1. This appeal is from the judgment of Balakrishna Iyer, J., in W.P. No. 184 of 1959 directing the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Industrial Tribunal, with regard to the reinstatement of four workmen dismissed by the Management of Express Newspapers (Private), Ltd., the proprietors of the Dinamani Press. Since the broad facts of the situation in which the dismissals of these workers took place are not in dispute, we might first set them forth. Actually, eight workers were dismissed by the Management, in the same context of alleged wilful disobedience of orders, and with regard to four of them, the Industrial Tribunal itself held that the dismissals were justified. So far as the present individuals were concerned, the Tribunal held that their dismissals were wrongful and they should be reinstated, with a moiety of the back wages.
2. It is admitted that these persons who were thus dismissed were assigned by the Management to the task of what is called 'joining work ', and that these persons explicitly communicated their decision not to obey this order, and their total unwillingness to perform the work of this assignment. It is not in dispute that these persons were previously engaged in the work of composing types in the Press, The work of ' joining ' or ' imposing ' is the next part of the stage of printing, and it essentially consists in arranging the matter set up in type, in such a form as to enable the printing to commence. In other words, this process is intimately linked with the process of composing types for given matter, and may even be said to be an extension of that process.
3. It is very important to note that these individuals did not disclaim knowledge of the work of imposition to which they were assigned. Nor did they put forward the ground that they did not have the necessary skill. On the contrary, as Sri Sankaran, learned Counsel for the appellants has frankly conceded, these individuals took up the stand that they were perfectly competent to perform the new work, that they had the necessary skill, and that the Management declined to give them some additional remuneration which the exercise of this skill necessitated, and which had been promised for the work. That ground has been found against on the merits, as a question of fact, but the indisputable fact remains that these appellants did not claim that they did not have the necessary skill, that they were not competent to perform the task, and that they, therefore, had some justification for the disobedience of the order. All that they claimed was that, in so far as they had been assigned the duties of composing types for the printing process, their being called upon to perform the task of imposition of types was a demand which they were entitled to refuse.
4. Sri Sankaran for the appellants puts forward the case on the main ground that the Industrial Tribunal, having held as a question of fact that these persons were compositors engaged in that duty and appointed as such, and farther that the imposition of types was no part of their regular duties, the learned Judge (Balakrishna Iyer, J.) was not entitled to canvass this finding at all. In view of that finding, it is further argued that the order to the appellants to take up the duty of imposition of types was not a lawful order, and that they had every justification for refusing to obey it. In support of that proposition, learned Counsel relies on the following passage from Halsbury's Laws of England, Volume 25, 3rd edition, Section 933 at page 485:
Wilful disobedience to the lawful and reasonable order of the master justifies summary dismissal. The servant is not, however, bound to obey the order to do something not properly appertaining to the character or capacity in which he was hired.
5. We have carefully considered this argument, and we find it to be totally lacking in substance. As the learned Judge (Balakrishna Iyer, J.) has clearly shown, the task of composing types and 'joining work' are so intimately related as part of the same technical process, that it is really impossible to differentiate them for the purpose of assigning duties. Further, considerable significance attaches to the fact that, initially, the appellants did not plead that they were not competent to perform this work, that they did not have the necessary skill, or that it was a kind of demand which they were entitled to resist, because it was wholly outside their covenant of service.
On the contrary, they seem to have taken up the position that they would have performed the services willingly, but that there was some agreement for additional remuneration, which was not respected by the Management. The question whether that allegation was true in fact, or not, is really immaterial for the present purpose. The conduct of the appellants sufficiently indicate that they wilfully disobeyed the Management in this matter, and they really had no shred of justification for such disobedience.
6. We agree with Balakrishna Iyer, J., in thinking that, in this matter, the Tribunal approached the entire question before it from an erroneous perspective, and hence misdirected itself. The matter may be very different where there is a covenant of service of a particular type, and the man is called upon to perform some duty totally outside that covenant, or is being assigned to some post which is not within the contract at all. The present is not such a case, and it cannot possibly be pretended that this is such a case. On the contrary, by very rigidly delimiting the several interlinked parts of the technical process of production, where labour is employed, we may practically paralyse the Management by laying down any rigid rule that labour, assuming that it has the necessary skill, cannot be moved from one aspect of the technical process to another closely-related aspect. In our view, the Tribunal approached this question from an erroneous perspective, and this error in the appreciation of the problem, in the light of the principles of law which had to be applied, has vitiated its entire finding, Hence we are of the opinion that the learned Judge (Balakrishna Iyer, J.) was wholly justified in reversing the decision of the Tribunal with regard to this matter, and in quashing the order of the Industrial Tribunal. The Writ Appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.