1. These writ petitions have been filed by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, through the Divisional Engineer/Acquisition, Vellore Electricity Undertaking, questioning the orders of the Labour Court in Claim Petition Nos. 299 and 389 of 1975, on its file.
2. The circumstances under which the writ petitions have been filed may briefly be stated. The electrical undertaking run by the Vellore Electric Corporation, Ltd., was acquired under the Tamil Nadu Private Electricity Supply Undertakings Acquisition Act, 1973 (Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1973), with effect from 7th January, 1974. By virtue of this undertaking having been taken over by the Government of Tamil Nadu and transferred later to the Tamil Nadu and transferred later to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, the employees of the Vellore Electric Corporation, Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the company), automatically became the employees of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board subject to certain conditions. On 26th November, 1973, the workmen of the company had entered into a settlement with the company under S. 18(i) of the Industrial Disputes Act. As a result of the said settlement, any change or revision in the pay-scales of the employees of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board would apply also to the workmen of the company. The respective first respondent in the writ petitions preferred claim petitions under S. 33C(2) against the petitioner as well as the company claiming that since the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board had with effect from 1st October, 1973, increased the dearness allowance for their workmen, he is entitled to recover the arrears of dearness allowance due form 1st October, 1973 to 6th January, 1974, form the petitioner. The period for which the claim has been made was the period prior to the vesting of the undertaking with the government After 7th January, 1974, the amounts due by the petitioner have been paid. However, the petitioner disputed its liability to pay the dearness allowance to the workmen for the period from 1st October, 1973 to 7th January, 1974, on the ground that that was a liability which has to be met by the company since the liability arose before the vesting of the undertaking.
3. The Labour Court before whom the claim petitions had been filed by the workmen, held that the petitioner is liable to pay the claim amounts in view of the judgment of this Court in Writ Petitions Nos. 5155 to 5163 and 6439 to 6447 of 1975. Challenging the order of the Labour Court these writ petitions have been filed on the following grounds :
(i) The order of the Labour Court is vitiated by apparent error on the face of the record.
(ii) The Labour Court erroneously proceeded on the basis that the claim related to a period after the date of the acquisition.
(iii) The Labour Court has overlooked the implication of S. 11 of the Act 30 of 1973.
4. The question is whether the order of the Labour Court is liable to be quashed for the reasons urged by the writ petitioner.
5. A perusal of the order of the Labour Court clearly shows that it has not proceeded on the erroneous basis that the claim period was subsequent to the vesting. As a matter of fact, the Labour Court specifically refers to the period for which the claim has been made, that it from 1st October, 1973 to 6th January, 1974. Therefore, there is no confusion in the mind of the Labour Court as contended for by the learned Counsel for the petitioner.
6. Then, it is said that S. 11 of the Act 30 of 1973, has been overlooked by the Labour Court. However, I do not see how S. 11, which deals with the manner of payment of compensation would throw light on the question as to whether the Electricity Board is liable to pay the arrears of dearness allowance to the concerned workmen. S. 11 proceeds on the basis that the amount payable by the Electricity Board to the licensee (electrical undertaking which has been taken over) has to be fixed under S. 5. S. 11 does not fix the extent of liability of the Electricity Board in relation to the undertaking taken over. S. 5 provides for the compensation payable for the taking over of the undertaking either under basis A or basis B as may be chosen under S. 8. But that section does not throw much light on the question that has arisen in this case. S. 6 is the relevant section and that deals with the general effect of vesting. That section provides that in case where the compensation amount is to be paid under basis B, all the rights and liabilities and obligations of the licensee under any other contract entered into shall vest with the Government approved the contract was entered into bona fide. Therefore, though the period for which the arrears of dearness allowance are claimed by the workmen related to the period antecedent to the vesting of the undertaking, still as long as all the assets have vested with the Government, the liability should also be deemed to have been vested with it. If the company, whose undertaking has been taken over, had discharged the liability due to the workmen to that extent the assets would have got reduced in value. The fact that all the assets of the undertaking have been taken over would naturally indicate that the liability of the company has to be discharged by the Government. Therefore, the Labour Court appears to be right in holding that the petitioner alone is liable to pay the workmen the arrears of dearness allowance arising out of clause (6) of the settlement entered into by the company with the workmen, under S. 18(1).
7. In taking that view the Labour Court followed the decision rendered by this Court in the cases referred to above. Subsequently also, this Court has taken the same view in Writ Petitions Nos. 2299 and 3257 to 3357 of 1978.
8. Following the preponderance of judicial opinion, I hold that the petitioner is liable to meet and discharge the liability of the company to pay the workmen the arrears of dearness allowance, though the period of the claim relates to the period prior to the taking over of the undertaking.
9. The writ petition are dismissed. There will, however, be no order as to costs.