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The Managment, South Arcot District Co-operative Motor Transport Society (for Ex-servicemen) Limited Vs. the Presiding Officer, Labour Court and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour & Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1972)1MLJ442
AppellantThe Managment, South Arcot District Co-operative Motor Transport Society (for Ex-servicemen) Limited
RespondentThe Presiding Officer, Labour Court and ors.
Cases ReferredTata Iron and Steel Go. v. S.N. Modak
Excerpt:
- .....his approval of the action taken by the employer on 30th june, 1970. as already stated, the employer dismissed the employees in february and march, 1969. by reason of the approval of the action, the dismissal becomes effective and operative and implementable from the respective dates on which such orders for dismissal were passed. the same reasoning would also apply in a case where the conditions of service are changed during the pendency of the conciliation proceedings. but the argument of the learned counsel for the respondents is that the dismissal of the first set of applications, though on technical grounds, sets at naught the orders of dismissal made by the employer, and if so understood, during the interregnum, namely, between the respective dates when the orders of.....
Judgment:
ORDER

T. Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. The Management of the South Arcot District Co-operative Motor Transport Society (for Ex-servicemen), Ltd., Cuddalore, is the petitioner before me. Certain disputes were pending between the petitioner and its employees prior to 1968. At or about that time the Committee of the Society was superseded and a Special Officer was appointed to manage the affairs of the Society. The Special Officer in the interest of the Society, found that the services of respondents 2 to 4 were no longer salutary and beneficial to the Society, and after making such enquiries as were necessary in the circumstances, and after initially suspending them, he dismissed those workers in February and March, 1969. To be more exact, the second and third respondents were dismissed on 4th of March, 1969 and the fourth respondent was dismissed on 17th of February, 1969. The Special Officer rightly applied under the proviso to Section 33 (2)(b) of the-Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for approval of his action in the matter of dismissal of the above three workmen. He filed such applications for approval on 13th February. 1969. These applications were rejected on some technical grounds, as a copy of such applications, for approval Was not sent to the workers, and some other like defects. The workmen (respondents 2 to 4) taking advantage of the dismissal of the above three applications for approval, hurriedly filed applications under Section 33-C(2) of the Act alleging that they were entitled to receive from the petitioner money by way of salary from the respective dates of orders of dismissal to the date when the applications for approval were dismissed and until they were reinstated. It may be incidentally noted that the main disputes between the petitioner and the workmen were not adjudicated upon by that time. The Special Officer having been con-fronted with the order of dismissal in the three applications for approval filed by him, filed fresh applications for the same purpose on 7th April, 1969. It is not disputed that on 30th June, 1970, the Conciliation Officer granted approval under Section 33(2)(b). and communicated the said order of approval to the petitioner on 17th November, 1970. As already stated, the workmen (respondents 2 to 4) by then moved the Labour Court for reckoning and determination of their money benefit consequent upon the dismissal of the applications for approval in the first instance and it appears that the Labour Court, without awaiting for the final orders on the applications made by the Special Officer for the second time for approval of his action, went into the question of determining the monetary benefit to which the workmen (respondents 2 to 4) were entitled consequent upon the dismissal of the applications for approval on 24th March, 1969. It appears that by a curious process of reasoning, the Labour Court reckoned such monetary benefit at the money equivalent of the salary payable to the workmen from the date of dismissal to the date when they filed applications under Section 33-C(2). It is as against this award that the management has come to this Court.

2. The main contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioner is that, as the order approving of the action of the Special Officer in dismissing the workmen in question passed under Section 33(2)(b) takes effect retrospectively from the date when the workmen concerned were dismissed by the management, the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain an application under Section 33-C(2) for the quantification of the alleged monetary benefit or in any event did not have such jurisdiction to pass an order after the Conciliation Officer had approved the action of the management in terminating the services of the workmen. Reliance is placed upon Tata Iron and Steel Go. v. S.N. Modak : (1965)IILLJ128SC . In this view of the matter, it is stated that the award of the Labour Court, which is founded on misapprehension and which is the result of misapplication of law, has to be set aside by the issue of a rule of certiorari. The workmen, on the other hand, would contend that, as long as there was an order whereunder the 1st set of applications for approval were dismissed whether for technical reasons 0r otherwise, then they would be entitled to receive from the employer such monetary or other benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money and that having been done by the lower Court in the instant case, the challenge against the award is unfounded.

3. I am unable to agree with the learned Counsel for the respondents. The scheme of the Act discloses that the conditions of service of employees ought not to be changed according to the whims and fancies of the employer. A ban, as it were, on the power of the employer to terminate the services of the employee during the pendency of adjudication of industrial disputes as between them, is recognised and is incorporated in Section 33(2) of the Act. But this ban, which is statutorily imposed and which is based on very salient and equitable principles, gets itself automatically lifted when the action of the employer is approved by the appropriate authority under the Act on an application made for that purpose by the employer after disturbing the conditions of service of the employee either by dismissal or otherwise during the pendency of an industrial dispute. This lifting of the ban primarily means that the order of dismissal becomes effective as from the date when the employer passed the same. In the instant case, the Conciliation Officer granted his approval of the action taken by the employer on 30th June, 1970. As already stated, the employer dismissed the employees in February and March, 1969. By reason of the approval of the action, the dismissal becomes effective and operative and implementable from the respective dates on which such orders for dismissal were passed. The same reasoning would also apply in a case where the conditions of service are changed during the pendency of the conciliation proceedings. But the argument of the learned Counsel for the respondents is that the dismissal of the first set of applications, though on technical grounds, sets at naught the orders of dismissal made by the employer, and if so understood, during the interregnum, namely, between the respective dates when the orders of dismissal were issued and the date when the applications for. approval were dismissed, the workmen would be entitled to the monetary benefit and such a benefit could be computed under Section 33-d(2). This contention appears to me to be hyper-technical. If the law is that once the approval is given by the appropriate authority whereby the action of the employer is upheld, and if such an approval dates bade to the date of such action by the employer, then it follows, as a matter of course, that the Workmen would not be entitled, either in law or in equity, to any benefit or money which is computable by the Labour Court under Section 33-C(2). If this is not the position, it will lead to very grave consequences. There may be occasions when the appropriate authoriy, who could give the badge of approval to the action taken by the employer, may not be diligent or may protract or may fortituously be in a position unable to decide the said application and thus postpone dealing with the same. This protraction may be designed or accidental. But, for no fault of the management, it should not suffer by reason of such protraction by a statutory authority who is expected to dispose of such applications for approval as expeditiously as possible. If it happens, as it happened in this case, there is inordinate delay in the disposal of the application and if the workmen, for some reason, taking advantage of some technical laws or irregularities, present a petition under Section 33-G(2) after the formal dismissal of the application for approval in the first instance, then two contradictory situations would arise. The first one is that notwithstanding the fact that the seal of approval has been given by the appropriate authority under Section 33 (2)(b), on the 2nd set of applications for approval, the employer would be penalised and would be obliged to pay some monetary benefit to a dismissed employee. The second one would be to ignore the object of the Legislature in having enacted Section 33 which is at once beneficial to the employer as well as the employee. As the interpretation should not be one-sided and as the object should be achieved so as to benefit both the employer and the employee, the interpretation which the learned Counsel for the respondents desires me to put on the entirety of the Section, appears to be unresonable.

4. The other point which the learned Counsel for the respondents has taken is again technical so to say. As three workmen were dismissed and as they filed three independent applications for reckoning their monetary benefits, the petitioner ought to have filed three writ petitions, though the Court has dealt with it in a common order. By the issuance of a writ of certiorari the order challenged is taken away from the record and it is struck down. If the award of the Labour Court in the instant case is quashed by the issue of the rule as prayed for, then it would be ineffective wholly and cannot survive partially, and it, therefore, follows that the mere fact that the petitioner has filed one writ petition against the award of the Labour Court, the subject-matter in which Was relatable to the reliefs asked by the three workmen, would not matter, as the result would be the same. In the view that I hold, the rule nisi is made absolute and the writ petition is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.


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