1.The Writ Petition is to quash the award of the Labour Court, Madras made in I.D. No. 239 of 1977 dated 16th July, 1979. The point referred to for adjudication found in para. 6 of the award is as follows :
'Whether the action of the management in having withdrawn the concession of the General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union and the Joint Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers Federation being allowed to attend to full time union work from 31st March, 1976, is justified; and to what relief they would be entitled'.
A few facts and sequences leading to this dispute can be stated. By Board's proceedings dated 18th January, 1973, the following order was passed :
'The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union, which is a recognised union under the Code of Discipline in Industry has requested that the General Secretary of the Union may be deputed for full time Union work, and that Thiru S. V. Angappan who is an Accountant in the Office of the Chief Controller of Accounts and who has been elected as the General Secretary of the above union, for the year 1972 in the General Council Meeting held on 4th June, 1972, may be relieved of his duties for attending to Union work with effect from 16th August, 1972, treating the period of his absence on deputation for union work as duty.
2. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has considered the request of the Union and passed the following orders :-
i) Thiru S. V. Angappan, Accountant, Office of the Chief Controller of the Accounts, who is the General Secretary of the Accounts Subordinates Union (Regd. No. 2472) is permitted to attend to Union work with effect from the date of his relief viz., 30th September, 1972 A.N.
ii) The period of absence of Thiru S. V. Angappan will be treated as duty and he will draw the pay and allowance to which he would have been eligible but for his release for attending to the Union Work.
iii) Thiru S. V. Angappan will also be entitled to all the benefits and privileges to which he would have been eligible but for his deputation to attend to Union work.
3. This order will be in force for a period of one year from the date of his relief i.e. 30th September, 1972 A.N. or till the date on which he ceases to be the General Secretary to the Union, whichever is earlier.
4. The permission granted in para 2 above will automatically stand cancelled if the above union ceases to be a recognised union under the Code of Discipline, from the date on which it so ceases to be a recognised union.
5. Sanction is also accorded for the creation of one supernumerary post of Accountant in the Office of the Chief Controller of Accounts from 30th September, 1972 A.N. till such time Thiru S. V. Angappan relinquishes the Office of the General Secretary of the Accounts Subordinates Union or the Accounts Subordinates Union ceases to be a recognised union under the Code of Discipline on 30th September, 1973 A.N. whichever is earlier.
6. The expenditure is debitable to 'Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Funds - Revenue expenses - f. Administration expenses (iv) Head quarters pay and allowances'.
7. By subsequent proceedings B.P. Ms. No. 1984 dated 20th October, 1973, the sanction accorded in B.P. Ms. No. 80 was extended on 20th October, 1973 and on 22nd October, 1974, 5th March, 1975, 2nd August, 1975 and 28th January, 1976. Ultimately on 16th March, 1976, the Secretary Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Madras-2 passed an order which is as follows.
'I am to say that the concession of permitting the Joint Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Workers Federation and General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Accounts Subordinates Union for full time work will not be extended beyond 31st March, 1976.
Concerning this, an industrial dispute was raised which was referred to for adjudication in G.O. Rt. No. 1705, Department of Labour and Employment dated 1st August, 1977. The matter came up for adjudication before the II Additional Labour Court, Madras. It was of the view that there was no legal right which has been acquired by workmen; on the contrary, it was a simple concession shown by the Board consequent on the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu announcing at the State Conference of the workmen that the Government proposed to exempt an office bearer of the workers' association from regular duty to enable him to devote himself to union work fully. Therefore this was merely an act of benevolence on the part of the Board rather than an exercise of any right inhering in the workmen. On this view, it held that this cannot be claimed as a customary right or privilege. It also referred to Schedule IV of the Industrial Disputes Act and held that it was not a change in the condition of service and therefore it expressed the doubt whether the workmen can raise and industrial dispute concerning this. It is to quash this the present writ petition has been preferred by way of certiorari.
8. The learned counsel for the petitioner urges two points. (1) If recognition of a trade union has been held by this Court in Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Union v. Tamil Nadu Electricity Board ILR 1980 246 as condition of service, the right to represent the trade union is a necessary conco mitant and therefore it is a right. (2) Even otherwise it will be a concession or privilege within the meaning of item-8 of Schedule IV of the Industrial Disputes Act. From that point of view if it is sought to be altered, the necessary formality under S. 9(A) will have to be complied with. A further argument of the petitioner is to say, it will form part of the Industrial Dispute is wrong, since even when there is no monetary benefit involved by a change of the holidays from Sunday to some other weekly holidays the Supreme Court in Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. v. The Workmen 1972-II L.L.J .259 held it is a part of the service conditions. The learned counsel for the Electricity Board urges that this is merely a privilege or a concession and that does not mean that the concession should be available at all times.
9. This cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be contended to be part of the service condition. Therefore the argument that S. 9-A will have to be complied with is not applicable.
10. I have given my very careful consideration to the above arguments. It is true trade unionism recognised all over the world. But that does not mean that an office bearer or any trade union can claim, as of right, to do trade union activities during office hours. In a poor country like India, tax payers pay money not for the purpose of encouraging trade unionism, but in the fond and reverend hope that every person who is entrusted with the take of doing service will do his service. Whether he actually does service or not, there can be a fond expectation of the same. To allow one to claim as of right to do trade union activity without attending to the office duties, would in my opinion be an anachronism since it will amount to fleecing the tax payer in order to encourage the trade union activities. That is not the purpose for which the workman was appointed by the Electricity Board. Naturally, when the workmen was given concession, which I consider to be not a wise one, it was dictated by the circumstances prevailing in the establishment; but it should not be considered as if it is an inviolable right. It should be noted that nobody prevents the workmen who is an office bearer in the trade union from espousing the cause of workmen which he can do as loudly as possible and crying at the top of his voice; but the only restriction is 'Don't do that during office hours'. I am totally unable to appreciate the argument of the petitioner that merely because the recognition of the trade union is a part of the service condition, it must necessarily follow that a right to represent or espouse the cause of workmen during office hours is a necessary concomitant. If this kind of trade unionism is allowed to flourish in our country, I could say, 'Woe to our country and poor tax payers.' For my part, not that one should be against trade unionism, which is welcome because it is that which brings about a solidarity among workers, the crucial question is, can a right be claimed to activise trade unionism during office hours The answer should be an emphatic 'no'. Looked at from that point of view, I do not think that the decision in Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Union v. Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (supra) have any relevance to the facts of the present case. That related to recognition of trade unionism. It certainly stands to reason that unless trade unionism is recognised, it will not be possible for the workers to raise a united voice; but to raise a united voice during office hours is something which cannot be claimed as of right. May be the Electricity Board granted a concession, which concession was extended periodically; but even then it cannot fall within item-8 of Schedule IV of the Industrial Disputes Act. I agree with the finding of the Labour Court that this was a mere concession granted because of the then Chief Minister holding our a promise. Therefore I have no hesitation in holding that is not a part of the service condition. If that be so, the procedure under S. 9A of the Act does not require to be satisfied.
11. On this conclusion being reached, in matters very little whether it can form the subject-matter of an industrial dispute or not. But on a careful observation it will be seen, if it is a mere concession granted, in view of the then prevalent circumstances, under B.P. Ms. No. 80 dated 18th January, 1983, there cannot be an industrial dispute as well. It is no consolation to say that when Sunday holiday was changed to some other weekly day, the Supreme Court interfered as it did in Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. v. The Workmen (supra) as a feudal relic this country of ours is observing Sunday as a holiday. Therefore the Court said including the right to be with the children and added that schools are closed on that particular day and it cannot be altered to the detriment of the labour. But the case on hand is entirely different. At the risk of repetition I may say that it is not the case of the petitioner that the petitioner is prevented from carrying on with his trade union activities. But the question is, why during office hours
12. The award of the Labour Court does not call for interference. The Writ Petition is dismissed. No costs.