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The Tamil Nad Non-gazetted Government Officers Union, Madras and anr. Vs. the Registrar of Trade Unions, Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.S. Appeal No. 40 of 1959
Reported inAIR1962Mad234; [1962(5)FLR168]; (1962)ILLJ753Mad
ActsIndian Trade Unions Act, 1926 - Sections 2, 5, 5(2), 6, 7(1), 11, 21 and 22; Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; Constitution of India - Article 311; Army Act, 1950; Air Force Act, 1950; Navy (Discipline) Act, 1934
AppellantThe Tamil Nad Non-gazetted Government Officers Union, Madras and anr.
RespondentThe Registrar of Trade Unions, Madras
Cases ReferredGovindarajulu Naidu v. Secy of State
.....tamil nadu non-gazetted government officers' union, madras, would exclude its registration as a trade union. the union includes among its members sub-magistrates of the judiciary, tahsiladars entrusted with the powers of enforcement of the tax-machinery officers in charge of the treasurers and sub-treasuries. they are all civil servants engage in the tasks of the sovereign and regal aspects of government, which are its inalienable functions and they could not be included within the definition of 'work-men' in an industry to whom either section 2 (g) or (2) (k) of the trade union act can apply.; under article 311 of the constitution of india, the tenure of office of a civil servant is during the pleasure of the head of the union or the state as the case may be, and article 311..........the association represented by ten of its members applied on 23-12-1957 to the registrar of trade union, under section 5 of the indian trade unions act (act xvi of 1926). in a brief order, the registrar rejected this application, in which, after a reference of secs. 2(g) and 2(h) of the act, he held that such an association of ministerial employees of the administrative departments of offices of the government of madras could not claim to be a trade union at all, and was not eligible for registration under the act. admittedly, against such an order declining registration, an appeal is provided for under section 11 of the act, and this was duly preferred as o. p. no. 312 of 1958. the learned judge who dealt with the proceeding (ramachandra iyer j., as he then was) delivered a.....
(1) The Tamil Nad Non-Gazetted Government Officer's Union is a Services Association which has been recognised by Government, and the membership of which is open, according to Rule 7 of its constitution, to all Non-Gazetted Government Officers employed under the Government of Madras except the Executive Officers of the Police and Prisons Department and the last grade Government servants. The objects of this Association are set forth in Rule 4 of the Constitution, and it is seen that they are beneficent and ameliorative in character, designed along the lines of promoting the welfare of the members in multiple directions. The Association represented by ten of its members applied on 23-12-1957 to the Registrar of Trade Union, under section 5 of the Indian Trade Unions Act (Act XVI of 1926). In a brief order, the Registrar rejected this application, in which, after a reference of Secs. 2(g) and 2(h) of the Act, he held that such an Association of ministerial employees of the Administrative Departments of offices of the Government of Madras could not claim to be a Trade Union at all, and was not eligible for registration under the Act. Admittedly, against such an order declining registration, an appeal is provided for under section 11 of the Act, and this was duly preferred as O. P. No. 312 of 1958. The learned Judge who dealt with the proceeding (Ramachandra Iyer J., as he then was) delivered a judgment in which he dismissed the appeal, during the course of which he had occasion to trace, in some detail, the history of the Trade Union movement in the United Kingdom, in order to elucidate certain fundamental principles. This appeal is before us as preferred by the Union and its secretary, from the order of the learned Judge.

(2) We shall set forth, a little subsequently, the relevant defenitions and provisions of the Indian Trade Unions Act, as well as certain definitions in the Industrial Disputes Act, XIV of 1947; though the learned Judge was definitely of the view that these two enactment are not in pari materia and do not together constitute any code or legislation it at least indisputable that sections of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, are also very relevant for purposes of comparative analysis. But before doing this, it is essential for an appreciation of the basis issues, to summarise the grounds upon which the learned Judge (Ramachandra Iyer, J.,) rejected the petition before him. After referring to the definition of "Trade Union" in section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, the learned Judge pointed out that a vital consideration would be the content or significance of the word "workmen" as occurring in section 2(h) and he was of the view that this would primarily signify only manual labourers, or workers of that class. This was one ground upon which the learned Judge ultimately concluded that civil servants of the present Association could not be considered as workmen at all. Next, the learned Judge pointed out that the concept of "collective bargaining", which is the rationale behind the Trade Union movement and the existence of the Trade Unions was wholly inappropriate when applied to Government servants.

This was all the more so in this country where the civil service was not a mere tenure at the pleasure of the Crown, as in the United Kingdom, but where constitutional safeguards were provided for such civil servants, as in Article 311 of the Constitution, and the terms of service were themselves the subject of elaborate statutory rules. The Indian Trade Unions Act contemplated not merely collective bargaining, but also the permeation of the Trade Union by outside influences to a certain extent (Secs. 21 and 22) and definite participation in politics (Sec. 16). These were elements that had to be totally eschewed, in the public interest itself, with regard to the civil services. A strike, the acknowledged weapon of Labour Organisations, must be considered inconceivable as a normal feature of the relationship between the State and its civil servants, at least with regard to essential State functions. This was another vital ground on which the learned Judge considered that this Service Association was not a trade union, and could not be registered as such. Finally, the learned Judge referred to the Memorandum of Association and the objects as specified in Rule 4, to which we have made earlier reference. He stressed that those objects were benevolent and ameliorative, and that they could not sustain the interpretation that the association existed for "regulating the relations between workmen and employers (State)" or, in brief, for "collective bargaining" with the State. Upon all these grounds, the petition was dismissed.

(3) The following provisions of the two Acts (Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926, and Industrial Disputes Act, 1947) are valuable for a comprehension of the arguments upon which we are now invited to interfere with the order of the learned Judge. Section 2(g) of the Trade Unions Act states :-

"Trade dispute means any dispute between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or the conditions of labour, of any person, and "workmen" means all persons employed in trade or industry whether or not in the employment of the employer with whom the trade dispute arises."

Section 2(h) runs as follows :-

"Trade Union means any combination whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more Trade Unions."

(4) As we have stated earlier, section 5 of the Act entitles a Trade Union to apply for registration, and provides that the application shall be accompanied by a copy of the rules of the Trade Union, and statement of specified particulars. Under section 5(2), where a Trade Union has been in existence for more than one year before the making of the application for its registration, a further general statement of assets and liabilities is required to be submitted. Under section 7(1) of the Act, the Registrar may call for further information, for the purpose of satisfying himself that an application complied with the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act and that the Trade Union is entitled to registration. The Registrar may refuse to register a Trade Union until such information is supplied. Section 8 relates to registration proper, and section 11 provides for an appeal by a person aggrieved by any refusal of the Registrar to register a Trade Union. This maybe the convenient context for noting an argument of the learned counsel for the appellant Union (Sri A. Ramachandran). The learned counsel argues that where, as in this case, the Registrar did not call for any further information under section 7, he has really no jurisdiction to decline registration. This argument is obviously unsustainable.

The very terms of section 8 are that the Registrar has to register the Union

"on being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements of this Act"; this shows that where the definitions under sections 2(g) and 2(h) are themselves inapplicable to the so-called Union, the Registrar has every power to decline the registration. It is for the specified purpose of granting redress against the erroneous exercise of such power that the appeal is provided for under section 11. Section 16 of the Act, as noted by us earlier, enables the Union to constitute a separate fund for political purposes and objects and to pursue those purposes, enumerated in section 16(2). Sections 17 and 18 refer to the immunity of the members of a registered Trade Unions from criminal proceedings in certain respects, and similarly from civil suits in certain cases. Under sections 21 and 22, there is room from the introduction of outsiders as office bearers into the executive of a registered Trade Union, or of outsiders as members, after registration.

(5) Turning now to the Industrial Disputes Act (Act XIV of 1947), we find the very important definition of "industry" in section 2(j) of the Act in the following terms-

"Industry means any business, trade, under taking, manufacture or calling of employers and includes any calling, service, employment, handicraft, or industrial occupation or avocation of workmen."

An equally important definition is that of "workmen" in section 2(s) of the following terms :-

"Workmen means any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any skilled or unskilled manual, supervisory, technical or clerical work for hire or reward, whether the terms of employment be express or implied, and for the purposes of any proceeding under this Act in relation to an industrial dispute, includes any such person who has been dismissed, discharged or retrenched in connection with or, as a consequence of, that dispute, or whose dismissal, discharge or retrenchment has led to that dispute, but does not include any such person--(i) who is subject to the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950) or the Air Force Act, (45 of 1950), or the Navy (Discipline) Act, (34 of 1934); or

(ii) who is employed in the police service or as an officer or other employees of a prison; or

(iii) who is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity; or

(iv) who being employed in a supervisory capacity draws wages exceeding five hundred rupees per mensem or exercises, either by the nature of the duties, attached to the office or by reason of the powers vested in him, functions mainly of a managerial nature."

With regard to the present appeal, section 9-A concerning notice of change in the conditions of service is important; clause (b) of the proviso specifically exempts from such notice, workmen who are

"persons to whom the Fundamental and Supplementary rules, Civil Services (Classification Control and Appeal)


This certainly suggests that at least employees of the quasi-Government Organisations, such as the Industrial undertakings or Insurance corporations, are persons to whom the Industrial corporations, are persons to whom the Industrial Disputes Act, may apply. We may further note that under section 36(1) of this Act, a workman who is a party to an industrial dispute is entitled to be represented in a proceeding under the Act by "an officer of a registered Trade Union of which he is a member". Learned counsel (Sri Ramachandran) argues that the appellant Union is keen upon registration under the Trade Unions Act, not merely for the privileges or immunities conferred under sections 17 and 18 of the Act, which we have noticed earlier, but even more importantly for this power or being represented in an industrial dispute, by the Union.

(6) We are now in a position to proceed into the grounds upon which the appeal has been pressed.

(7) Upon one ground, we do not think that it is really necessary to follow the learned Judge into the analysis that he has made. The learned Judge refers to the definitions of "workmen" in the Concise Oxford Dictionary and Wharton's Law Lexion, and concludes that the term could only fairly characterise persons engaged in manual labour semi-skilled occupations for wages and could certainly not include civil servants of the State. It is certainly true that such a restrictive interpretation appears to have prevailed at one time, and to have found expression in several Acts in the United Kingdom, such as the Bankruptcy Act 1883, Employers and Workmen Act, 1875, Truck Acts 1887 etc., (see Burrows Words and Phrases Vol. 5, page 527). But, more and more as the industrial structure expanded, such a limited definition became out of place; further, it was clearly impossible to sustain, from a logical point of view, a distinction between brain-workers and manual workers, in relation to "industry" broadly conceived. One instance suggested to use may be significant. It would be difficult to hold that a typist does not do manual labour; literally his work is executed with his hands, conforming to the etymological sense of the definition. But equally, it would be impossible to deny that a typist is also a brain-worker, or to deny that he is a "workman" in industry. Obviously, springing from such causes, we find that the earlier attitude is no longer maintained, particularly in Industrial law in the United States of America. For instance in Corpus Juris Secundum (Vol. 98 page 834), "workman" is defined as--"a tailer a worker, one who works in any department of physical or mental labour". Also see the definition furnished by Bouvier cited in "Words and Phrases" Permanent Edn. Vol. 45, page 508 as "one who labourers; one who is employed in some business for another." Finally in N. A. Citrine's (now Lord) "Trade Union Law" (1960 Edn)., the learned author observes (page 312)--"It is suggested that a similar wide interpretation of the definition of "workmen" will be adopted by courts." In the United Kingdom, Association of variety artistes and Musicians have been recognised as unions of workmen, and the old distinction of the restrictive meaning no longer holds the field.

(8) Apart from this, as far as the present judgment is concerned, the learned Judge appears to have overlooked the definition of "workmen" in section 2(g) of the Trade Unions Act itself in the form--"means all persons employed in trade or industry". The learned Advocate-General has placed certain arguments before us with regard to this definition, and the implication of the word "means" as occurring therein. We shall dilate upon this a little later. It is here pertinent to observe that this definition, if considered integrally with the definition of "Trade Union" in section 2(h) renders otiose and even inadmissible any arguments founded upon the distinction between manual labour and brain-labour, in the context of the word "workmen". It is here important to take note of another judgment of the learned Judge (Ramachandra Iyer, J., himself) in Rangaswami v. Registrar of Trade Unions, O. P. No. 19 of 1960 : , a similar petition with regard to the order of the Registrar of Trade Unions refusing to register the Union of Employees of the Madras Raj Bhavan, as the Trade Union under the Act. This judgment has really to be read as supplementing the judgment in appeal, with regard to the board perspective to approach and the learned Judge herein specifically refers to the definition of "workmen" which occurs in section 2(g). Upon these grounds, it is not essential to explore further the argument based upon the distinction as one of the factors justifying the order of the Registrar declining to register the appellant Union.

(9) Next, it is argued by learned counsel for the appellant Union, that, as noted by the learned Judge himself, such Unions of civil servants of the State are recognised as Trade Unions in the United Kingdom. It is stressed that this recognition should also become part of the industrial law of this country; particularly as Trade Unions of the workmen in the railways, which are now State concerns, already exists. There is no doubt about the situation in the United Kingdom, and a single sentence from a passage in the "History of Trade Unions" by Syedney and Beatrice Webb (1950 Edn p. 507) cited by the learned Judge himself, will suffice

"Practically no one below the rank of an Under Secretary of State is held to be outside the scope of the Society of Civil Servants".

It is strenuously contended that the same principle should apply here, that any distinction between tenure at the pleasure of the Crown, in the United Kingdom and tenure subject to constitutional safeguards, as in this Country, is really invalid for the purpose of applying the criterion under the Trade Unions Act, and that, in brief, the learned Judge was in error in holding that the appellant Union was not entitled to registration. Sri Ramachandran further contends that recent case-law has been in the opposite direction, namely the direction of recognising even Governmental activities as part of "industry", and the employees of such branches of administration as 'workers' entitled to form Trade Unions, subject of course, to well-recognised exceptions (section 2(s) of Act XIV of 1947), categories (i) to (iv); the cases relied on, chiefly are State of Bombay v. Hospital Mazdoor Sabha, , Banerji v. Mukherjee, and Nagpur

Corporation v. Its Employees, . These arguments

certainly deserve careful consideration at our hands.

(10) We think it is clear that there are two broad grounds upon which the claim of the appellant Union to registration as a Trade Union could be properly resisted. The first ground is inherent to the very constitution of the Union, and the admitted facts of its structure, in relation to a basis principle stressed by the Supreme Court; we do not see how this ground of objection can in any manner be negatived. The second ground is more open to controversy, but even here we are included to the view that at least as relative to the core of the civil services entrusted with the implementation of the essential and sovereign functions of Government, the ground of objection is valid. But the first ground alone is really sufficient to dispose of the present appeal.

(11) As the learned Advocate-General contends, the word "means" when it occurs in a definition, and occurs without the complementary expression "and includes", is restrictive and explanatory in character. The matter was put thus by Lord Esher M. R. in Gough v. Gough, 1891-2 QB 665, at p. 674 :

"It is a hard and fast definition, and the result is that you cannot give any other meaning to the word landlord in the Act than that which is mentioned in the definition."

Also see Burrows--Words and Phrases, Vol. 3, page 347, and page 49 of Supplement, where Canadian case-law on the matter is cited. Hence, the word, "workmen" as occurring in the Trade Unions Act, means "all persons employed in Trade or industry" without any other criterion or reference. The question therefore is whether such persons as Sub Magistrate in the Judiciary, Tahsildars Officers of the Treasuries and the Home Department of Government, who are all members of the appellant-Union according to its constitution, could, by any stretch of imagination, be regarded as "workmen employed" in "trade" or "industry". Learned counsel for the appellant Union (Sri Ramachandran) draws our attention to the observation of Lord Wright in National Association of Local Govt. Officers v. Bolton Corporation, 1943 AC 166, to the effect that

"Indeed Trade is not only in etymological or dictionary sense, but in the legal usage, a term of the widest scope."

He points out that in , a hospital subsidised and run by Government was held to be "industry" within the scope of the wide definition of section 2(j) of the Industrial Disputes Act. But this very case furnishes us with a point of departure in the direction of excluding the core of the civil services from the definition of "workmen".

However wide the term "trade" might be, in all the authorities cited before us, the Supreme Court has approved of the dictum that those activities of the Government which should be properly described a regal or sovereign activities were outside the scope of "industry",

"These are functions which a constitutional Government can and must undertake for governance, and which no private citizen can undertake"

. Their Lordships also quoted the reference of Lord Watson in Coomber v. Justices of Berks, (1883) 9 AC 61 to "the primary and inalienable functions of a Constitutional Government". Again, the dicta of Issacs, J, in Federated State School Teacher's Association of Australia v. State of Victoria, (1929), 41 CLR 569, were quoted with approval by the Supreme Court in , namely,

"Regal functions are inescapable, and inalienable. Such are the legislative power, the administration of laws, the exercise of the judicial power".

The Supreme Court added-

"It could not have been, therefore, in the contemplation of the Legislature to bring in the regal functions of the State within the definition of "industry" and thus confer jurisdiction on industrial courts to decide disputes in respect thereof."

Also see the observations of this Court in Govindarajulu Naidu v. Secy of State, ILR 50 Mad 449 : (AIR 1927 Mad 689), repelling an argument based on the wording in clause 12 of the Letters Patent, that the business of Government being to govern, Government must also be deemed, within the meaning of the section, to carry on business at its head-quarters. This court observed :

"The business intended by the section is a commercial business and not a business of State or Government."

(12) But if this criterion is to be applied, it is evident that the very basis of the structure of the appellant Union would exclude its registration as a Trade Union. The appellant Union purports to conclude among its members Sub Magistrates of the Judiciary, Tahsildars entrusted with the powers of enforcement of the tax-machinery (Revenue Recovery Act etc)., officers in charge of Treasuries and Sub-treasures, officers of civil court establishment, and of the Home Department of Government. It is impossible to contend that these are not civil servants engaged in the tasks of the sovereign and regal aspects of Government, which are its inalienable functions; they cannot be included within the definition of "workmen" in an "industry" to who either section 2(g) or 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act can apply. Learned counsel points out that the Association equally includes member of the State Transport organisation, the Cinchona factory of Government, etc, who would well be regarded as person in an "industry" since these are specific industrial undertakings of Government, certainly not part of its essential and regal functions. This may well be so. As the learned Advocate-General has conceded, there are three categories to be regarded here, the middle of which shares the characteristics of the other two, and is hence debatable in its scope."

Firstly, we have the core of the civil services integrated with the inalienable and regal functions of Government; those aspects of Governmental activities cannot be an "industry"; no can such civil servants be "workmen". As opposed to this, we have those independent corporations which are quasi-Government agencies, or subsidised undertakings, which are purely industrial in character; these may be such concerns as a Machine Tool Factory, Insurance Corporation etc. Here there would appear to the little room for doubt, upon the authority of , that these are industrial undertakings, whose employees are "workmen" at least as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act XIV of 1947. The learned Judge considers that the Trade Unions Act is not in pari materia but however this might be, it may be difficult in principle to claim that such employee could not raise "industrial disputes' or form Trade Unions for the conduct of such disputes. But we have the intermediate category, forming, as the learned Advocate general phrased it, a kind of penumbra where light and shadow are mixed. Here, differences of view are certainly possible, Certain welfare, educational or ameliorative departments of Government might or might not be regarded as liable to exclusion; the employees in those departments, might or might not hence be regarded as "workmen" in an "industry". But we have no doubt that the appellant Union, with its wide and unqualified basis, cannot claim to consist of "workmen" in an "industry". Sri Ramachandran argues that as the learned Judge himself has explicitly stated in the portion if his judgment. "The test for a Trade Union is its object, and not its personnel. But that does not imply that persons who are not workmen" in an "industry" can form a Trade Union at all; obviously they cannot, for the definitions in sections 2(g) and 2(h) could not apply to them and they could neither raise a "trade dispute" nor form a "trade union". It is noteworthy that, as we have pointed out-siders can come into the picture only after the registration of the Trade Union. On this clear ground, the appellant Union must fail.

(13) Even upon the second ground, we consider that the appellant Union is not entitled to succeed, at least with reference to the member of the civil services who form part of the essential and regal administrative machinery of Government. Under Article 310 of the Constitution, even in the country, the tenure of office of a civil servant is during the pleasure of the Head of the Union or the State, as the case may be, and Article 311 provides for statutory safeguards against certain penalties, such as dismissal removal or reduction in rank. To such a relationship, the concept of "Collective bargaining" is utterly inappropriate and foreign. "Collective bargaining" is a right conceded to Labour Organisations within the contractual field of the employer and employee relationship. It would be come a grotesque anomaly that if civil service for instance, were permitted to raise a "trade dispute" with regard to the dismissal of a civil servant it may be for activities against the State itself, and at the same breath to claim that the constitutional safeguards under Article 311, which are wholly irrelevant to the field of contract and to the employer-labour nexus, should be maintained intact for the benefit of the civil service. Hence, whatever might be the developments in the United Kingdom,it is difficult for us to conceive of "Collective bargaining" as governing the State it its relations to civil services. It is not necessary for us to express any view whether, in the event of the employee of those branches of Government which do partake of the character of ":industry" organising themselves into an Association of this kind, they would be eligible for registration as a Trade Union, or otherwise.

(14) We are therefore of the view, on a careful consideration of the grounds urged before us, that the order of the learned Judge(Ramchandra Iyer, J) was correct, and that this appeal has to fail. We accordingly direct that it be dismissed but, under the circumstances, without costs.

(15) Appeal Dismissed\

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