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South Arcot Co-operative Motor Transport Society Ltd. (for Ex-servicemen) Devanam-pattinam, Cuddalore Vs. Syed Batcha and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. Nos. 1023 and 1025 of 1958
Judge
Reported inAIR1961Mad217; [1961(2)FLR123]; (1960)IILLJ693Mad; (1960)IILLJ693Mad; (1960)2MLJ573
ActsMadras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932 - Sections 51; Industrial Disputes Act, 1948 - Sections 10, 25F and 33C(2)
AppellantSouth Arcot Co-operative Motor Transport Society Ltd. (for Ex-servicemen) Devanam-pattinam, Cuddalor
RespondentSyed Batcha and ors.
Appellant AdvocateT.V. Balakrishnan and ;N. Vanchinathan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateK. Sarvabhauman, Amicus Curiae
DispositionPetitions dismissed
Cases ReferredBarsi Light Rly. Co. Ltd. v. K. N. Joglekar
Excerpt:
.....of society and only authority entitled to decide is prescribed by section 51 - dispute between co-operative society and its workmen could not relate to actual business of society - such dispute ultimately affect business of society - claim for retrenchment compensation by workmen against co-operative society would not come within ambit of section 51 - same could be adjudged only under provisions of act of 1948. - - it was held that the matter complained of, related to the conduct of the vakil acting as such, and not as a member, officer or agent of the society, and that the registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain the reference. it is an industrial claim similar to other claims like bonus etc. 960 of 1958, i had to consider the scope of section 33-c(2) and i held that a labour..........in c. r. p. no. 1134 of 1940. the learned judge held that a claim by a dismissed servant of a co-operative society for the recovery of provident fund due to him and additional amounts due to biro by way of travelling allowance and other incidental payments was a claim touching the business of the society, and could be agitated only under section 51 of the madras co-operative societies act, and that a civil court would have no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the claim. in krisihna ayyar v. secy., urban bank ltd, : (1933)65mlj367 , a director of a co-operative bank also acted as its legal adviser. a dispute arose between the bank and the legal adviser, and the latter was called to account in regard to certain sums of money received by him, while acting as its vakil. it was held that.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Ramachandra Iyer, J.

1. These are petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of certiorari to call for records in O. P. Nos. 746 to 748 of 1957 and quash the Order of the Labour Court of Madras D/- 24-9-1958.

2. The South Arcot Co-operative Motor Transport Society Ltd. (for ex-servicemen) is a society registered under the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932, and is engaged in the running of lorries and motor transport services in South Arcot Dt. Syed Batcha. Appadurai and Kannan were amongst those who were employed by the petitioner in the transport services. It is stated that they were also share-holders in the society.

In 1957, the society decided to close down the lorry service and confine its activities to motor transport only. As a consequence thereof, the society had to discharge some if its workmen. There is no controversy that the discharge proposed was anything but bona fide, occasioned by the abolition of a section of the petitioner's business. By the proceedings dated 16-11-1957, the society dispensed with the services of five persons, amongst whom were Syed Batcha, Appadurai and Kannan.

The three persons, along with another, filed applications under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act before the Labour Court, Madras, claiming retrenchment compensation and earned leave wages, accumulated after the date of discharge. The applications were resisted by the petitioner-society on various grounds, the substantial objection being that the labour court was not competent to take cognizance of the dispute between the society and its servants.

The labour court held that it had jurisdiction to entertain the dispute, and that Syed Batcha, Kannan and Appadurai were entitled to relief by way of retrenchment compensation, and directed the payment of various sums, assessed in accordance with Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act. The petitioner challenges the validity of the order of the labour court in the above petitions.

3. The main contention urged before me on behalf of the petitioner is on the question of jurisdiction of the labour court to take cognizance of a claim by the servants of the society. It is contended that the claim should be deemed to be one touching the business of the society, and that the only authority entitled to decide the claim is that prescribed by Section 51 of the Co-operative Societies Act. That provision states :

'(1) If any dispute touching the business of a registered society (other than a dispute regardingdisciplinary action taken by the Society or its committee against a paid servant of the society) arises-

(a) .....

(b) .....

(c) between the society or its committee and any past committee, any officer, agent or servant, or any past officer, past agent or past servant, or the nominee, heirs or legal representatives of any deceased officer, deceased agent, or deceased servant, of the society,

(d) .....

such disputes shall be referred to the Registrar for decision.'

The learned counsel for the petitioner argued that the Industrial Disputes Act should be deemed to be a general statute, providing for adjudication of all industrial disputes, and the Madras Co-operative Societies Act must be treated as a special enactment, governing the disputes between the Society and its servants, and that, therefore, any matter coming within the scope of the latter Act should be governed exclusively by the provisions of that Act.

In support of the contention, reliance was placed upon an unreported judgment of Kuppuswami Iyer J. in C. R. P. No. 1134 of 1940. The learned Judge held that a claim by a dismissed servant of a Co-operative society for the recovery of provident fund due to him and additional amounts due to biro by way of travelling allowance and other incidental payments was a claim touching the business of the society, and could be agitated only under Section 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, and that a civil court would have no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the claim.

In Krisihna Ayyar v. Secy., Urban Bank Ltd, : (1933)65MLJ367 , a director of a co-operative bank also acted as its legal adviser. A dispute arose between the Bank and the legal adviser, and the latter was called to account in regard to certain sums of money received by him, while acting as its vakil. It was held that the matter complained of, related to the conduct of the vakil acting as such, and not as a member, officer or agent of the Society, and that the Registrar had no jurisdiction to entertain the reference.

In Madhavarao v. Suryarao, : AIR1954Mad103 , a Full Bench of this court held that the words 'touching the business' should be given their full import, bearing in mind the object of the legislation, and that a dispute, in Order to come under the provisions of Section 51, need not directly arise out of the business of the society, but that it would be enough if it should have reference or relation to or concern with the business of the society.

4. It is, however, difficult to say that a claim for retrenchment compensation under Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act can have any concern with or relation to the business of a society, though it might be that the society is made liable to pay retrenchment compensation to its discharged workers. It can be readily conceded that a compensation awardable to an employee under the provisions of Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act is not a claim under common law. Nor can it be said to be one in any way regulated by the rules and by-laws of the society. It is an industrial claim similar to other claims like bonus etc. by a worker in an industrial establishment.

Under the common law, there is no obligation on the part of an employer to pay compensation for retrenchment beyond what is payable to the discharged employee under the contract of service. Section 25-F is a statutory provision which entitles the workmen to compensation at the time of retrenchment. That section was introduced by way of amendment to the Industrial Disputes Act by Act 43 of 1953. In 1956, the statute was again amended by introducing certain provisions, of which Section 33-C is one. That section provided for the determination in terms of money and for recovery of money due by an employer to the employee.

Recently, in W. P. No. 960 of 1958, I had to consider the scope of Section 33-C(2) and I held that a labour court would have jurisdiction to adjudicate on claims for monetary as well as non-monetary benefits claimed by a workman against his employer. It may, therefore, be taken that the statute, which provides the right has also provided a particular form of remedy for the enforcement of that right. In the classical statement of law contained in Wolverhampton New Waterworks Co. v. Hawkesford, (1859) 6 C. B. 336 , Willes J. observed,

'There are three classes of cases in which liability may be established by statute. 1, There is that class where there is a liability existing at common law which is only remedied by the statute with a special form of remedy; thus unless the statute contains words expressly excluding the common law remedy, the plaintiff has his election of proceeding either under the statute or at common law. 2. Then there is a second class, which consists of those cases in which a statute has created liability but has given no special remedy for it; thus the party may adopt an action of debt or other remedy at common law to enforce it. 3. The third class is where a statute creates a liability not existing at common law, and gives also a particular remedy for enforcing it ..... With respect to that class it has always been held that the party must adopt the form of remedy given by the statute.'

In such a case, that is, where a new duty or cause of action is created by statute, and a special jurisdiction out of the course of the common law is prescribed resort should be had only to that jurisdiction. The legal position has been thus stated by Balakrishna Aiyar J. in Nagaratnammal v. Ibrahim Sahib, : AIR1955Mad305 :

'Where a statute takes over and occupies a field previously not regulated by legislation, the rights and power conferred and the obligations imposed by the Statute must be worked out within the statutory framework. If a Statute confers a particular right and prescribes a particular mode for its enforcement, the enforcement of the right must be sought in that mode.'

Therefore, in regard to an industrial claim, like the retrenchment compensation, the remedy for the worker would be only to enforce it by the machinery created by the Industrial Disputes Act, namely, by Section 10 and Section 33-C(2). The Madras Co-operative Societies Act being itself a special statute, the authority, acting under it, would have no jurisdiction beyond what the enactment itself conferred on him.

He could not, therefore, have jurisdiction to decide a dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act. In Co-operative Milk Societies Union Ltd. v. State of West Bengal, 1958 2 Lab. L.J. 61 : (A.I.R. 1958 Cal 873), Mukerji J. held that, so long as a dispute is an industrial dispute, it would be governed by the Industrial Disputes Act although that dispute was between a Co-operative Society and its workmen notwithstanding the provisions for settlement of disputes under the Co-operative Societies Act, between the contending parties.

The learned Judge further held that, a dispute between a Co-operative Society and its workmen could not relate to the actual business of the Society and could not, therefore, touch the business of such Society, though such dispute might ultimately touch or affect the business of the Society. I am of opinion that a claim for retrenchment compensation by a workman against the Co-operative Society would not come within the ambit of Section 51 of the Co-operative Societies Act, and that it can only be adjudged under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.

5. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that, as the closure of the lorry section of the petitioner's business was admittedly bona fide the workmen would not be entitled to any retrenchment compensation. Reliance was placed On the decision reported in General Produce Ltd. v. A. T. H. L. C. Workers Union, A.I.R. 1957 Trav Co. 268, where it was held that, where the management had closed its business on account of financial losses, the Industrial Tribunal would have no jurisdiction to award retrenchment compensation to its workers. In so holding, the learned Judge placed reliance on the decision of the Supreme Court in Barsi Light Rly. Co. Ltd. v. K. N. Joglekar, (S) A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 121.

In that case the Supreme Court held that retrenchment as defined in Section 2(00) and as used in Section 25-F had no wider meaning than the ordinary, accepted connotation of the word, namely, the discharge of surplus labour by the employer for any reason whatsoever otherwise than punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary action, and it had no application where the service of all workmen had been terminated by the employer on a real and bona fide closure of business. The Supreme Court made it clear that a retrenchment properly so called would imply a continuing or running of the industry. At page 132, it was observed,

'On our interpretation, in no case is there any retrenchment, unless there is discharge of surplus labour or staff in a continuing or running industry.' In the present case, It is admitted that the motor transport service of the petitioner continued, and that only a section of its business, namely, that related to the lorry service was closed. Bona fide as that may be, there has been no closure of the business of the employer as such. Therefore, when the Society proceeded to discharge its workmen, the Society should be held to have retrenched its personnel, and continued its business. I am of opinion that there is no substance in the contention that, as the closure of a section of the business was bona fide, the employer would not be liable to pay retrenchment compensation.

6. Before concluding I must refer to one matter; the respondents did not enter appearance. At my request, Mr. K. Sarvabauman appeared as amicus curiae. I must express my obligations to him for his clear and able presentation of the case on behalf of the respondents.

7. Rule nisi is discharged. Writ petitions fail and are dismissed. There will be no orders as to costs.


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