1. This is an appeal by the State against the acquittal of the respondents by the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Sankari. The appeal is now confined only to accused 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9, of whom the first accused is the Mettur Industries, the second accused is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the rest are all directors.
2. One A. R. Varma, a Weaving Production Clerk in the Mettur Industries, was dismissed by its then Manager on the ground that he was found sleeping during the night shift. The said Varma preferred a complaint to the Industrial Tribunal, Coimbatore, and the Tribunal, after enquiry, passed an award directing the reinstatement of the dismissed clerk. The said award was published in (he Fort St. George Gazette on 10-4-1957.
3. Under Section 17-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, the award became enforceable on the expiry of 30 days from the date of its publication, i.e., it became enforceable on 9-5-1957. But even on 9-5-1957 the dismissed servant was not reinstated. P.W. 2, the General Secretary of the Natiofial Textile Employees' Union, at Mettur, which is a registered one, wrote a letter to the Manager, Mettur Industries, asking him to reinstate the dismissed employee but the reply that was received was that the Mettur Industries was contemplating an appeal to the Supreme Court. The first accused moved the Supreme Court for leave to appeal but leave was refused on 24-5-1957. Then after 24-5-1957 there were certain negotiations between the Union and the Manager of the Mettur Industries and finally the obovesaid Varma was reinstated on 13-7-1957. The trosecu-tion is that the said Varma was not reinstated by 9-5-1957, the date when the award became enforceable.
4. The Act does not say as to when a dismissed servant is to be reinstated after the award in the dispute but Section 17-A says that Ihe award would become enforceable on the expiry of 30 days from the date of its publication under Section 17. There is no dispute that the award was published on 10-4-1957, and there is also no dispute that the award became enforceable on 9-5-1957. Does this phrase 'the award becomes enforceable on the expiry of 30 days' mean that the reinstatement must be made within that time. The language used in the case is that the award becomes enforceable on the expiry of 30 days, i.e., till 30 days the terras of the award cannot be enforced, only on the expiry of 30 days, it becomes enforceable. Section 29 says that any person who commits a breach of the terms of the award shall be punishable.
On a reading of the two sections I should think that the expression 'the award becomes enforceable on the expiry of 30 days means that the reinstatement, on the dismissal being found to be wrongful, must be given effect to by the time the award becomes enforceable, i.e., within 30 days, of the publication of the award. On this interpretation, undoubtedly the dismissed servant was not reinstated within 30 days i.e.. by 9-5-1957 but was reinstated only on 13-7-1957. The first accused was taking steps to file an appeal against the award to the Supreme Court which it was entitled to do, and even after the dismissal there were negotiations between tile Mettur Industries and the dismissed servant.
The negotiations seemed to relate to payment of compensation to Varma in respect of the complaint. Finally by payment of back wages the said Varma was reinstated on 13-7-1957. Thus, the reinstatement was undoubtedly long after the expiry of the 30 days. Between 9-5-1957 and 24-5-1957, the first accused was bona fide taking steps to set aside the order of the Tribunal as they were not satisfied with the award and this, as pointed out earlier, they are entitled to do. Subsequently, from 24-5-1957, there were negotiations. It is on account of these circumstances that the reinstatement became delayed. Nevertheless, according to the provisions of the Act, strictly speaking, the said Varnia ought to have been reinstated on 9-5-1957.
The delay in the case is not due to any dishonesty or wilful negligence on the part of the first accusedbut it was due to the honest belief on the part ofthe Manager that he was entitled to take steps toset aside the award and to enter into negotiationswith the dismissed servant for payment of compensation. In those circumstances, though I hold thatthe first accused has violated the terms of ^he provisions of the Act by not reinstating the dismissedservant on 9-5-1957, and, therefore, they are onlytechnically guilty of the offence, I think that a mereadmonition will do. I therefore administer an admonition to the first accused in the case, finding thathe is guilty of an offence under Section 29 of the Act.But with regard to the directors, I do not think thateven such a punishment is called for. So far as theyare concerned, the acquittal is fully justified and theappeal is dismissed against them (i. e., accused 2, 4,5,8 and 9). The appeal is allowed only so far as thefirst accused is concerned.