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A.N. Rangaswami and anr. Vs. the Industrial Tribunal, Fort St. George, Madras and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 591 of 1951
Reported inAIR1953Mad447; (1953)IILLJ24Mad; (1953)IMLJ315
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 7 and 36(4); Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) (Amendment) Act, 1950; Bar Councils Act, 1926 - Sections 9(1) and 14(1); Constitution of India - Articless 14 and 19(1)
AppellantA.N. Rangaswami and anr.
RespondentThe Industrial Tribunal, Fort St. George, Madras and ors.
Appellant AdvocateD. Narasaraju and ;K.B. Krishnamurthi, Advs.;Srinivasamurthi, Adv. for ;Govt. Pleader
Respondent AdvocateA. Ramachandran, Adv. of Row and Reddy
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredLocal Government Board v. Arlidge
Excerpt: councils act, 1926 and articles 14 and 19 (1) of constitution of india - petition challenging constitutional validity of provisions of section 36 (4) of industrial disputes, act - act enacted for bringing industrial peace as expeditiously as possible - tribunal in exercise of its jurisdiction under section 36 subject to consent of other party may allow advocate to appear in cases where it thinks assistance necessary to elucidate question of fact or law - party cannot insist as of right to be represented by advocate - rule intended to prevent one party taking advantage of other party's weakness and to prevent unnecessary prolongation of amicable settlement between parties - tribunals can have their own procedure so long as principles of natural justice not violated - held, section 36..........upon the nature of his right. learned counsel for the petitioner would say that every person has a right to practise in a court or before a tribunal and the section which unreasonably restricts that right is void under article 13 of the constitution of india. the question therefore is, what is the nature of the petitioner's right to practise before a court or tribunal. this question wan raised and answered in this high court as well as the bombay high court. before the cases are noticed, the relevant provisions of the ear councils act may be read:'section 9(1): the bar council may, with the previous sanction of the high court, make rules to regulate the admission of persons to be advocates of the high court: provided that such rules shall not limit or in any way affect the power of the.....

Subbarao, J.

1. This is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuing a 'Writ of Certiprari' to quash the order of respondent 1 dated 24-9-1951. Petitioner 2 is the Liberator Ltd, represented by its Secretary. Petitioner 1 is an advocate. By G. O. No. 3167 dated 10-7-1951, the Government of 'Madras referred the industrial dispute between petitioner 2 and its employees to respondent, 1 the Tribunal constituted by respondent, 2 the State of Madras. On 11-9-1951, petitioner 1 sought to file his 'vakalat' on behalf of petitioner 2 before the Tribunal. The representative of the labourers objected to petitioner l appearing for petitioner 2. On 24-9-1951, afer hearing the parties, the Tribunal held, relying upon the provisions of section 36(4), Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, that it had no power to grant leave to petitioner 1 to appear on behalf of the company, petitioner 2. Section 36(4), Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, as amended by the Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, 1950, reads as follows:

'In any proceeding before a Tribunal, a party to a dispute may be represented by a legal practitioner with the consent of the other parties to the proceeding and with the leave of the Tribunal'.

The provisions of this section are clear and unambiguous. Before a Tribunal a legal practitioner cannot appear unless the Tribunal gives its leave and other parties to the proceedings give their consent. Learned counsel for the petitioners, therefore, contended that the provisions of section 36(4) are constitutionally void viewedfrom two different aspects. Prom the standpoint of petitioner 1, i. e,, the advocate, it is argued that the' section violated his fundamental right to do business guaranteed to him under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. From the view point of petitioner 2, i. e., the employer, it is pointed out that the section infringes the rule of equality embodied in Article 14 of the Constitution. Learned counsel further adds that the prohibition to be represented by an advocate before the Tribunal except with the consent of the other side is against ail principles of natural justice.

2. The constitutional validity of the section from the standpoint of the advocate mainly depends upon the nature of his right. Learned counsel for the petitioner would say that every person has a right to practise in a Court or before a tribunal and the section which unreasonably restricts that right is void under Article 13 of the Constitution of India. The question therefore is, what is the nature of the petitioner's right to practise before a Court or tribunal. This question wan raised and answered in this High Court as well as the Bombay High Court. Before the cases are noticed, the relevant provisions of the Ear Councils Act may be read:

'Section 9(1): The Bar Council may, with the previous sanction of the High Court, make rules to regulate the admission of persons to be advocates of the High Court:

Provided that such rules shall not limit or in any way affect the power of the High Court to refuse admission to any person at its discretion.

Section 14(1): An advocate shall be entitled as of right to practise:-- (b) save as otherwise provided by Sub-section (2) or by or under any other law for the time being in force in any Other Court in British India and before any other tribunal or person legally authorised to take evidence; and

(c) before any other authority or person before whom such advocate is by or under the law for the time being in force entitled to practise.

In-- 'Mulchand v. Mukund', : AIR1952Bom296 , Cliagla C. J. and Gajendragadkar J. defined the scope of the right of a person to practise having regard to the aforesaid provisions in the following words:

'Therefore, his right to practise is controlled by this important provision that any other law for the time being in force may restrict or take away his right. Therefore, if the Co-operative Societies Act were to provide that an advocate of the High Court of Bombay shall not practise before the arbitral tribunal set up under that Act, then the right of the Advocate will be circumscribed by the provisions of that law. It should be remembered that it is not the fact that a man has passed a law examination or has acquired a law degree that entitles him to practise in Courts of law; his right to practise depends upon his being enrolled as an advocate and he is enrolled as an advocate on terms and conditions laid down in the Bar Councils Act, Therefore, as I said before, his very charter which entitles him to practise lays down conditions and limitations, and one of the conditions and limitations is that he can only practise before such tribunals as the law permits him and he may not practise before such tribunals as the law lays down as being prohibited to lawyers.'

After considering similar provisions in the Legal Practitioners Act, the learned Judges proceeded to say:

'It is a right subject to the provisions of any law for the time being in force. Therefore, theonly right of a lawyer that has been safeguarded under the Constitution is the right to practise his profession. Now, that right not being an absolute right, no absolute right is conferred upon the lawyer by the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees to the lawyer such right as he has under his charter. If any such right is affected or contravened, then undoubtedly he can rely upon the provisions of Article 19(f). But if the right given to .him is a limited right and that right is not in any way affected, he cannot claim a wider right or a larger right under the Constitution.'

Much the same view has been expressed by Rajamannar C. J. and Venkatarama Aiyar J. in-- 'S. Ananthakrishnan v. State of Madras', : AIR1952Mad395 . The question in that case was whether the Madras Stamp Amendment Act (6Of 1922) which prescribed a fee of Rs. 625 formaking an entry in the rolls of the High Courtwas not constitutional or an infringement of theprovisions' of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.At page 218 the learned Chief Justice observed:

'Taking the profession of law, what does thisright consist in? Is the effect of Article 19(1) toconfer on every person who may be otherwisequalified the right to practise in any court inthe land? I see nothing in Article 19(1)(g) tojustify the conclusion that this court or anyother High Court or Supreme court cannot laydown rules for the admission of advocates whoalone will be permitted to represent the suitorsbefore them. On the other hand the clauses inthe Letters Patent granted to the Chartered High Courts to which reference was made earlier in this judgment clearly confer on the High Courts the power to virtually prevent even qualified persons other than the advocates on their rolls to plead and act before them on behalf of suitors.

This power of the High Court has been continued under Article 225 of the Constitution. The Bar Councils Act recognises this right and lays down that only the persons enrolled as advocates of a particular High Court have-certain rights of audience ........ Besides acting & pleading in Courts there are many ways in -which a lawyer can pursue his profession and he is free to so practise his profession. If any one wants the additional privilege of beingentitled as of right to act and plead in the High Court he has got to be enrolled in the rolls of that Court. Enrolment consists in making an entry in the roll, so far it was not suggested that there was anything unconstitutional.'

In Writ Petn. No. 537 of 1952 (Mad) I expressedmy view as follows:

'From the aforesaid rules it is obvious that there is no absolute right to be an advocate. A person enrolled as an advocate has a privilege to practise subject to certain limitations. This privilege to practise, therefore, is conditioned by the limitations imposed on him under the provisions of the Bar Councils Act and the rules framed thereunder.'

If so petitioner 1's right to practise is subject to the limitations contained in the Bar Councils Act. One of such limitations is that he shall be entitled to practise save as otherwise provided by or under any other law for the time being in force in any other Court in British India and before any other Tribunal or persons legally authorised to take evidence. Section 36(4), Industrial Disputes Act is certainly a law limiting his right to practise before a Tribunal. He cannot accept the privilege or right to practise before tribunals andat the same time reject the limitations subject to which that right was conferred on him. If so understood, his right to practise, i.e. the right circumscribed by the provisions of the Act where-under he is enrolled, is not infringed by the provisions of Section 36(4), Industrial Disputes Act. There is, therefore, no violation of his fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

3. It was then contended from the standpoint of petitioner 2 that the section violated the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Under Article 14

'The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.'

It is said that a party to a dispute before Courts and other tribunals is entitled to be represented by an advocate, and the said right is practically denied to him before the Industrial Tribunal. Such a discrimination, it is argued, violated the fundamental right embodied in the equality clause. Adverting to the provisions of this Article I summarised the law on the subject in--South India Bank Ltd. v. T. D. Pichuthayappan', WP No. 296 of 1951 (Mad) as follows:

'All persons are equal before the law is fundamental of every civilised Constitution. Equality before law is a negative concept, equal protection of laws is a positive one. The former declares that every one is equal before law, that no one can claim special privileges and that all classes are equally subjected to the ordinary law of the land; the latter postulates an equal protection of all alike in the same situation and under like circumstances. No discrimination can be made either in the privileges conferred or in the liabilities imposed. It has also been held for without that apparently just laws may in their application be so abused as to subvert the fundamental concept of equality before law - that the law should be applied by public authority without arbitrariness or discrimination.

The law though apparently fair contains inherent possibilities for discrimination and arbitrary action is in itself bad. But these propositions conceived in the interests of the' public, If logically stretched too far may not achieve the high purpose behind them. In a society of unequal basic structure it is well nigh impossible to make laws suitable in their application to all the persons alike. So a reasonable classification is not only permitted but is necessary if society should progress. But such a classification cannot be arbitrary but must be based upon differences pertinent to the subject in respect of, and the purpose for which it is made.'

To this I will add the statement of Professor Willis that

'If any state of facts can reasonably be conceived to sustain a classification, the existence of that state of facts must be assumed and that one, who assails a classification, must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest upon any reasonable basis.'

The Question, therefore, is whether the classification adopted in this case is arbitrary and is not based upon the differences pertinent to the subject, or in respect of and the purpose for which it is made. In my view the discrimination made between a litigant in an ordinary Court of law and before the Tribunal can easily be Justified on the basis of reasonable classification. The object; of the constitution of labour tribunals was to have an expeditious and just settlement of dis-putes between the employers and employees in the interests of industrial peace. It wars also apparently intended as a convenient device to avoid costly and prolonged litigation in Courts of law and to place the two categories of disputants, i.e, the employees and employers with obvious disparity in wealth and influence, as far as possible on an equal level. To achieve this object labour tribunals are constituted. The makers of the law might have thought that an unrestricted right to be represented by an advocate would defeat the aforesaid purpose. Such restrictions on the right of a party to be represented by an advocate before tribunals are not unknown in other parts of the world. In Poolard's 'Administrative Tribunals at work' the following passage occurs at page 19 of the Introduction:

'Lawyers as a whole have never understood the reasons for the growth of administrative tribunals and in many cases have opposed or tried to limit them ........ The doctrine of precedents would be introduced, the law of evidence would hamper it, & its procedure become cumbersome, slow and costly. It is partly their freedom from, rules of procedure and customs in advocacy which makes administrative tribunals adaptable to changing social needs and gives parties before them an ease and confidence never known in law Courts. It is for lawyers to adapt themselves to administrative tribunals but not try to twist the growth of these bodies into the pattern of the ordinary Courts.

At page 32 the learned author proceeded to state:

'If the propertied side were legally represented and the other party not, as has been in many county courts the Chairman would feel it incumbent on him to conduct the unaided, man's case for him. If the professional advocate is admitted, there is the question of expense. Property can always command good brains versed in traditional law. The penniless man or wage-earner needs an advocate versed in human values, in the poor man's budget, in voluntary unenforceable industrial agreements, in the point of view of trade union and shop committee, and in the acts and orders regulating factories, mines, etc.'

Similar considerations might have weighed with' the Legislature in enacting the aforesaid provision prohibiting a party to be represented by an advocate unless with the consent of the presiding officer and the opposite party. The consent of the opposite party prevents one party from engaging an advocate unless the other party is also in a position to do so. The Tribunal in exercise of its jurisdiction, subject to the consent of the other side, may allow an advocate to appear in eases where it thinks the assistance is necessary to elucidate the questions of fact or law. But the rule is intended to prevent one party taking advantage of the other party's weakness and also to prevent the unnecessary prolongation of an amicable settlement between the parties.

4. This is a problematical solution- for the avoidance of the apprehended evils. It has always been my experience that a trained lawyer is o immense help in the disposal of cases. It is true that among advocates, just like in other classes of society, there are and will always be a few misfits who would obstruct rather than help the Court; but the remedy is not, on that account, to cut off the trained legal element from assisting the administrative tribunals, but appoint competent officers who could be expected and safely relied upon not to play into the hands of those few misguided ones. But the Parliament in its wisdom thought otherwise and it is entitled to have itsview and to reflect the same in the laws made. The classification is, therefore, not arbitrary but is based upon the nature of the tribunal and the purpose for which it is constituted.

5. Learned counsel then argued that the provisions of the section, if enforced, would offend the principles of natural justice. He would say that no person's rights can be affected unless a reasonable opportunity is given to him to show cause against the action proposed to be taken, and if a person is deprived of his right to be represented by an advocate, in a complicated dispute before the Industrial Tribunal it will be depriving him of such au opportunity. Tribunals cannot be equated to Courts of law. They can have their own procedure so long as the principles of natural justice are not violated. It is a common place axiom that no man can be deprived of his rights unless a reasonable opportunity is given to him to show cause before the Tribunal. What is a reasonable opportunity depends upon the content of the right, the nature of the tribunal, the scope of the enquiry, the object of the Legislature and similar other things. The cases cited at the Bar afford illustrations of the elastic term 'reasonable opportunity.'

6. In --'Cooke v. United States', (1924) 69 Law. Ed. 767, the Supreme Court of America held that in a contempt case, before a person can be punished an opportunity should be given to him to show cause against his conviction. The nature of the opportunity is defined at page 774. Taft C. J. observed:

'Due process of law, therefore, in the prosecution of contempt, except of that committed in open Court, requires that the accused should be advised of the charges and have a reasonable opportunity to meet them by way of defence or explanation. We think this 'includes the assistance of counsel, if requested, and the right to call witnesses to give testimony, relevant either to the issue of complete exculpation or in extenuation of the offence and in mitigation of the penalty to be imposed.'

In --'Ozie Powell v. State of Albania', (1932) 77 Law Ed. 158, it was ruled that the right of one charged with crime to be represented by counsel included a fair opportunity to secure counsel of his own choice. The Supreme Court held that the failure to give reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel prior to trial, to ignorant and illiterate youth, away from their families and friends, charged with a crime punishable with death, against whom popular Hostility was so aroused that it was necessary to keep them closely confined and under military guard, infringed the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment.

Tlie aforesaid two decisions deal with the proceedings in courts of law. The second judgment deals with a case of homicide and the first with contempt proceedings in the nature of criminal proceedings. But the same rules have never been applied to administrative tribunals. In --'Board of Education v. Rice', (1911) A. C. 179, the facts were: a local education authority refused to pay salaries to teachers in a non-provided school at the same rate as it paid the teachers in provided schools. The managers of the non-provided school complained, and the Board of Education directed an inquiry. The Board purported to give its decision in a document which failed to deal with the matters in issue. In dealing with the nature of enquiry. Lord Loreburn L. C. observed at page 182 as follows:

'Comparatively recent statutes have extended, if they have not originated, the practice of imposing upon departments or officers of State the duty of deciding or determining questions of various kinds. In the present instance, as in many others, what comes lor determination is sometimes the matter to be settled by discretion, involving no law. , . . . I need not add that in doing either they must act in good faith and fairly listen to both sides, for that is a duty lying upon every one who decides anything:. But I do not think they are bound to treat such a question as though it were a trial. They have no power to administer an oath, and need not examine witnesses. They can obtain information in any way they think best, always giving a fair opportunity to those who are parties in the controversy for correcting or contradicting any relevant statement prejudicial to their view. Provided this is done, there is no appeal from the determination of the Board. . . .'

In --'Local Government Board v. Arlidge', (1915) A. C. 120, Viscount Haldane L. C. in his instructive speech made the following observations at page 132:

'My Lords, when the duty of deciding an appeal is imposed, those whose duty it is to decide it must act judicially. They deal deal with the question referred to them without bias, and they must give to each of the parties the opportunity of adequately presenting the case made. The decision must be come to in the spirit and with the sense of responsibility of a tribunal whose duty it is to mete out justice. But it does not follow that the procedure of every such tribunal must be the same. In the case of Court of law tradition in this country has prescribed certain principles to which in the main the procedure must conform. But what that procedure is to be in detail must depend on the nature of the tribunal.

In modern times it has become increasingly common for Parliament to give an appeal in matters which really pertain to administration, rather than to the exercise of the judicial functions of an ordinary Court, to authorities whose functions are administrative & not in the ordinary sense judicial. Such a body as the Local Government Board has the duly of enforcing obligations on the individual which are Imposed in the interest of the community. .... When, therefore, Parliament entrusts it with judicial duties. Parliament must be taken, in the absence of any declaration to the contrary, to have intended it to follow the procedure which is its own, and is necessary if it is to be capable of doing its work efficiently.'

The aforesaid decisions clearly bring out the distinction between the procedure before Courts and that before administrative tribunals. The fundamental principle, namely, a reasonable opportunity for explanation should be given before a person is condemned or his rights are affected applies to Courts as well as tribunals. But the scope of that opportunity varies with the character of the forum, the object of the Legislature in creating the forum and the nature of the rights decided in that forum. The Industrial Disputes Act, as I have already stated, was enacted for bringing industrial peace as expeditiously as possible. To effectuate that intention, the Parliament provided a machinery for giving a reason-able opportunity to the parties affected to represent their cases, under the Act the on refers an industrial dispute to a Tribunal duly constituted thereunder. Invariably, the person appointee to the Tribunal is a retired Judicial officer.

The Tribunal proceeds with the enquiry in the prescribed manner. It has the same powers as anvested in a civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure in respect of summoning and examining witnesses, compelling the production of documents, & issuing commissions. The parties file statements, issues are clarified, documents are filed, arguments are heard & the Tribunal submits its report on the material placed before it. Parties have the right to be heard personally or through their representatives. It is true a party cannot insist as of right to be represented by an advocate, but under Sections 36 subject to the conditions laid down therein he may be allowed to be represented by an advocate. I cannot say that the opportunity given to a party under the Act and the rules framed thereunder are not reasonable. Nor can 1 find that the procedure prescribed is contrary to the principles of natural justice. I, therefore, for the aforesaid reasons hold that Sections 36(4), Industrial Disputes Act is constitutionally valid. The petition fails and is dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.

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