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Management of the Tiruchi-srirangam Transport Co. Private Ltd. Vs. Labour Court, Madurai and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 658 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1961Mad307; [1961(2)FLR465]; (1961)ILLJ729Mad; (1961)1MLJ228
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 2, 18(3) and 33C(2)
AppellantManagement of the Tiruchi-srirangam Transport Co. Private Ltd.
RespondentLabour Court, Madurai and anr.
Appellant AdvocateP.V. Marthandam, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateB. Lakshminarayana Reddi, Adv.
Cases ReferredC. In Kasturi and Sons (Private) Ltd. v. Salivateeswaran
Excerpt:
.....- - section 33-c(2) refers to a claim by any workman which prima facie will include dismissed or discharged workman as well. in order to ascertain the class of people to whom the remedy under section 33-c(2) is provided, it is necessary first to ascertain the intention of the legislature when it enacted section 33-c(2). was it merely intended to provide a remedy for the limited class of persons who were in actual employment on the date of the application under that section or to discharged or dismissed workers as well? in all cases the primary duty of a court in construing a provision like section 33-c(2) is to gather the intention of the legislature as expressed in the enactment. and then the office of all the judges is always to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief..........of the definition of the term 'worker' in section 2(s) of the act would not cover the ease of discharged worker. section 33-c(2) states:'where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the amount at which such benefit should be computed may, subject to any rules that may be made under this act, be determined by such labour court as may be specified in this behalf by the appropriate government, and the amount so determined may be recovered as provided for in sub-section (1)'.the term 'workman' has been defined in section 2(s) as'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.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Ramachandra Iyer, J.

1. This is the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution to call for the records in claim petition No. 227 of 1958 on the file of the Labour Court, Madurai, and to quash the order dated 19-11-1958, The second respondent to this petition, Iswaran, was employed as a Traffic Supervisor in the Tiruchi-Srirangam Transport Co. (Private) Ltd. the petitioner. His services were terminated on 21-12-1956 under a scheme of retrenchment. Subsequent thereto, there were disputes between the management and the other workers in regard to the payment of bonus for the years 1955-56 and 1956-57. A settlement was readied before the Conciliation Officer on 29-4-1958. In pursuance of such settlement, the management declared an additional bonus of one month's wages for each worker for each of the two years.

2. Iswaran was however not paid anything by way of bonus though he had worked during those years presumably because he was not in service on the date of the dispute which ended in the settlement referred to above. Feeling aggrieved, he applied to the Labour Court, Madurai, for an order under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act for ascertainment of the bonus due to him under the settlement and for a direction to the management to pay the same. The Labour Court held that Iswaran would be entitled to the additional bonus of one month's wages for the years 1955-56 and also a bonus proportionate to the period of his service in the following year. The Court passed an order directing the Management to pay a sum of Rs. 189-44 nP. It is this order that is challenged as one beyond the jurisdiction of the Labour Court.

3. Mr. Marthandam who appeared for the Management, contended that the jurisdiction of the labour Court to pass an order in favour of the respondent depended in turn on its jurisdiction to entertain the claim at the instance of the second respondent. According to the learned counsel, the labour court being one created by Statute for a special purpose, its powers and jurisdiction being defined therein, the person who seeks its assistance for enforcing certain alleged rights should prove strictly that he was one to whom relief was contemplated under the provisions of the Act. It was argued that Section 33-C(2) under which an application was made to the Labour Court read in the light of the definition of the term 'worker' in Section 2(s) of the Act would not cover the ease of discharged worker. Section 33-C(2) states:

'Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the amount at which such benefit should be computed may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be determined by such Labour Court as may be specified in this behalf by the appropriate Government, and the amount so determined may be recovered as provided for in Sub-section (1)'.

The term 'workman' has been defined in Section 2(s) as

'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 he 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....'

(The rest of the section is omitted as unnecessary). Mr. Marthandam's argument is that on the terms of the definition of 'workman', a discharged or dismissed employee could not be held to be a workman except in regard to proceedings relating to industrial disputes i. e., collective disputes, while in all other cases a workman would only mean an employee in actual service. A proceeding under Section 33-C(2) being one not relating to an industrial dispute but merely an individual dispute, a discharged workman could not it is contended resort to the machinery provided by Section 33-C(2) for obtaining relief from the Labour Court.

Learned counsel referred to the provisions of the Section 2(s) before its amendment in 1956 which did not contain the clauses relating to workers concerned in an industrial dispute and a decision of the Calcutta High Court under that section, in J. Chowdhury v. M. C. Banerjee, 55 Cal WN 256, where it was held that (under the unamended section) that in order to be a 'workman' within the meaning of the Act, one must either be in employment or be discharged during the pendency of an industrial dispute. The principle of that decision is sought to be applied to the definition of the term workman even under the amended Act, so far as the matter relates to individual and not industrial disputes.

4. The argument is no doubt attractive but I am unable to accept the same. Section 33-C(2) refers to a claim by any workman which prima facie will include dismissed or discharged workman as well. In order to ascertain the class of people to whom the remedy under Section 33-C(2) is provided, it is necessary first to ascertain the intention of the legislature when it enacted Section 33-C(2). Was it merely intended to provide a remedy for the limited class of persons who were in actual employment on the date of the application under that section or to discharged or dismissed workers as well?

It is a settled rule of construction that definitions' in statutes must be read subject to the qualifications variously expressed in the definition clauses which created them such as 'unless the context or otherwise requires' etc. (Craies on Statute law page 95). In the present case Section 2 expressly makes the definition applicable unless there is repugnance to the subject or context. Section 33-C(2) provides a machinery for the ascertainment of monetary values of benefits to which a worker would be entitled to under the settlement or award passed under the Act or under the provisions of the Act.

In all cases the primary duty of a court in construing a provision like Section 33-C(2) is to gather the intention of the legislature as expressed in the enactment. In certain statutes it may be that on account of obscurity of language it would not be possible to ascertain the intention without having regard to the circumstances with reference to which the words were used. The rule that the circumstances attending the enactment could be looked into for a true interpretation of the statute was laid down as early as 1584 in what is known as 'Heydon's' case, 3 Case Rep. 8. That rule is stated thus:

'That for the sure and true interpretation of all statutes in general (be they penal or beneficial restrictive or enlarging of the common law) lour things are to he discerned and considered (1) What was the common law before the making or the Act (2) What was the mischief & defect for which the common law did not provide (3) What remedy the Parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth. (4) The true reason of the remedy. And then the office of all the Judges is always to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief and advance the remedy, and to suppress subtle inventions and evasions for the continuance of the mischief and pro private commodo, and to add force and life to the cure and remedy according to the true intent of the makers of the Act pro bono public' (Vide Craies on Statute, page 91).

5. This rule of interpretation will apply not merely to the common law but to the law as it stood under the provisions of the statute as well. In order therefore to ascertain whether any workman used in Section 33-C(2) would comprehend only those in actual employ and not discharged workman as well, it would be necessary to consider the history of the provision. That such a method is permissible would be apparent from the following passage extracted in Craies on Statute law, 5th Edn. page 119;

'In the construction of a statute it is of course at all times and under all statutes permissible to have regard to the state of things existing at the time the statute was passed and to the evil which as appears from its provisions, it was designed to remedy'.

The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 was enacted for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes by providing a machinery for conciliation or adjudication. By Act XXXIII of 1953, a new chapter V-A was introduced by way of amendment to the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947. That chapter provided for payment of lay-off compensation to the worker (Sections 25-A and 25-E) and the conditions subject to which each worker may be retrenched and the compensation payable to him on such retrenchment (Sections 25F and 25H). Section 25-I invested the Government with a power to recover any money due from the employer under that chapter.

But that provision did not enable the Government to adjudicate disputed questions of liability or to ascertain even the quantum payable to the worker by the management. It was merely a procedural section for an already ascertained liability. Vide C. B. R. Ratnam and Co. v. Ekambaram, : (1957)IILLJ266Mad . There was thus no machinery after the amendment effected in 1953 to adjudicate disputed questions even in regard to rights declared by the statutes like the one under Ch. 5-A. Act 36 of 1956 introduced several amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. By that Act, Section 25-I was repealed and the manner of recovery of the moneys due to the employers from the employee was provided for and the mode of ascertaining the same was enacted in Section 33-C. In Kasturi and Sons (Private) Ltd. v. Salivateeswaran, : (1958)ILLJ527SC the Supreme Court considering the effect of the provisions stated:

'Sub-section (1) of Section 33-C has been added by Act 36 of 1936 and is modelled on the provisions at Section 17 of the present Act. Section 33-C Sub-section (2) however is more relevant for our purpose. Under Section 33-C, Sub-section (2), where any workman is entitled to receive from his employer any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the amount at which such benefit may be computed may, subject to any rules made under this Act, he determined by such labour court as may be specified in this behalf by the appropriate Government, and the amount so determined should be recovered as provided in Sub-section (1). Then follows subsection (3) which provides for an enquiry by the labour court into the question of computing the money value of the benefit in question.... These provisions indicate that, where an employee makes a claim for some money by virtue of the benefit to which he is entitled, an enquiry into the claim is contemplated by the labour court, and it is only after the labour court has decided the matter that the decision becomes enforceable under Section 33-C(1) by a summary procedure'.

It is now settled that Section 33-C would comprehend all kinds of benefits to which a worker would be entitled whether such benefits be monetary or non-monetary. Section 33-C(2) would entitle the Labour Court to ascertain the liability of the employer in respect of these benefits. What are the benefits to which a worker would be entitled to under the Act which would require ascertainment under Section 33-C(2)? We can conceive of a case of a benefit under an award or settlement or one under Chapter V-A of the Act.

6. Chapter V-A itself provides for payment to the worker the nature of lay off compensation or retrenchment compensation. Once an award is passed the enforcement of the benefits declared by it to any particular worker could only be considered as an individual claim. It is not disputed that even in regard to such individual claims resort could be had to the provisions of Section 33-C(2). Similarly in a case of retrenchment compensation a claim could be made only by a discharged worker. That would also be only a case of an individual dispute.

Therefore it is clear that the object of the legislature is to provide for the adjudication of individual claims not necessarily by persons who are still under the employment of the management but by discharged persons as well. Therefore to construe Section 33-C(2) in the light of the definition contained in Section 2(1) (Section 2(s)?) would be manifestly inconsistent with the mischief sought to be remedied and it must be held that the intention of the legislature was that the former provision would apply to discharged workman as well. The words 'any workman' would mean a workman who would be entitled to benefits conferred under the Act and should necessarily include a discharged worker as well. I am therefore of opinion that the Labour Court would have jurisdiction to entertain the claim.

7. But Mr. Marthandam has raised another objection to the propriety of the order passed by the Labour Court which appears to be sound. According to the learned counsel Section 33(C)(2) would only enable a person to resort to the Labour Court only where money is due to a workman who would be entitled to the benefit under a settlement or award. In the present case, the worker was discharged in the year 1958. The actual dispute which culminated in the settlement dated 30-4-1958 was initialed by notice dated 7-4-1958.

Learned counsel refers me to Section 18(3) which enacts the persons on whom a settlement or award is binding. Section 18(3)(a) read with Clause (d) states that a workman who was employed in the establishment on the date of the dispute and all those who subsequently became employed in that employment would be entitled to the benefits of the settlement. It is contended that as Eswaran was not in service on the date of the initiation of 'the dispute, he would not be one to whom the benefit of the settlement would apply. I am of opinion that the argument is well founded.

8. Mr. Lakshminarayana Reddi for the respondents however contends that this point was not taken before the Labour Court and therefore he had no opportunity of adducing evidence as to when exactly the dispute arose in regard to the bonus for the two years. I am not convinced that the point was not taken before the Labour Court as the counter statement filed by the Management clearly sets out that point. But learned counsel is certainly right when he stated that the Labour Court has not considered those objections.

According to the learned counsel, although it is not possible to have a claim for 1956-57 before the worker was dismissed, there is a possibility of there having been a claim or demand for dispute for the earlier year as the worker was in service till the following year. This is a matter which has got to be considered by the Labour Court. The Labour Court has held that as Iswaran was in service during the entire period of 1955-56 and a portion of the year 1956-57 he should be held entitled to the bonus. That is not the only consideration on which he would p entitled to the bonus. He has got further to satisfy that he got a benefit under the settlement namely that he was a worker on whom settlement would be binding under the provisions of Section 18(3). This matter has not been investigated by the Labour Court.

9. I therefore quash the order of the LabourCourt and direct it to rehear the claim petition asto whether the second respondent was a person whowould be entitled to any benefit under the settlement. The rule nisi is made absolute. There willbe no order as to costs.


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