1. These five appeals arise out of a common order of the Chief Judge, City Civil Court Calcutta, in five suits, returning the plaints for presentation to the proper Court.
2. The appellants were registered dock labourers under the Calcutta Dock Labour Board. The Board took disciplinary action against them for an alleged misconduct and, pending enquiry, they were suspended. The Deputy Chairman of the Board, who held the enquiry, found them all guilty of the said charge of misconduct and ordered their dismissal from service on May 23, 1961. There was an appeal by them to the Chairman but it was dismissed on September 8, 1961.
3. The appellants then instituted suits against the Dock Labour Board in the City Civil Court, challenging the legality and validity of the order of dismissal. There were also some prayers for such incidental reliefs as damages, recovery of arrears of pay etc.
4. The Dock Labour Board, against which the suits were brought is a Statutory Corporation, created under the provisions of Section 5-A of the Dock Workers (Regulation & Employment) Act. 1948, as amended by Act 8 of 1962.
5. Section 5(4) of the City Civil Courts Act, 1953, lays down that the City Civil Court shall not have jurisdiction to try suits or proceedings of the description specified in the First Schedule to the Act. Item No. 10 (ii) of the said Schedule speaks of suits and proceedings 'relating to or arising out of the constitution, incorporation, management or winding up of corporations.'
6. A preliminary point arose before the Chief Judge, City Civil Court, as to whether that Court had jurisdiction to entertain the suits in view of the above provisions of law. The learned Chief Judge was of the view that appointment and dismissal of registered workers were a part of the work of management of the Board and, accordingly, he held that he had no jurisdiction to try the suits and ordered the plaints to be returned for presentation to the proper Court. It is against this order that the present appeals have been filed.
7. The main question that arises for decision in these appeals is: What is the meaning of the word 'management' in the expression 'management of Corporations' as used in item 10 (ii) of Schedule 1 to the City Civil Courts Act, 1953? The particular corporation, that we are concerned with in the present case, is the Dock Labour Board. Hence certain provisions of the Dock Workers (Regulation and Employment) Act have to be looked into.
8. Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act provides for the making of a scheme for the registration of dock workers with a view to ensuring greater regularity of their employment. Sub-section (2) says:
'In particular, a scheme may provide-
(a) for the application of the scheme to such classes of dock workers and employers as may be specified therein;
(b) for defining the obligations of dock workers and employers subject to the fulfilment of which the scheme may apply to them and the circumstances in which the scheme shall cease to apply to any dock workers or employers;
(c) for regulating the recruitment and entry into the scheme of dock workers, and their registration, including the maintenance of registers, the removal either temporarily or permanently, of names from the registers and the imposition of fees for registration;
(d) for regulating the employment of dock workers, whether registered or not, and the terms and conditions of such employment, including rates of remuneration, hours of work and conditions as to holidays and pay in respect thereof;
(e) for securing that, in respect of periods during which employment, or full employment, is not available for dock workers to whom the scheme applies and who are available for work, such workers will, subject to the conditions of the scheme, receive a minimum pay;
(f) for prohibiting, restricting or otherwise controlling the employment of dock workers to whom the scheme does not apply and the employment of dock workers by employers to whom the scheme does not apply;
(g) for the training and welfare of dock workers, in so far as satisfactory provision therefor does not exist apart from the scheme;
(h) for health and safety measures in places where dock workers are employed, in so far as satisfactory provision therefor does not exist apart from the scheme;
(i) for the manner in which, and the persons by whom, the cost of operating the scheme is to be defrayed.
(j) for constituting or prescribing the authority to be responsible for the administration of the scheme;
(k) for such incidental and supplementary matters as may be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the scheme.'
9. Section 5-A which provides for the creation of a Dock Labour Board and lays down how the Board is to be constituted runs as follows:
'(1) The Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, establish a Dock Labour Board for a port or group of ports to be known by such name as may be specified in the notification.
(2) Every such Board shall be a body corporate with the name aforesaid, having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property and to contract and may, by that time, sue and be sued.
(3) Every such Board shall consist of a Chairman and such number of other members as may be appointed by the Government.
Provided that every such Board shall Include an equal number of members representing-
(i) The Government,
(ii) the dock workers, and
(iii) the employers of dock workers, and shipping companies.
(4) The Chairman of a Board shall be one of the members appointed to represent the Government, and nominated in this behalf by the Government.'
10. Section 5-B defines the function of the Board and is in these terms:
(1) A Board shall be responsible for administering the scheme for the port or group of ports for which It has been established and shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be conferred on it by the scheme.
(2) In the exercise of its powers and the discharge of its functions, a Board shall be bound by such directions as the Government may, for reasons to be stated in writing, give to it from time to time.
11. Section 5-C enjoins that the Board shall maintain proper accounts and prepare an annual statement of accounts including a balance-sheet in the prescribed form.
12. Section 8 gives the Government a rule-making power. The rules' may provide for, among other things, the meetings of a Board, the quorum for such meetings and the conduct of business thereof.
13. The Board has to administer the scheme as required under Section 5-B and, in exercising that function, it will necessarily have to do various administrative acts but they would not all be acts of management of the Board. Management of the Board obviously, means management of the Board itself. The taking of disciplinary action against a dock worker, belonging to the pool of workers, recruited by the Board, is a matter of management of the pool. But management of the pool, which is one of the objects of the scheme, is not the same thing as management of the Board.
14. The sense of the word 'management' should be gathered from the context, in which it occurs. It stands in a series of several words: 'Constitution, incorporation, management or winding up'. The first, second and fourth terms of the series viz., 'Constitution', 'Incorporation', and 'winding up' must necessarily refer to the organisational set up of the corporation itself. It would be reasonable to hold that the third term also does the same.
15. In an unreported Bench decision of this Court, Shamsher Ali Khan v. Calcutta Dock Labour Board, First Misc. Appeal No. 26 of 1965 (Cal), the question how far City Civil Court had jurisdiction to entertain suits against the Dock Labour Board was considered and Chatterjee, J., delivering the judgment held that
'management of the corporation' means management of the internal affairs of the corporation. He made a distinction between matters, relating to functions of the Board, and those, relating to the Board itself, that is to say, the machinery, by which the functions are to be discharged, and observed as follows: 'Every matter, relating to the functions of the Board, has some relation to management, directly or indirectly, but the statute bars only such suits, which refer to the management of the affairs of the business of the Board and not all types of suit by or against the Board; if the intention of the legislation had been to exclude all suits, it would have said so and would not have limited the bar to suits as referred to in Item 10 (ii).'
16. We respectfully agree with the above view. Management is a very broad term. In a sense, all administrative acts of the Board would be acts of management. But when they relate to any of the various objects of the scheme as enumerated in Section 3 of the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1948, they would be acts of management 'of the scheme' and not 'of the Board'. Management 'of the Board' has, as already stated, reference to its organisational set up and includes acts, relating to such matters as, for example, calling of the meetings of the Board, observance of the rule regarding quorum, disposal of business at the Board's meetings, preparation of statement of accounts and balance sheet, etc. It refers to administration or management of the Board itself as distinguished from its functions under Section 5-B of the Dock Workers (Regulation & Employment) Act.
17. In the above view of the matter, it must be held that the City Civil Court had jurisdiction to try the suits. Accordingly, the appeals are allowed and the orders of the lower Court are set aside and it is ordered that that Court should proceed with the suits in accordance with law in the light of this judgment. In the circumstances of the cases, no order is made as to costs.