1. The Petitioner is the Meenakshi Mills Ltd., Madurai, Respondents 2 to 24 are badli workmen working in those Mills. A badli is one who is employed generally in the place of a permanent operative during his absence. During the period 1-11-1965 to 22-4-1966 there was a power-cut of 25% in the supply to all industrial establishments including the petitioner, and consequently the petitioner was obliged to reduce Its production at all levels. The respondents filed applications under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act before the Labour Court, Madurai, for computation of the lay off compensation payable to them under Sec, 25-C of the Act, and the Labour Court has held that all of them are entitled to such compensation- This writ petition is filed to quash those orders.
2. Two of the 23 workmen gave evidence that they had been working for more than 240 days in every year for the past 6 and 12 years respectively. In respect of the other 21 workers, though there was no evidence, the Labour Court has stated that it was admitted before it that the other 21 also had been so work-ing. But this has been disputed before this Court by the petitioner, and the petitioner has applied for considering it as one of the grounds. But it is pointed out on behalf of the respondents that In the counter filed before the Labour Court the petitioner had not specifically denied the contention that the other 21 workmen also had worked for more than 240 days in a year. The consideration of the question before this Court would therefore have to proceed on the footing that all the 23 workmen had worked for more than 240 days in a year. If a man so works he is said to have one year of continuous sendee.
3. This question becomes one of Importance because the Explanation to Section 25-C of the Act reads as follows:--
'Badli workman means a workman who Is employed in an industrial establishment in the place of another workman whose name Is borne on the muster rolls of the establishment, but shall cease to be regarded as such for the purposes of this section, if he has completed one year of continuous service in the establishment.'
Under that section whenever a workman whose name is borne on the muster rolls of an industrial establishment and who has completed not less than one year's continuous service under an employer is laid off, he shall be paid by the employer for all days during which he is so lald-off, except for such weekly holidays as may intervene, compensation which shall be equal to fifty per cent of the total of the basic wages and dearness allowance that would have been payable to him had he not been so laid off. The expression 'lay off Is defined in Sec, 2(kkk) as follows:--
'Lav off (with its grammatical variations and cognate expression) means the failure, refusal or inability of an employer on account of shortage of coal, power or raw materials or the accumulation of stocks or the break-down of machinery or for any other reason to give employment to a workman whose name is borne on the muster roll of his Industrial establishment and who has not been retrenched.'
It may be useful even at this stage to keep in mind the fact that this definition when It mentions the muster roll means the muster roll of permanent employees. A badli workman is one who is employed for work in the place of a permanent operative during his absence. Take for instance a case where an industrial establishment concerned is working in full strength. Suppose in such an establishment a badli workman who has one year's continuous service offers himself for work and is not given employment. Can he be said to be laid off? He cannot be. I think this argument is correct. From the definition the expression 'lay off it is obvious that only where any workman is refused employment on any of the grounds mentioned in that clause can it be said that there has been a lay off. Now if the mill is working in full strength it cannot be said that there has been a lay off even though a particular badli workman might not be given any employment on any particular day because there were no absentees among the permanent workmen whose place he can take. Such a position creates no problems at all. In fact Kailasam, J,, in W. P. No. 1309 of 1966 (Mad) disposed of by him on 28-2-1969 dealt with the case of a worker belonging to this very mill and held that a badli workman who had completed one year of continuous service in the establishment and who was denied work on the ground that there was no absentee amongst the permanent workmen is not entitled to lay off compensation. This is also the view of a Bench of the Gujarat High Court in Girdharlal Laljibhai v. Nagrashna. : AIR1964Guj231 .
4. Take again the case of an Industrial establishment the whole of whose permanent labour force is completely laid off due to any of the reasons mentioned in Section 2(kkk). In that case, I think, all the badli workmen who fall within the explanation to Section 25-C would be entitled to lay off compensation also. Section 25-C begins by saying 'whenever a workman (other than a badli workman) who has completed one year of continuous service in the establishment.' The contention on behalf of the petitioner is that each individual badli workman who claims lay off compensation, even in those circumstances should establish that but for the lay off he would have been given employment. That would be in the case of any establishment, an almost superhuman task. Even in ordinary day members of the labour force of an industrial establishr ment may be absent or a few might be absent because of illness; a few might have gone for a funeral; and others might have gone to attend a wedding. Some of these naturally are contingencies which cannot be provided for or expected In advance. I should think that when the explanation to Sec, 25-C was put in it was on the ground that when a workman had been continuously working in a year within the course of which he has been working for 240 days it is reasonable to presume that in the ordinary circumstances he would be provided with employment and therefore when the whole industrial unit is working he would also have got employment. That presumption would apply when the whole of the industrial unit had ceased working and all its workmen laid off. In such circumstances there is no difficulty about the holding that badli workmen who fall within the explanation to Section 25-C would be entitled to lay off compensation. That is more or less the reasoning in the decision in 1965 I LLJ 82 (Mad).
5. Take again the case of certain departments of an industrial unit which are shut down due to any of the circum-stances mentioned in Section 2(kkk). The badlis who are relatable to those departments in which the labour force has been laid off completely might also be able to show that but for the shut down they would have been able to get employment and therefore claim compensation. Such a case does not produce any problems either.
6. But cases like the present produce problems which are very difficult if not Impossible of solution. Take an industrial establishment with a labour force of 1000 and suppose that due to power cut or other similar reasons 100 permanent workmen are laid off. And suppose again there are 100 badlis who had worked continuously for a year. Now these 100 badlis are relatable to the total labour force of 1000. To say that because a part of the labour force of the Industrial establishment has been laid off all the badli workmen should be paid lay oft compensation may not be correct, because even if all the hundred permanent workmen had not been laid off the hundred badli workmen would not have got work. At the same time it is not possible to say who among these 100 badli workmen with continuous service would have been given, employment if there had been no lay-off and who would not have been. In the present case it Is not stated that any particular departments were completely shut down and all the workmen were laid off. The lay off seems to have been spread over the whole of the mills, and it is not possible to relate the badli workmen who would have been employed if the permanent workers who had been laid off had not been so laid off. In the circumstances, I am afraid no useful purpose will be served by the Labour Court entering into the question as to who among the badli workmen with continuous service would have been employed had there been no lay off in the Industrial establishment Unfortunate as it may seem there seems to be no solution to the problem. Whether the legislature will be able to find one it is not possible to say. For the present the matter should rest there.
7. Therefore the writ petition will have to be allowed and the order of the Labour Court quashed. No costs.