1. The Government, by G.O. (Rt) No. 104, Labour, dated April 29, 1969, made a reference for adjudication of a dispute whether the non-employment of seven workmen was justified. The first of these workmen was a driver by name V. Kumaraswami, the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, on a remit order from this Court, found that the dispute relating to V. Kumaraswami, was an individual dispute without a collective backing and the reference was, therefore, bad. But while rendering that finding, the Presiding Officer also considered the merits of the non-employment and found that he was properly dismissed. This was the subject-matter of a Writ Petition No. 3016 of 1966, which Ramakrishnan, J., disposed of on July 12, 1967. The learned Judge found that the Presiding Officer was right both on the nature of the dispute and also on the merits of his non-employment. On that view, he dismissed the petition.
2. Notwithstanding the prior proceedings, again the Government, on the assumption that an industrial dispute as to the non-employment of V. Kumaraswami had arisen, referred the very same question for adjudication. The management moved this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for prohibition, on the view that there was no longer jurisdiction to make a reference in respect of the non-employment of Kumaraswami Ramaprasada Rao, J., considered that once the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, found that the dispute in respect of the driver was an individual dispute, the reference would be bad and that he would have no jurisdiction to go into the merits of the non-employment. That being so, Ramakrishnan, J. according to Ramaprasada Rao, J., equally would have no jurisdiction to go into the merits once he found that the dispute about the driver was an individual dispute.
3. With due respect, we are unable to agree with Ramaprsada Rao, J. The jurisdiction of the Presiding Officer and that of the learned Judge were entirely independent and different. The jurisdiction of the Presiding Officer stemmed from the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act whereas the jurisdiction of the learned Judge arose under Article 226 of the Constitution. The limitation on jurisdiction of the Presiding Officer will not affect the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. It would be different if an appeal had been provided from the award of the Presiding Officer, because, in that case, the scope and extent of the appellate jurisdiction would take its colour and strength from that of the original authority. Article 226 is untrammelled and uncontrolled by the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, nor even by the limitation placed by that Act upon the Presiding Officer. Acting as the learned Judge was under Article 226 of the Constitution, he was at liberty to see whether the order of the Presiding Officer suffered from any error, apparent on the face of the record. In discharging that duty, it was quite within his jurisdiction to deal with both the points on which the Presiding Officer had disposed of the case. The order of Ramakrishnan, J., in so far as it related to the merits of the non-employment could not, therefore, be said to be without jurisdiction. It might well be that the learned Judge could have taken the view that once the Presiding Officer was found to have had no jurisdiction on his own finding, it would be unnecessary to go into the merits of the non-employment. But Ramakrishnan, J., did not stop there. He went into the merits and found that the non-employment was justified. That finding, in our opinion, cannot be said to be one without jurisdiction.
That being so, the reference by the Government by G.O. (Rt) No. 104 aforesaid as to the non-employment of V. Kumaraswami would not be competent.
4. The appeal is allowed so far as the reference related to V. Kumaraswami.
5. The reference for adjudication also included six others. In their cases, the merits had not been gone into either by the Presiding Officer or by Ramakrishnan, J. That being so, we can find no infirmity in the reference so far as those six are concerned.
6. The appeal is, therefore, dismissed in respect of them.