No. 432 of 1965 or the amount, which would become payable to him by the company, in any other manner.
4. In the result, it is directed that the company should pay to each of its employees, covered by this reference, 4 per cent of the total basic wages and dearness allowance only, earned by him during the period from 1 April, 1964 to 31 March 1965, as interim bonus. The amount so paid under this interim award would be adjustible against either the amount that would becomes payable to him under the final award in this reference, i.e., Reference (I.C.) No. 432 of 1965, or the amount which would become payable to him by the company in any other manner. Only the employees in the service of the company on the date of this award would be entitled to be paid the said interim bonus. These direction should be complied with on or before 23 October, 1965.