Skip to content


Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts and Executive Staff Union, by Its Secretary Vs. Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, by Its Secretary - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberW.P. No. 5742 of 1979
Judge
Reported in(1980)IILLJ246Mad
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 19(1) and 226; Trade Unions Act, 1926 - Sections 26 and 26(1); Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1926 - Sections 2
AppellantTamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts and Executive Staff Union, by Its Secretary
RespondentTamil Nadu Electricity Board, by Its Secretary
Cases ReferredMeenakshi Mill Ltd. v. State of Madras and
Excerpt:
.....bill collectors and store-keepers and he recommended to the board to accord recognition to the petitioner-union in the above terms. (2) the commissioner of labour, madras in his letter dated 3rd cited, has intimated that the state evaluation and implementation committee decided at its meeting held on 15-7-1969 that the tamil nadu electricity board accounts subordinates union, coimbatore be recommended to the tamil nadu electricity board for recognition under the code of discipline in respect of ministerial staff excluding peons, bill collectors and store keepers. the petitioner-union has also been granted facilities like rent free accommodation, right to negotiate on behalf of the clerical and accounts staff and other facilities as provided for in the code of discipline in industry...........year 1958. the tamil nadu electricity board represented by its secretary (respondent) accepted the code of discipline by its letter dated 26-10-1965 stating that the madras state electricity board has decided to accept the code of discipline in principle. it may be mentioned that the code of discipline itself was evolved at the indian labour conference held in nainital in may, 1958. that came into force on 1st june, 1958. topic 5 deals with the recognition of unions, as the provisions in regard to recognition of unions under the trade unions act were not brought into force. one of the pertinent clauses which requires to be noted is only unions which observed the code of discipline would be entitled to recognition. by the respondent board's proceedings bearing no. 2822 dated 31-12-1963.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. The facts which are very simple, but unfortunately have given rise to lot of passion in this case, are as under : The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union was registered under the provisions of the Trade Unions Act of 1926 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) in the year 1958. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board represented by its Secretary (respondent) accepted the Code of Discipline by its letter dated 26-10-1965 stating that the Madras State Electricity Board has decided to accept the Code of Discipline in principle. It may be mentioned that the Code of Discipline itself was evolved at the Indian Labour Conference held in Nainital in May, 1958. That came into force on 1st June, 1958. Topic 5 deals with the recognition of unions, as the provisions in regard to recognition of unions under the Trade Unions Act were not brought into force. One of the pertinent clauses which requires to be noted is only unions which observed the Code of Discipline would be entitled to recognition. By the respondent Board's Proceedings bearing No. 2822 dated 31-12-1963 the respondent issued rules for the recognition of industrial employees of the Board; but the issue of the rules and their implementation were specifically stated to be without prejudice to the question of acceptance or otherwise of the Code of Discipline in the industry, which Code of Discipline was accepted with effect from 26-10-1965.

2. There were rival claims for recognition between the petitioner-union and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers Federation in regard to clerical employees. The matter was referred to the Commissioner of Labour as the State Evaluation and Implementation Officer. He was requested by the respondent for verification of the membership of the petitioner-union and the Federation. He was further requested to intimate the result thereof to the respondent in order to enable it to accord recognition to the majority union for clerical staff. After verification, the Commissioner of Labour intimated to the respondent that the petitioner-union represented the majority of ministerial staff, excluding peons, bill collectors and store-keepers and he recommended to the Board to accord recognition to the petitioner-union in the above terms. Even before this, by Board's Proceedings Ms. No. 1985 dated 25th September, 1967, it was ordered :

'The Madras State Electricity Board accords recognition under the Code of Discipline in Industry to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers' Federation (Registered No. 2970) in respect of workmen other than clerical and last grade employees '.

However, after the receipt of the report from the Commissioner of Labour, in Board's Proceedings No. 1238 dated 30th July, 1969, it was ordered thus :

'In the B.P. first cited, the Board accorded recognition under the Code of Discipline in Industry to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers' Federation (Regd. No. 2970) in respect of workmen other than clerical and last grade employees. As regards the clerical employees, on account of the conflicting claims of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union and of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers' Federation each claiming to represent a majority of the clerical employees and on account of the claim of the Federation that under the Code of Discipline, no recognition could be given to categorywise unions, the Board in its letter second cited, referred the matter to the Commissioner of Labour, at the State Evaluation and Implementation Officer and requested him to arrange for the verification of the membership of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinate Union and of Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers' Federation and to intimate the results of the verification to the Board in order to enable it to accord recognition to the majority Union for Clerical Staff.

(2) The Commissioner of Labour, Madras in his letter dated 3rd cited, has intimated that the State Evaluation and Implementation Committee decided at its meeting held on 15-7-1969 that the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union, Coimbatore be recommended to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board for recognition under the Code of Discipline in respect of Ministerial Staff excluding peons, bill collectors and store keepers. He has also further requested the Board to accord recognition to the above unions in terms of the conclusions of the aforesaid Committee and intimate to him the action taken.

(3) The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board accepts the recommendations of the Commissioner of Labour, Madras and hereby accords recognition under Code of Discipline in Industry to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union, Coimbatore (Regd. No. 2472) in respect of the Ministerial Staff excluding peons, bill collectors and store-keepers.'

3. After such recognition, the petitioner-union entered into various settlements on behalf of the clerical and accounts employees. The petitioner-union has also been granted facilities like rent free accommodation, right to negotiate on behalf of the clerical and accounts staff and other facilities as provided for in the Code of Discipline in Industry. The name of the petitioner was changed from Tamil Nadu Electricity Subordinates Union into Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts and Executive Staff Union. Originally the membership was open to all workmen in the management who were engaged in clerical, accounting and other work. This coverage was extended to the employees of the respondent who fell within the definition of workmen under S. 2(i) of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act. This amendment and the extension of coverage were intimated to the respondent by the letter of the petitioner-union dated 7-6-1979 and the respondent was requested to accord recognition to include the present name of the petitioner. It may be mentioned in this stage that the register number of the union was not changed. It was mentioned that the petitioner-union had majority of the clerical workmen on its rolls. It was further pointed out that the Federation to which recognition was granted when it was a Federation of Registered Unions had amended its constitution subsequent to the order of recognition and converted itself into a single registered union having direct membership; but no review of recognition granted to Federation was made by the respondent even though it was made aware of the changes in the constitution of the Federation. The respondent by its proceedings dated 30th June, 1979, ordered as follows :

'You have informed in the letter cited that you have changed the name, composition and area of operation of your union.

(2) Your union has been recognised only in respect of clerical workmen ex-cluding stores staff, Office helper and cashiers in B.P.M. No. 1238 dated 30-7-1969.

(3) Since the recognition granted to you is specifically for clerical, workmen, that recognition cannot be extended to your union when the composition has been changed extending the coverage.

(4) Therefore, if you change the name and coverage as proposed by you, the Board is advised that recognition accorded to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union in B.P. Ms. No. 1238, dated 30-7-1969, will have to be withdrawn.'

4. Thereafter a further request was made by the petitioner on 3-7-1979 to reconsider this question. By proceedings B.P. Ms. No. 269 dated 24-11-1979, the respondent-Board declined the request of the petitioner. It is under these circumstances, the present writ petition has come to be preferred to quash the Board's proceedings made in B.P. Ms. No. 269, dated 24-11-1979, by the issue of a writ of certiorari.

5. Originally I was of the view that there was absolutely no difficulty for the respondent to accord recognition to the change of the name of the petitioner's union, so long as the bargaining power or the representative capacity is not changed, whatever may be the nature of the coverage of the membership. In fact, I adjourned this matter several times to enable the parties to come to an accord, so that much of disharmony or stink might be taken out. In fact, I even went to the extent of suggesting to the respondent whether it would not be possible to accord recognition by changing the proposed name. A few alternative names were also suggested. But these efforts have not borne fruit and, therefore, ultimately the ball is in my Court to render a decision which makes me necessarily to deal with the merits or demerits of the respective contentions. The contention of Mr. B. R. Dolia, learned counsel for the petitioner is, it is not necessary for him to go into the larger question as to whether the right to grant recognition is a fundamental right within the meaning of Art. 19(1)(c) or not. Nor again, is it necessary on his part to go into the question whether the Code of Discipline is statutory in character or not. However, he would say, they are statutory in character because this Code has come to be accepted by the Board as seen from its letter Ms. No. 2542 dated 26-10-1965, Therefore, on these basis the learned counsel contends, either statutory or non-statutory, so long as the respondent Board had accorded recognition, when it wants to undo that recognition by de-recognising, it was incumbent upon the respondent-Board, to state valid reasons. In other words, the derecognition cannot be done in an arbitrary manner. Then again, the reasons given for such derecognition must be reasonable and must accord to a common man's understanding. In this connection, the learned counsel relies on the decision of this Court reported in North East Frontier Mazdoor Union v. The General Manager, North East Frontier Railway and another, 1970 11 L.L.J.4861. The further submission of the learned counsel is that a mere change in name of the union under S. 26(1) of the Act would not enable the respondent to derecognise. Tested in this light, the impugned order suffers from many fundamental error and it does not take in all these basic postulates :

(1) The representative capacity or the bargaining power of the petitioner-union would undoubtedly confine only in respect of ministerial staff, excluding peons, bill collectors and store-keepers.

(2) Mere change of name is not a ground for derecognition. It is open to the petitioner to name the union in any manner it likes so long as the representative capacity, or the bargaining power is confined only to the categories mentioned above.

(3) The Board has misunderstood as if the petitioner has resolved to enlarge the coverage of the representative capacity. In fact, it is not so. It merely enlarges the coverage of membership, with which the respondent is not concerned in any manner. By enlarging the coverage of membership, the bargaining capacity is not increased in any way. This aspect has not been appreciated in its proper perspective.

In so far as these basic postulates have been thoroughly misunderstood in the impugned proceedings of the Board, there is no other option but to hold that it is arbitrary and it has to be set aside. In fact, the Board proceeds upon the footing as if by change of name, the petitioner is extending its coverage to other categories of workmen which, in fact, is totally wrong.

6. As against this argument of Mr. Dolia, Mr. G. Ramaswami, learned counsel for the respondent would submit first and foremost that the petitioner-union has no independent right than the workers who are its members. It has no fundamental right of recognition as laid down in A. C. Mukherjee and others v. Union of India and others, [1972-II L.L.J. 297] : : (1972)IILLJ297Cal and M. A. David and K.S.E. Board, [1973 II L.L.J.466. If, therefore, there is no fundamental right to recognise, on the same principles it must be held it has no fundamental right to insist upon the continuance of recognition. In fact, a Bench of the Kerala High Court has gone to the extent of holding that because of this when a union is derecognised, no notice whatever is necessary.

7. Code of Discipline again is not statutory is well-settled. Under these circumstances, so long as it does not interfere with any rights of the petitioner, it is not open to it to approach this Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution. In support of this submission, reliance is placed on Ramana Dayaram Shetty and International Airport Authority of India and others, [1979-II L.L.J. 217]. Further it is submitted that even otherwise, the reason for derecognition cannot be held to be arbitrary. In fact, the petitioner wanted to extend the coverage, but now it suits it to say that the coverage is limited only to the membership and not to the bargaining capacity. It is, therefore, not arbitrary and this Court cannot interfere under Art. 226 of the Constitution. On the facts presented to the Board, the order of the Board is perfectly valid. I may at once state that I am not called upon to go into the larger question whether the petitioner-union has a fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(c) of the Constitution, to recognition. In fact, the two decisions cited, viz., A. C. Mukherjee and others v. Union of India and others, : (1972)IILLJ297Cal and M. A. David v. K.S.E. Board, 1973 II L.L.J.466, deal with such situations. Nor again is it necessary on my part to go into the question whether the Code of Discipline is enforceable. I will take it, they are non-statutory in character for the purpose of my ultimate decision. Here is a situation where the petitioner-union was accorded recognition under the Code of Discipline by proceedings dated 30th July, 1969 which proceedings have already been extracted. Thereafter, when the petitioner-union wanted to change the name and also' resolved to extend the coverage the Board states 'no, you cannot do.' For my part, I find it extremely difficult to appreciate the stand as to how the petitioner could be prevented from changing its name. In this context, it is worthwhile quoting S. 26 of the Trade Unions Act :

(1) The change in the name of a registered Trade Union shall not affect any rights or obligations of the Trade Union or render defective any legal proceedings by or against the Trade Union, and any legal proceedings which might have been continued or commenced by or against it by its former name may be continued or commenced by or against it by its new name.

(2) An amalgamation of two or more registered Trade Unions shall not prejudice any right of any of such Trade Unions or any right of a creditor of any of them.'

8. So, to that part of the change of the name, there cannot be any objection whatever. However, the respondent would say, if it is a mere change of name, the stand of the Board could not be appreciated. But where the petitioner-union tried to enlarge the coverage, there is the stink. This is where, in my considered view, the Board has gone off the tangent. By enlarging the coverage so as to include all categories of employees who fall under the definition of 'workmen' under S. 2(i) of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1926, neither in fact nor in law, did it want to enlarge the coverage relating to representative capacity or bargaining power. That is made clear in its letter dated 7-6-1979 stating :

'In this connection we wish to point out that the right of our union to continue to enjoy the recognition accorded in B.P. Ms. No. 1238 dated 30-7-1968 in respect of the clerical workmen of the Board, will not in any way be affected by the said amendments.

Then again it is stated :

'This position is not at all affected in anyway by the proposed change in the name of the union nor by the proposed amendment to the constitution to enlarge the coverage of the union to all the categories of the workmen in the Board, as the union continues to have the majority of the clerical workmen on its rolls.

Therefore, the composition of the union may be changed, both in its name and the content, since it does not alter or change or enlarge its representative capacity. Still, the representative capacity will be only in respect of ministerial staff, excluding peons, bill collectors and store-keepers. This aspect of the matter has not been considered in its proper perspective by the Board. Therefore, to get over the difficulty it is said that it is purely an administrative order. Be that so. It is too late in the day to contend that an administrative order can be passed whimsically. It must conform to certain reasonable standards. Tested in that light, I am unable to say as to how the impugned proceedings of the Board could be sustained where it had completely missed the quintessence of the prayer of the petitioner.

9. To say that no right of the petitioner is affected is totally wrong because pursuant to the recognition, the petitioner had entered into various settlements in regard to clerical and accounts employees. It has been granted facilities of rent free accommodation, right to negotiate in regard to clerical and accounts staff and other facilities as provided for in the Code of Discipline. Whatever may be these rights and however unsubstantial they may be, in law they give them a right or even a semblance of a right that cannot be interfered with, except for reasons which any reasonable person would accept as correct. That is not so in this case. Therefore, to say that an administrative order cannot be interfered with is relying upon law which had become either decayed or dead. In this connection, it is worthwhile to quote the passage relied on by the Bench in Meenakshi Mill Ltd. v. State of Madras and others, : (1951)IILLJ194Mad :

As Julian Huxley forcibly remarks in his essay on 'Economic Man and Social Man'.':

'Many of our old ideas must be retranslated, so to speak, into a new language. The democratic idea of freedom, for instance, must lose its nineteenth century meaning of individual liberty in the economic sphere, and become adjusted to new conceptions of social duties and responsibilities. When a big employer talks about his democratic right to individual freedom meaning thereby a claim to socially irresponsible control over a huge industrial concern, and over the lives of tens of thousands of human beings when it happens to employ, he is talking in a dying language.

10. For all these reasons the writ petition will stand allowed and the impugned order quashed. There will be no order as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //