Balakrishna Ayyar, J.
1. On 24th July, 1958, eight employees of the Dinamani Press in Madurai refused to do some work which was allotted to them. Thereupon the management framed charges against them, obtained their explanation, held an enquiry and eventually dismissed them. An industrial dispute was raised and on 16th October, 1958, the Government of Madras referred two questions for adjudication by the Industrial Tribunal, Madras. With the first of these questions we are not concerned. The second question was whether the termination of the services of the eight workmen who had been dismissed by the Dinamani Press was justified, and if not, what relief the dismissed workers were entitled to. The Tribunal found that the dismissal of the first four was justified and that they were not entitled to any relief. So far as individuals 5 to 8 were concerned, the Tribunal held that their dismissal was wrongful and that they should be reinstated with one-half of their back wages. The management of the Dinamani Press has come to this Court for the issue of an appropriate writ to quash this order of the Tribunal.
2. The first of the four employees we are concerned with is called Raju. The charge against him was that after doing 'joining work' from 2-30 to 6-30 in the afternoon of 24th July, 1958, he suddenly refused to do that work after 7-30 and that thereby he deliberately delayed the paging of the papers and that he disobeyed the Manager's order in that regard. His explanation was in these terms:
As you had asked me to do joining work in addition to the composing work which I was doing till now, but you refused to carry out your assurance that in consideration therefor, you would give me enhancement of salary. I did only the composing work which had to be done by me (normally) and I did not refuse to do my work. Further, I have not caused any kind of loss to this concern. I hereby make it known that I have not refused to do the composing work allotted to me by the Manager. The delay on account of the failure to do joining work was not due to me. I am not a joiner.
3. The second individual we are concerned with is a person called Ayyavoo. The charge against him was that when Raju suddenly refused to do the work which he had been normally doing, the foreman asked him to attend to that work so that the paper might not be delayed and that he disobeyed the directions of both the manager and the foreman. The explanation of Ayyavoo is word for word the same as that of Raju though it will be perceived that the charge against him was entirely different.
4. The third individual we are concerned with is called Paul Raju and the charge against him was similar to that framed against Ayyavoo. His explanation was word for word identical with that submitted by Raju and Ayyavoo.
5. The fourth individual we are concerned with is called Murugan and the charge against him was similar to that framed against Ayyavoo and Paul Raju. His explanation too was word for word identical with that of the other three.
6. As already stated the management refused to accept the explanation of these persons and eventually dismissed them. It may be explained here that all these four individuals have been described as compositors. The duties of compositors were thus explained by M.W. 1 who was examined before the Industrial Tribunal:
I was branch manager of Dinamani Press since 1951. I am now in the Madras Office since August this year. Since 1951, the composing was done by hand; sometime later, monotype machine was introduced; most of the composing work was done by the machine; but even then, the advertisements were composed by hand. There were compositors even after the introduction of monotype machine. Before the introduction of monotype machine, the work of compositors consisted in:
taking rough proof to find out mistakes, to carry out corrections.
(b) Then, imposing and page-making; page making is imposing.
(c) The distribution of types in the respective galley.
After the introduction of monotype machine, their duties were:
(a) to take proof of the machine composing and carrying out corrections;
(b) joining, imposing and page-making,
(c) composing for advertisement section.
The eight persons involved in this reference were doing the imposing work prior to 24th July, 4958, one worker for 4 years and the rest for if years or a years before that date.
7. Reference may be made at this stage to the evidence of W.W. 1 before the Tribunal. He deposed in cross-examination:
I am one of the 8 dismissed workers. A compositor-must necessarily know imposing working know imposing work as every compositor knows. More wages are paid for imposing work.
It was explained to me that what is called the process of composing consists of several stages of work. In the first stage a key-board is worked and certain spools are turned out. These spools are fed into a machine which sets the matter in type. A proof-reader corrects them and after the corrections are made the various pieces are 'joined' so as to form columns and those columns are arranged in the form of a page and that is called page-making or imposing.
8. Before the Industrial Tribunal the case of the workers was:
The 'Dinamani' compositors were requested to do the imposing work page-making in addition to their composing work and promising them to give additional pay during revise of the scale of pay (sic). They also agreed and were doing the imposing work in addition to their composing work for the last one and half years.
In other words they were doing 'imposing' work because they had been promised extra pay.
The Tribunal found:
There is no satisfactory evidence that the Manager made any such promise. Examined as a witness-by the management, the Manager denied having made any such promise. Even 'in' the notice Exhibit W-1 given by the workers in December, 1957, demanding additional, wages: for doing the imposing work, there is no reference to the Manager having ever promised to pay extra remuneration for this work.
Nevertheless the Tribunal went on to consider the question whether imposing work was part of the duty of the compositors and it reached the conclusion that it was not. It therefore held:
That being so, they had every reason arid justification to think that it was not part of their duty as compositors and refuse to do it. They did not by any standard of justice merit dismissal.
Mr. Narayanaswamy, the learned Advocate for the petitioners, pointed out that the Order of the Tribunal is vitiated by a number of circumstances. The limits of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal are clearly pointed out by the Supreme Court in Messrs. Indian Iron and Steel Co. v. Their Workmen (1958) S.C.J. 285 : (1958) M.L.J. 138, their Lordships observed:
Undoubtedly, the management of a concern has power to direct its own internal administration and discipline; but the power is not unlimited and when a dispute arises, Industrial Tribunals have been given the power to see whether the termination of service of a workman is justified and to give appropriate relief. In cases of dismissal on misconduct, the Tribunal does not, however, act as a Court of appeal and substitute its own judgment for that of the management. It will interfere (i) when there is a want of good faith, (ii) when there is victimisation or unfair labour practice, (iii) when the management has been guilty of a basic error or violation of a principle of natural justice and (iv) when on the materials, the finding is completely baseless or perverse.
The position has been restated in Mckenzie Co. v. Its Workmen (1959) M.L.J. 461 : 1959 S.C.J. 670 it is observed:
It is for the management to determine what constitutes major misconduct within its standing orders sufficient to merit dismissal of a workman but in determining such misconduct it must have facts upon which to base its conclusions and it must act in good faith without caprice or discrimination and without motives of vindictiveness, intimidation or resorting to unfair labour practice and there must be no infraction of the accepted rules of natural justice, When the management does not have facts from which it can conclude misconduct its judgment cannot be questioned provided the above mentioned principles are not violated. But in the absence of these facts or in case of violation of the principles set out above its position is untenable.
What the Tribunal did in this case was to take evidence for itself and decide whether, the workers in question merited dismissal. In other words, it constituted itself as a Tribunal of first instance in disciplinary matters. This it was not entitled to do. All that it could consider was, whether there was want of good faith on the part of the management, whether there had been victimisation or whether any unfair labour practice was involved in their dismissal, whether the management was guilty of any basic error in dealing with the case of the workers, whether they violated any principle of natural justice or whether the finding was completely baseless or perverse. But, that is not what the Tribunal sought to do or did.
9. The next observation to make is that the Tribunal completely misdirected itself as regard? the question it had to decide. In paragraph 7 it formulated the question for its decision in these terms:
However, the question remains whether the imposing work was part of the duty of the compositors.
Now, that question did not arise at all. The facts were that Raju who had been during 'joining work' for two years and more before that date suddenly refused to do joining work and then one after another the other persons were called upon to work in his place and complete the work, but they refused to do. No question of anybody being called upon to do 'imposing work' arose at all. I would further remark that even if they had been called upon to do imposing work the compositors were bound to do it because as M.W. 1 explained it was part of the duties of a compositor to do so It is not as though any one of these persons was called, upon to do some work which would not be properly assigned to him. Besides they had done this work before. M.W. 1 deposed:
'No. 5 Raju was doing only joiner work, after doing composing work for some time; Nos. 6, 7, 8 (Ayyavoo, Paul Raju, Murugan) were doing composing work; when the routine imposing worker was absent on any day, one of these 3 workers will be asked to do the imposing work'.... These 7 persons Nos. 2 to 7 were trained to do imposing work only after the introduction of monotype machine.
The work of 'joining' which these persons were asked to do formed part of the legitimate duties of compositors and when required to do that work by proper authority, they were under an obligation to do it.
10. The Tribunal observed in paragraph 8 of its order:
The refusal on their part to do that work, which the evidence of the manager himself would show, was not part of their duty would not amount to misconduct. In any case, there is nothing in writing clearly defining the duties of the compositors. That cannot be left to be dictated by the management. These four workers never did the imposing work as admitted by the manager himself.
One obvious mistake which the Tribunal made here and which I have already referred to, is that throughout the question of any of these persons being required to do 'imposing' work did not arise at all. They were required to do 'joining' work. In the second place, the Tribunal ignored the fact that it is impossible to define in writing all the duties of every individual in an establishment of any size. The Tribunal also overlooked the fact that the Manager, M.W. 1, had given clear evidence to say that the duties of a compositor include joining, imposing and page-making. I would make one further observation. If the view of the Tribunal in this respect were right it would not be permissible for the Collector of a District to ask a clerk who had been dealing with cattle pounds for instance to deal with Land Acquisition cases or to ask a clerk who had been attending to Village Officers to attend to correspondence arising with Municipalities. The duties of everyone of these individuals will have to be defined in writing and there can be no deviation therefrom. The requirement of the Tribunal that every single matter should, be clearly reduced to writing is an impracticable one.
11. It seems to me that the order complained of is clearly erroneous and must be set aside. This petition is, therefore, allowed. There will be no order as to costs.