(1) This petition is filed by the Kasturbanagar Co-operative House Construction Society Ltd. for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Labour Court, Madras, in C. P. No. 216 of 1964.
(2) The first respondent filed a claim petition before the Labour Court under S. 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, for computation of the benefits of the notice pay, retrenchment compensation, gratuity and leave salary. The first respondent was employed as a peon in the Madras Co-operative House Construction Society from 3-12-1948. This Society was divided into eight societies from 10-8-1962, by virtue of the provisions of S. 13 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, Act VI of 1932. The assets and liabilities of the parent Society were divided among the eight societies. The services of the first respondent were placed at the disposal of the Kasturbanagar Co-operative Society which was one of the eight societies. The first respondent was drawing a salary of Rs. 85 till 8-3-1963, when he was dismissed from service, on the ground that the resources of the Society were slender. On representation made by the first respondent to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, he directed the petitioner society to pay, retrenchment compensation according to scale prescribed in the Industrial Disputes Act. The petitioner-Society failed to comply with the direction. Thereupon, after issuing a notice to the Society, the first respondent as mentioned earlier preferred a claim petition before the Labour Court under Sec. 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. The petitioner-Society opposed the claim petition on several grounds. It was contended that the first respondent was transferred to the petitioner-Society by the Special Officer without the concurrence of the Society and therefore the transfer was illegal and did not confer any benefit on the transferee (first respondent) under S. 25-FF of the Industrial Disputes Act. It was also contended that if there was any dispute it could only be proceeded with under S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932, and not under the Industrial Disputes Act. But the Labour Court overruled these objections and allowed the first respondent's claim in regard to notice pay, retrenchment compensation and leave salary. The Kasturbanagar Co-operative House Construction Society, Ltd., has filed this writ petition to quash the order of the Labour Court.
(3) It is first contended that the petitioner is not a transferee-Society liable to pay retrenchment compensation on the entire service of the first respondent from 1948. Under Ex. P-3 dated 14-8-1962, the Special Officer directed that, consequent on the division of the Madras Co-operative House Construction Society, Ltd. into eight new societies with effect from 10-8-1962, the existing staff of the former parent Society stood allotted to the new societies on the then existing terms and conditions of service. The first respondent was allotted as a peon to the petitioner-Society. The proceedings of the Special Officer also provided that the members of the staff would continue to be paid the same pay in the time-scale of pay, as they were then getting and they would be entitled to the same privileges in the matter of pay, allowance, leave, etc., as they were eligible while serving the former Madras Co-operative House Construction Society. It is contended that while the same privileges in the matter of pay, allowance, leave, etc., were secured, there was no provision regarding retrenchment compensation. This contention cannot bear scrutiny, as what is secured is the same privilege in respect of pay, allowances, leave, etc., which would include all the privileges to which a workman would be entitled. This contention has to be rejected.
(4) It is next contended that the dispute, if any, would fall under S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932, and can, therefore, be dealt with only by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Sec. 51 of the Act provides, 'If any dispute touching the business of registered society (other than a dispute regarding disciplinary action taken by the Society or its committee against a paid servant of the Society) arises--(a).......... (b).......... (c) between the Society and its committee, 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, or (d).......... such dispute shall be referred to the Registrar for decision.'
Under this section, the Registrar may decide the dispute himself, or transfer it for disposal to any person who has been invested by the State Government with powers in that behalf, or refer it for disposal to an arbitrator. My attention has also been drawn to S. 31 of the Industrial Disputes (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Act XXXVI of 1956) which provides--
'If, immediately before the commencement of this Act, there is in force in any State any provincial Act, or State Act relating to the settlement or adjudication of disputes, the operation of such an Act in that State, in relation to matters covered by that Act shall not be affected by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, as amended by this Act.'
(5) Reading the two sections quoted above, it is contended that, as the Madras Act has provided for arbitration and settlement of disputes, the Labour Court will not have jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute. This contention cannot be accepted, for, the scope of S. 51 of the Co-operative Societies Act is limited. It relates only to any dispute touching the business of a registered society and arising between the society and its servant. There is no doubt that the claim for retrenchment compensation will be a dispute between the society and its servant. But it is not a dispute touching the business of the registered Society. All disputes between the Society and its servants cannot be said to be disputes touching the business of a registered society.
In Co-operative Milk Societies Union, Ltd. v. West Bengal State, : (1958)IILLJ61Cal , it was held that dispute between a co-operative society and its workmen did not relate to the actual business of a co-operative society, and, therefore, did not touch the business of the Co-operative Society. For coming to this conclusion, the learned Judge of the Calcutta High Court relied on the definition of the word 'dispute' in the Bengal Co-operative Societies Act. But the word 'dispute' is not defined in the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932. Learned counsel for the petitioner placed strong reliance on the exclusion of a dispute regarding disciplinary action taken by the Society against its paid servant and submitted that this exclusion would suggest that any other dispute between the Society and its paid servant would be covered by S. 51 of the Act. This argument, though plausible on the wording of the section cannot be accepted; for, in my view, industrial disputes such as retrenchment compensation, gratuity, etc., are not contemplated within the provisions of the Co-operative Societies Act. The industrial legislation confers various benefits on a worker, and the worker is entitled to retrenchment compensation, gratuity, etc., which otherwise he would not be entitled to under the Co-operative Societies Act, or any other Act. The dispute contemplated by S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932, would not comprehend all the benefits to the worker under the Industrial Disputes Act for deciding which a special machinery is set up.
(6) Learned counsel for the petitioner-Society placed reliance on a decision of Division Bench of this Court in South Arcot Co-operative Motor Transport Society, Ltd. v. Syed Batcha, : (1964)ILLJ280Mad . The Bench was concerned with a dispute relating to service conditions as between the Society and its members. It was held that the dispute regarding service conditions would be a matter touching the business of the Society to be adjudicated upon under S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act. In coming to this conclusion, it was held that the respondents were not workmen and they were shareholders of the Society and that any claim in regard to their service conditions would be a matter touching the business of the Co-operative Society. The decision, therefore, rested on the fact that the respondents were shareholders of the Society and as such were not workmen. But in the present case, the first respondent is a peon, and cannot be excluded from the word 'workman' as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act. Learned counsel for the petitioner strongly relied on the observation of the Bench which is as follows:
'It is also very doubtful whether the Industrial Disputes Act itself will apply when there is the Madras Co-operative Societies Act (VI of 1932, State Act) which provides a machinery for the settlement or adjudication of disputes, because S. 31 of the Industrial Disputes Act (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act XXXVI of 1956, says..........'
This observation is merely an expression of opinion and is in the nature of obiter dictum. As stated already, I am of the view that the disputes relating to retrenchment compensation, gratuity, etc., do not fall within the purview of S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act. In this connection, reference may also be made to S. 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, which provides that no workman employed in any industry who has been in continuous service for not less than one year under an employer shall be retrenched by that employer until the workman has been given one month's notice in writing indicating the reasons for retrenchment. The workman is also entitled to retrenchment compensation which shall be equivalent to 15 days' average pay for every completed year of service. Section 25-J of the Industrial Disputes Act provides that the provisions of Ch. V-A of the Act which relate to lay-off and retrenchment shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law. Considering S. 31 of the Industrial Disputes (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956 and S. 25-J of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Supreme Court in the Sawtram Ramprasad Mills Co. Ltd. Akola v. Biliram Ukandaji, : (1966)ILLJ41SC observed:
'.......... even if Ss. 31 and 25-J save the application of the C. P. and Berar Act, they do so subject to the condition that question of layoff must be decided in accordance with Ch. V-A and S. 33-C clearly provides that a dispute for any money due under Ch. V-A has to go before the appropriate Government or its delegate.'
The effect of the decision as applied to the present case would be that the provisions of Sec. 31 of the Industrial Disputes (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956 and S. 51 of the Madras Co-operative Societies Act, 1932, cannot exclude the operation of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, in the matter relating to retrenchment compensation, gratuity, etc., of a workman of a co-operative society.
(7) It is admitted that, so far as salary in lieu of notice is concerned, the first respondent is not entitled to it. The order of the Labour Court in so far as it directs payment of Rs. 85 in lieu of a month's notice is set aside. In other respects, the order of the Labour Court is confirmed. The writ petition is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.
(8) Writ petition dismissed.