1. The petitioner, who has filed the present writ application under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, is a public limited company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act and has its registered office at Bijaynagar, Ajmer District.
2. Respondent No. 1, who is the only contesting party, is a representative body of the workers of the petitioner-company. On 12th March, 1953 a notice was issued by the company to the effect that on account of unremunerative working of the Mill and recurring continuous losses, the mill would be closed from 1st April, 1953 and in pursuance of the said notice, it was actually closed on 1st April, 1953. It continued to remain closed till 14th May, 1954. It started working again on 15th May, 1954 and continued working upto 23rd June 1957, On 24th June 1957 it was closed again. Then, it resumed work on 3rd March 1958. The petitioner retrenched some workers on 30th April 1958 and others on 11th May 1958. On 23rd June 1958, the mill was again closed. These closures and retrenchments raised disputes between the petitioner and its workers. By its Notification No. D. 244/F. 5 (57) Lab/58 dated 15th May 1958, the Government of Rajasthan referred to the Industrial Tribunal, Rajasthan, Jaipur, Industrial disputes, specified in the said notification, between the petitioner and respondent No. 1. The Industrial Tribunal gave its award on 31st March 1960, but both the parties filed writ applications Nos. 351 and 431 of 1960 in this Court to challenge its validity. Both the writs were partly allowed by a Division Bsnch of this Court on 8th March 1963 and the award was set aside on certain points and the Industrial Tribunal was directed to give a fresh award in accordance with the directions of the court. Thereafter on 9th December 1964, the Industrial Tribunal passed an order which is marked as Ex. C. It was observed by it that 'it was necessary to draw a list of the workmen who were entitled to retrenchment benefits under Section 25FFF read with Section 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act in respect of the closure of the Bijay Cotton Mills dated 24th June 1957. Those workmen who had put in 240 days of work during the twelve months preceding 24th June 1957 shall be entitled to claim the benefit under Section 25FFF and a list of the names of all such employees shall accordingly be prepared by both the parties and submitted within a week.' It was further observed that 'as regards calculating completed years of service of such workmen, it may be noted that the period of their services shall be computed from the date they first joined the service of the mill and the period between 1st April 1933 upto the 15th May 1954 when the mill remained closed shall be excluded from such computation.' It was contended on behalf of the petitioner before the Industrial Tribunal that period before the 15th May 1954 should be excluded for the purpose of computing the total service of the workers, but this plea was rejected. It is against this order of the Industrial Tribunal that the present writ application is directed.
3. The petitioner has raised two-fold objections in this Court. It is urged, in the first instance, that the Industrial Tribunal has committed an obvious mistake in computing the period of workers' services prior to 15th May 1954. It is next contended that the Tribunal has committed another mistake in holding that those workmen who had put in 240 days of work during the twelve months preceding the 24th June 1957, shall be entitled to claim the benefit under Section 25FFF of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, which will hereinafter be referred to as the 'Act'. It would be proper to deal with both the points in seriatim.
4. To begin with the first point, it is common ground between the parties that the mill had remained closed from 1st April 1953 to 14th May 1954 and that it started its working again on 15th May 1954. It is averred by the petitioner that the discontinuance of the business by the company from 1st April, 1953 was a bona fide closure due to financial difficulties, that Sections 25F and 25FFF of the Act were not in force on 1st April, 1953, and therefore, their application could not be attracted for the period prior to that date. It is further urged that the question regarding compensation to workers prior to 15th May 1954 stands concluded by an award of the Industrial Tribunal, Rajasthan dated 31st March, 1960 and therefore, the same question could not be vexed over again. According to the petitioner, the Industrial Tribunal had committed a mistake apparent on the face of the record by passing its order dated 9th December 1964 on a point whose decision was already barred by principles of res judicata.
5. It is not disputed on behalf of respondent No. 1 that the Industrial Tribunal had given an award dated 31st Match 1960 regarding compensation to the workers for the period prior to 15th May 1954, but it is urged that in view of the provisions of Section 25FFF read with Section 25F of the Act, the workmen were entitled to compensation equivalent to fifteen days average pay for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six months and that the Tribunal had committed no error in ordering that the services of the workmen should be computed from the date they first joined the service of the mill and that the period between 1st April, 1953 and 15th May, 1954 could only be excluded from such computation on account of the said award.
6. We have given due consideration to the arguments raised by learned counsel on either side and carefully gone through the award of the Tribunal dated 3lst March 1960 (Ex. A.). It appears from its perusal that an industrial dispute arising out of the closure of the mill from 1st April 1953 was referred by the Chief Commissioner, Ajmer, under Section 7 of the Act to the Industrial Tribunal consisting of Shri J.D. Sharma, the then District and Sessions Judge, Ajmer. This reference was made by Notification No. F. 1/6/54/Lab 30th December, 1954. It may be noted here that the State of Ajmer merged with the United State of Rajasthan on 1st November, 1956 and therefore, this reference was made at a time when the State of Ajmer had its own separate existence. Shri J.D. Sharma ceased to remain District and Sessions Judge, Ajmer, after sometime and, therefore, his successor Shri C. Jacob constituted a single member Industrial Tribunal. It appears that the proceedings taken by Shri C. Jacob were quashed by the Judicial Commissioner Ajmer in Civil Writ Petition No. 22 of 1956 and he was directed not to proceed further with the adjudication of the said dispute. After the merger of the State of Ajmer with the United State of Rajasthan, the Government of Rajasthan by its Notification No. F. 1/6/54-Lab 5028 D/- 6th August, 1957 appointed Shri A.N. Kaul as Judge, Industrial Tribunal and the Industrial dispute which was based on lour demands made by Respondent No. 1, was referred to the said tribunal. On the basis of the terms of the reference and the pleadings of the parties, eight issues were framed by this Tribunal. Only four issues viz. 4, 5, 6 and 8 are relevant for purposes of the disputed question before us and it would be enough to refer to them only. They are reproduced balow: --
'Issue No. 4.--Was the closure of the mill on 1-4-53 a lock-out intended to victimise the workers? Is such a plea barred by principles of res judicata?
Issue No. 5.--Should the workers who were working in the mill in March 1953 before the closure of the mill be reinstated on their original jobs?
Issue No. 6.--Are the workers entitled to compensation or gratuity at the rate of fifteen days or for each year of their service for the period of their unemployment?
Issue No. 8.--Should the workers who were permanent before the closure be regarded as such and should passes be issued to them meant for permanent workers?'
After recording evidence of both the parties and hearing them at great length, the Tribunal gave a detailed award covering about forty foolscap pages. About Issue No. 4, it was held by the Tribunal after a lengthy discussion that 'the closure of the mill on 1st April, 1953 was not a lockout intended to victimise the workers.'
7. Then dealing with Issue No. 5, it was observed that 'it was a closure of business and not a lockout and that the closure was due to obvious financial difficulties.'
It was further observed that 'from the mere fact that the closure lasted for a little more than a year and the business then restarted, it does not necessarily follow that when the business was closed in April 1953, it was done temporarily with an intention to restart it. ''Thus, the Tribunal gave a clear decision that the mill had been closed down on 1st April, 1953 on account of the financial difficulties, that it was a real case of closure and it was not done for victimising the workers.
8. Next dealing with the question whether the workers, who were working in the mill before its closure, should be reinstated on their original jobs. It was observed by the Tribunal as follows: --
''A person closing down a business permanently is not debarred by any law from restarting it on his finding that the circumstances have changed and whether the closure was permanent or temporary must be decided with reference to the intention of the management at the time of closing it down. The decision of the Madras High Court in the case of Indian Metal and Metallurgical Corporation v. Industrial Tribunal. Madras, (AIR 1953 Mad 98), although based on a different principle leads practically to the same result. In the light of these authorities, the question of reinstatement of the workmen who had been thrown out of employment as a result of the discontinuance of the entire business cannot arise. My finding on the issue is, therefore, in the negative.'
The decision on Issue No. 8 was taken up by the Tribunal before the decision on Issue No. 6 and it was observed that in view of the findings on Issues Nos. 4 and 5, 'the question of any worker being declared permanent does not arise and it would be absurd in the present state of affairs to issue to them passes meant for permanent workers even if the Tribunal could have done so. My finding on the issue is, therefore, in the negative.'
9. Issue No. 6 was dealt with by the Tribunal at a great length. It was urged before the Tribunal that Section 25F was introduced by Act No. 43 of 1953, that Section 25FF and 25FFF were added by later amendment in 1957 and that the workers were entitled to compensation at the rate of fifteen days for each year of their service for the period of their unemployment. Adverting to this question, it was observed by the Tribunal as follows: --
'In so far as the Industrial Disputes Act is concerned, specific provisions for retrenchment, compensation contained in Chap. VA which was introduced by Act No. 43 of 1953 are not retrospective in operation and cannot therefore be invoked in the present case in support of the claim of compensation since the cause of action arose before the Act came into force. Section 25FF and 25FFF were added to Chap. VA by later amendments (1957) but they have been given retrospective operation only from 28th November, 1956.'
The Tribunal then referred to some authorities and came to the following conclusion: --
'Since I have already held that the discontinuance of the entire business on 1st April, 1953 amounted to a bona fide closure due to financial difficulties, the question of compensation being paid by way of retrenchment relief does not arise in view of the above decision of their lordships of the Supreme Court, nor is it possible to award compensatory relief in any other form in view of the above decision of the Supreme Court and considering the nature of the demands.'
10. It is not pointed out by learned counsel for the respondents if the decisions of the Tribunal on the above issues were set aside by any competent higher authority. It appears to us that the attention of the learned Judge, Industrial Tribunal, who passed the impugned order dated 9th December, 1964, was not pointedly drawn to the observations of the first Industrial Tribunal made in the earlier award dated 31st March, 1960 and which we have reproduced above in extenso. We have knowingly quoted the observations of the first Tribunal in detail, in order to show that it had considered in detail the question whether the workmen of the mill were entitled to any kind of compensation on account of the closure of the mill on 1st April, 1953, or whether they were entitled to reinstatement on their original jobs. It gave its finding in unequivocal terms to the effect that the mill was closed on account of financial difficulties and it was a clear case of closure and not of lockout and the closure was not done for victimising the workers. It further held that the workers who were working in the mill before its closure were not entitled to be reinstated nor were they entitled to compensation at the rate of fifteen days for each year of their service or for the gratuity. It also turned down the workers' demand to the effect that those who ware permanent before the closure should be regarded as such and that those passes should be issued to them which were meant for permanent workers. In brief, this award set at rest all the disputes (involved in the issues) between the parties arising out of the closure dated 1st April, 1953 and according to this award, the services of these workers who joined the mill on or after 15th May, 1954 was a new service. We think that all the questions which were decided by the first Tribunal rightly or wrongly could not be reagitated again and the second Tribunal which passed the impugned order dated 9th December, 1964 was debarred from giving a fresh decision on the points covered by them on principles of res judicata.
11. It may be pointed out that in Daryao v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1961 S C 1457, six writ petitions were filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India before the Supreme Court. The opponents in those petitions raised a preliminary objection against the maintainability of the writ petitions on the ground that in each case the petitioner had moved the High Court for a similar writ under Article 228 and the High Court had rejected the said petition. The argument was that the dismissal of a writ petition filed by a party for obtaining an appropriate writ created a bar of res judicata against the similar petition filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution on the same or similar facts and praying for the same or similar writ. It was observed by their Lordships as follows :
'There can be no doubt that the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 32(1) is a very important safeguard for the protection of the fundamental rights of the citizens, and as a result of the said guarantee this Court has been entrusted with the solemn task of upholding the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country ............. The right given to the citizen to move this Court by a petition under Article 32 and claim an appropriate writ against the unconstitutional infringement of his fundamental rights itself is a matter of fundamental right and in dealing with the objection based on the application of the rule of res judicata this aspect of the matter has no doubt to be borne in mind.'
After making this observation, their Lordships posed a very important question in the following words :
''But, is the rule of res judicata merely a technical rule or is it based on high public policy ?'
It was answered by their Lordships in the following passage :
'If the rule of res jadicata itself embodies a principle of public policy which in turn is an essential part of the rule of law then the objection that the rule cannot be invoked where fundamental rights are in question may lose much of its validity. Now, the rule of res judicata as indicated in Section 11 of the Civil P. C., has no doubt some technical aspects, for instance the rule of constructive res judicata may be said to be technical, but the basis on which the said rule rests is founded on considerations of public policy. It is in the interest of the public at large that a finality should attach to the binding decisions pronounced by Courts of competent jurisdiction, and it is also in the public interest that individuals should not be vexed twice over with the same kind of litigation. If these two principles form the foundation of the general rule of res judicata they cannot be treated as irrelevant or inadmissible even in dealing with fundamental rights in petitions filed under Article 32.'
Their Lordships then considered the essential elements of res judicata and after referring to numerous decisions stated their conclusion on the preliminary objection as below :
'We hold that if a writ petition filed by a party under Article 228 is considered on the merits as a contested matter and is dismissed, the decision thus pronounced would continue to bind the parties unless it is otherwise modified or reversed by appeal or other appropriate proceedings permissible under the Constitution. It would not be open to a party to ignore the said judgment and move this Court under Article 32 by an original petition made on the same facts and for obtaining the same or similar orders or writs.'
12. It is obvious from the said observations of their Lordships that the basis on which the rule of res judicata rests is founded on considerations of public policy and that it cannot be treated as irrelevant or inadmissible even in dealing with fundamental rights in petition filed under Article 32. The second Industrial Tribunal was a Tribunal of coordinate jurisdiction and, therefore, the rule of res judicata was all the more binding upon it. The previous award of the Tribunal dated 31st March, 1960 continued to bind the parties, unless it was otherwise modified or reversed in appeal or other appropriate proceedings permissible under the law. It was not open to respondent No. 3 to ignore the said award and to request the Tribunal to give a fresh decision. It is noteworthy that the first Tribunal had also taken into consideration the fact that Sections 25F and 25FFF had come into force before it gave its award and still it came to the conclusion which went against respondent No. 3. We therefore, think that the order of the learned Tribunal on the first point cannot be maintained and there is no alternative left before us but to quash it.
13. Now coming to the next point, the question for our determination is whether the Tribunal had committed an error in holding that those workmen who had put in 240 days of work during the twelve months preceding 24th June, 1957 were entitled to claim the benefit under Section 25FFF and in ordering that a list of all such employees should be prepared by both the parties and submitted before it.
14. It is vehemently urged by the petitioner's learned counsel that according to Section 25FFF, only those workmen who had been in continuous service for not less than one year in the mill immediately before its closure on 24th May, 1957 were entitled to notice and compensation in accordance with the provisions of Section 25FFF of the Act, According to learned counsel, the words 'continuous service for not less than one year before closure' should have been interpreted by the learned Tribunal in their ordinary sense. In other words, the word 'year' should have been interpreted as a calendar year and the definition of year of continuous service as given in Section 25B of the Act ought not to have been extended to Section 25FFF. Since Section 25B itself restricted its application to Sections 25C and 25F.
15. In reply it is urged on behalf of respondent No. 3 that if Section 25B does not refer to Section 25FFF, it is because Section 25FFF was introduced in the Act by the Industrial Disputes Act No. 17 of 1957 with effect from 28th November, 1956, while Sections 25B and 25F were inserted earlier by Act No. 43 of 1953 which came into force on 24th October, 1953, and, therefore, Section 25B could not possibly refer to Section 25FFF of the Act.
16. In counter reply, it is urged by the petitioner's learned counsel that if the legislature could introduce Section 25FFF in 1957, it could as well amend Section 25B if it meant to extend the meaning given therein to Section 25FF and Section 25FFF. It is contended that since no such amendment was made in Section 25B by the amendment Act of 1957, it should be interpreted literally as it stands. It is further contended that the Court should not presume that the legislature had committed any mistake and that the amendment in Section 25B was left out by inadvertence and that even if it comes to the conclusion that the amendment of Section 25B was not made inadvertently, it has no authority to fill up the lacuna and to supply or create cassus ommisus.
17. We have given our anxious consideration to these arguments. It may be pointed out that the cardinal rule for the construction of the Acts of Parliament is that they should be construed according to the intention of the legislature expressed in the Acts themselves. Where the language of the Act is clear and expressive, it should be given effect to whatever may be consequences, for, in that case, the words of the statute themselves speak the intention of the legislature. A statute may not be extended to meet a case for which provision has clearly and undoubtedly not been made. But, at the same time, it has to be borne in mind that there is another important rule of interpretation which requires that the statute should be understood in the context in which it appears and one should not ignore its true perspective and the setting in which it is placed. Bereft of the context and the setting the interpretation may not be able to bring out the real intention of the legislature. As observed by Goke in Lincoln College Case, 1950 Ch 423:
'The office of a good expositor of an Act of Parliament is to make construction of all parts together, and not of one part only by itself..................... ....................................................................................... It is the most natural and genuine exposition of a statute to construe one part of a statute by another part of the same statute, for that best expresseth the meaning of the makers'.
Let us therefore look at the scheme of the law which the Court is required to interpret in the present case. Section 25B, which was introduced in Chapter VA of the Act by Act No. 43 of 1953 and which came into force on 24th October, 1953, gave the definition of 'year of continuous service' as follows :
'Section 25B--Definition of year of continuous service--For the purposes of Sections 25C and 25F, a workman, who, during a period of twelve calendar months, has actually worked in an industry for not less than two hundred and forty days shall be deemed to have completed one year of continuous service in the industry'.
We need not refer here to Section 25C which deals with the right of laid off workmen to get compensation because it does not apply to the present case. Section 25F provides that no workman employed in any industry who is in continuous service for not less than one year under an employer should be retrenched by that employer until the conditions mentioned therein are fulfilled. The first condition imposed by the section is that the workman should be given one month's notice in writing indicating the reasons for retrenchment and he should be retrenched only after the period of notice is over. If no such notice is given, he should be given wages for the period of notice in lieu of such notice. The notice is dispensed with only if the retrenchment is under an agreement specifying a date for the termination of service. The second condition imposed by that section is that the workman should be paid at the time of retrenchment, compensation equivalent to fifteen days' average pay for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six months. It is obvious that the conditions which have been imposed under Section 25F have been laid down for the benefit of the workmen so that they may be able to obtain previous notice and some compensation in case of retrenchment. The legislature provided compensation equivalent to fifteen days' average pay for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six months. In order to avoid any dispute between the employer and the employee as to the meaning of the 'year of continuous service', a clear definition was given in Section 25B whereby it was provided that if during a period of twelve calender months, a workman had actually worked in an industry for not less than 240 days, he would be deemed to have completed one year of continuous service in the industry. The term 'retrenchment' is defined in Section 2(oo) as meaning the termination by the employer of the service of a workman for any reason whatsoever, otherwise than as a punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary action. It is not to include voluntary retirement of the workman or retirement on reaching the age of superannuation or termination of the service on the ground of continued ill health. A question about the interpretation of the term 'retrenchment' however, arose in Barsi Light Railway Co. v. K.N. Joglekar, 1957-1 Lab L J 243 : ((S) AIR 1957 S C 121) and in Hariprasad Suklal's case, (S) AIR 1957 S C 121 and it was held by their lordships of the Supreme Court that retrenchment compensation was payable only upon retrenchment which, in its real sense, means the reduction of strength or discharge of surplus labour or staff by the employer for any reason whatsoever, otherwise than as a punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary action. According to their Lordships' judgment, compensation to workmen in case of transfer of undertaking or closure of the undertaking could not be covered by Section 25F and, therefore, in order to provide relief to the workmen, Sections 25FF and 25FFF were introduced by the Industrial Disputes Act No. 18 of 1957 with effect from 28th November, 1956. It is, no doubt, :rue that no amendment was made in Section 25B so as to introduce therein a pointed reference to Sections 25FF and 25FFF, but the very fact that these two sections were marked 25FF and 25FFF shows that they were placed in the same F Group under Section 25 and in our view, the Legislature thought it unnecessary to repeat in Section 25B the reference which was already made to Section 25F. To our mind, this is not a case of cassus ommisus and it was not by mistake or inadvertence that no amendment was made in Section 25B. Section 25FF was provided for giving compensation to workmen in case of transfer of an undertaking and similarly, Section 25FFF was introduced to provide compensation to workmen in case of closure of an undertaking. The relevant portion of Section 25FFF runs as follows :
''Section 25FFF--Where an undertaking is closed down for any reason whatsoever, every workman who has been in continuous service for not less than one year in that undertaking immediately before such closure shall, subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2), be entitled to notice and compensation in accordance with the provisions of Section 25F, as if the workman had been retrenched.'
* * * * *
(2) * * * *
It is obvious that the Legislature thought it unnecessary to repeat in Sections 25FF and 25FFF the manner in which the notice and compensation was to be given in case of transfer of an under, taking or closure of an undertaking. It was considered enough to provide that the notice and compensation would be in accordance with the provisions of Section 25F. Now, under Section 25F, the compensation is equivalent to fifteen days' average pay for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six months. Learned counsel for the petitioner wants us to interpret Section 25FFF as if the reference in that section is restricted only to Clause (b) of Section 25F and not to Section 25F as a whole. It is significant that in Section 25FFF with which we are concerned here, it is provided that the compensation could be available according to the provisions of Section 25F. Section 25F should, therefore, be read as a whole along with Section 25FFF and since the term 'continuous service for not less than one year' appearing in Section 25F is defined in Section 25B, we have no doubt left in our mind that the definition given in Section 25B equally applies to Sections 25FF and 25FFF. In the Associated Cement Companties Ltd. v. Their Workmen, AIR 1960 S C 56, it was observed by their Lordships of the Supreme Court that 'the right of workmen to lay-off compensation under Chapter VA is obviously designed to relieve the hardship caused by unemployment due to no fault of the employee, involuntary unemployment also causes dislocation of trade and may result in general economic insecurity. Therefore, the right is based on grounds of humane public policy and the statute which gives such right should be liberally construed, and when there are disqualifying provisions, the latter should be construed strictly with reference to the words used therein.' Although this observation was made in connection with the compensation arising out of layoff, it cannot be denied that compensation allowed by Section 25FFF in case of a closure of an undertaking is also designed to relieve the hardships caused to the workmen on account of the closure and to provide them compensation for their past services. This right is, therefore, equally based on grounds of humane public policy and the statute should not be so interpreted as to defeat the very purpose for which it was made. The contention raised by the petitioner with regard to the second point has thus no substance and must be rejected.
18. The writ application is, therefore, partly allowed and the Industrial Tribunal's order about calculation of completed years of service of the workmen prior to 1st April, 1953 is quashed on principles of res judicata. However, its order to the effect that workmen, who had put in 240 days of work during the twelve months preceding 24th June, 1957 shall be entitled to claim benefit under Section 25FFF is maintained. Since both the parties have been partly successful and partly unsuccessful, they are left to bear their own costs in this Court.