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In re. Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union (19.08.1935 - CALHC) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1936Cal57
AppellantIn re. Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union
Excerpt:
- derbyshire, c. j.1. this matter comes to us by way of appeal from the registrar of trade unions for bengal. the appeal is brought under section 11, trade unions act of 1926. [sub-sections 1 to 3 read as follows:]2. 'any person aggrieved by any refusal of the registrar to register a trade union or by the withdrawal or cancellation of a certificate of registration may, within such period as may be prescribed, appeal (a) where the head office of the trade union is situated within the limits of a presidency town or of rangoon, to the high court, or (b) where the head office is situated in any other area, to such court, not inferior to the court of an additional or assistant judge of a principal civil court of original jurisdiction, as the local government may appoint in this behalf for that.....
Judgment:

Derbyshire, C. J.

1. This matter comes to us by way of appeal from the Registrar of Trade Unions for Bengal. The appeal is brought under Section 11, Trade Unions Act of 1926. [Sub-sections 1 to 3 read as follows:]

2. 'Any person aggrieved by any refusal of the Registrar to register a Trade Union or by the withdrawal or cancellation of a certificate of registration may, within such period as may be prescribed, appeal (a) where the head office of the Trade Union is situated within the limits of a Presidency town or of Rangoon, to the High Court, or (b) where the head office is situated in any other area, to such Court, not inferior to the Court of an additional or assistant Judge of a principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction, as the Local Government may appoint in this behalf for that area. (2) The appellate Court may dismiss the appeal, or pass an order directing the Registrar to register the union and to issue a certificate of registration under the provisions of Section 9 or setting aside the order for withdrawal or cancellation of the certificate, as the case may be, and the Registrar shall comply with such order. (3) For the purposes of an appeal under Sub-section (1) an appellate Court shall, so far as may be, follow the same procedure and have the same powers, as it follows and has when trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and may direct by whom the whole or any part of the costs of the appeal shall be paid, and such costs shall be recovered as if they had been awarded in a suit under the said Code.'

3. In the petition which brings the matter before us it is stated that on 8th March 1935 a meeting of the employees of all Inland Steamer Services in the Province of Bengal was held at Jorabagan Park in the town of Calcutta and the employees assembled resolved to form a Union in the name of 'Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union' and the said Union was formed on the date. It is also stated in para. 2 that the rules of the said 'Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union' were so framed as to enable all employees of all Inland Steamer Services in India to become members of the said Union and the subscription was fixed on a monthly basis. Para. 3 states that thereafter, on the 26th March 1935, an application was filed before the Registrar of Trade Unions for registration of the said Union under the provisions of the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926.. Para. 4 states that thereupon, on the 16th May 1935, the Registrar refused to register the Union and passed the following order:

The application below purports to be an application for registration under the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926, on behalf of a Union calling itself the Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union. A few days before this application was filed the General Secretary of this Union addressed the Government of Bengal in a letter dated 22nd March 1935 and stated that he had been directed by the general body of the Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union, formerly known as R. S. N. and I. G. N. and Ry. Workers' Union, to approach Government and request that the notification under Section 16, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908, declaring the R. S. N. and Ry. Workers' Union an unlawful association might be withdrawn. The rules and the constitution of the so-called Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union are for practical purpose identical with those of the banned Union: the principal officers are common to both and in view of the declaration in the Union's letter of 22nd March 1935 that this Union was formerly known as R. S. N. and I. G. N. and Ry. Workers' Union I have no hesitation in finding that the present application is an attempt to have the Union which was registered on 18th September 1934 and No 62 and thereafter declared an unlawful association registered under a new name. The application is accordingly refused.

4. The letter that is referred to by the Registrar is headed Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union, Head Office, 209, Cornwallis Street, Calcutta, dated 22nd March 1935, addressed to Sir John Woodhead Esq., Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal,

Respected Sir,

Unlawful bodies.

I have been directed by the general body of the Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union to approach your good self with the following few lines for your kind information and necessary order.

That the R. S. N. and I. G. N. and Ry. Workers' Union was organised by me in September last 1934.

That within a short period it had enrolled about 6,000 members and the majority of them are clerks.

That 98 percent members of the Executive Committee including the president belonged to the active service of industry.

That myself was the General Secretary and Mr. S.N. Banerji was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Union who had no connexion with any Communist Party in India or abroad.

That except myself, Banerji and few members of the Union were ever allowed to deliver speeches in the meetings of the said Union.

That, the so-called communist had no hands or any connexion with this particular Union.

That this Union had no connexion with Communist International nor its object preached or methods adopted.

That this Union had no touch with the peasants' movement.

That this Union had never received any financial help from outside nor from any other party in India.

That this Union approached on several occasions the Government Officials and Labour Commissioner to secure redress of the steamer employees.

That this Union submitted an application for a Board of Conciliation: vide Trade Disputes Act of 1929.

That this Union never carried out any programme of mass revolution nor advocated militant communist methods.

That on 10th March last in the protest meeting neither myself nor Mr. Banerji made any sort of violent speeches which might be in the record of the Police Report.

That Mr. Colson, Commissioner of Police, is personally known to me for the last eight years who can speak well of me.

Under the circumstances, when the Government of India have expressed their desire to lift the ban on genuine Trade Unions, should we not get its advantage?

A favourable decision will highly oblige.

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

(Sd.) K.C. Mittra.

5. Thereafter the present appellant endeavoured to open the matter with the Registrar of Trade Unions with a view to secure registration of this Trade Union amplifying the letter that I have read with arguments to show that the appellants were and are Trade Unions different from the one declared to be unlawful by the Government. These arguments were not successful as on 24th May the Registrar of Trade Unions, Bengal, wrote back that he was not prepared to revise the orders that he had made in his letter of 16th May. From that order the appellants have appealed under the provisions of the Act above cited to this Court. This is the first appeal of its kind which has come before this Court. We are in doubt as to whether the matter ought to be dealt with by a single Judge on the Original side or by two Judges sitting here in what is ordinarily called an appellate Court. We directed the matter to come before us. It may be that in future such appeals from the Registrar of Trade Unions in matters of this kind will be directed to be taken by a single Judge sitting alone so that if it should be necessary, evidence can be taken. Now the first thing that strikes me is that the Registrar relied on a letter which was written by the Secretary of the appellant Union to Sir John Woodhead as showing that this Union was, for all practical purposes, the same as the I. G. N. Union which had been declared to be unlawful under Section 16, Criminal Law Amendment Act. He appears to have acted on that letter without giving the appellant any notice of it or without giving them any opportunity of dealing with the statements therein set out.

6. In my view, if the Registrar was going to rely upon that letter he ought to have brought it to the notice of the appellants before he acted on it and given them an opportunity to say anything that they had to say with regard to it. It is quite true that after he had given the decision the matter was raised again and the appellants were given an opportunity of saying what they had to say. But that is not enough. Such opportunity ought, in my view, to have been given before the Registrar considered that letter--if indeed he ought to have considered that letter at all. The office of the Registrar of Trade Unions is one created by the Statute of 1926 and the functions which the Registrar has to perform are prescribed by that Act. By that Statute, in Section 2 (h), Trade Union is defined, and it is defined to be any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more Trade Unions. Then there is a proviso which does not come in in this case at all. Section 4 of the Act provides for mode of registration; Section 5 deals with application for registration; Section 6 prescribes provisions to be contained in the rules of a Trade Union; Section 7 empowers the Registrar to call for further particulars and to require alteration of name; Section 8 provides that the Registrar on being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements of this Act in regard to registration, shall register the Trade Union by entering in a register, to be maintained in such form as may be prescribed, the particulars relating to the Trade Union contained in the statement accompanying the application for registration. Section 9 prescribes the form of the certificate of registration; Section 10 deals with cancellation of registration. Section 15 sets out the objects on which the general funds of the Union may be spent. Section 16 deals with the constitution of a separate fund for political purposes. Section 17 deals with criminal conspiracy in trade disputes. Section 18 deals with legal proceedings and other suits in certain cases. Section 22 prescribes the proportion of officers to be connected with the industry. Section 23 deals with the change of name of the Trade Union. Section 24 deals with amalgamation of Trade Unions; Section 27 deals with the dissolution of Trade Unions. Section 28 deals with the returns to be made by Trade Unions. Section 29 gives the Local Government, subject to the control of the Governor-General-in-Council, powers to make regulations for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of the Act. Under Section 29 in the Province of Bengal regulations have been made which are called Trade Union Regulations of 1927. They make provisions for various ministerial acts and duties to be carried on in connexion with the registration and the carrying on and rendering of accounts and returns of Trade Unions.

7. Now it has been said on behalf of the Registrar that he was quite right in refusing to register this Union. It is said that he came to the conclusion on the facts before him that this Union was really the I. G. N. Union under a different name. The I. G. N. Union had been declared to be an unlawful Association. Therefore he was justified in refusing to register this Union. In my view, the Registrar in taking up that attitude is wrong. The functions of the Registrar are laid down in Section 8.

The Registrar on being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements of this Act in regard to registration shall register the Trade Union...

8. Then the prescribed form is set out. The new Union may or may not be a continuation of the other Union or its successor. Whether the new Union is or is not the same as, or successor to the old Union, depends on evidence. Until further evidence is forthcoming in my view it is impossible to say whether the new Union is or is not the same as the old Union or the successor to the old Union. In my view, the duties of the Registrar were to examine the application and to look at the objects for which the Union was formed. If those objects were objects set out in the Act, and if those objects did not go outside the objects prescribed in the Act and if all the requirements of the Act, and the regulations made thereunder had been complied with it was his duty, in my view, to register the Union. If at sometime that Union is deemed by those who have the power to deal with the matter to be an unlawful association within Section 16, Criminal Law Amendment Act this Union can be proscribed as an unlawful association in the same way as any other body. But in my view the Registrar is not, at this stage, entitled to go into that question; his functions in my view are limited to seeing that the requirements of the Act have been complied with. We have not before us the necessary materials to decide whether this Trade Union should be registered, and I am of opinion that this appeal should be allowed and the matter should be sent back to the Registrar for him to consider the question as to whether the requirements of the Act, and the regulations made thereunder, with regard to registration, have been complied with or not. If, on the face of the application, the objects and the provisions for carrying them out are within what is allowed by the Act and the requirements as to registration have been complied with, he should register; if not, he should decline to register. We think, in the circumstances, there should be no order as to costs on either side.

Costello, J.

9. This matter has come before us as an appeal under Section 11, Trade Unions Act of 1926. The original proceedings were started by a petition dated 13th July 1935. In that petition one Kalidas Bhattacharji who has described himself as the General Secretary of the Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union prayed that a rule might be issued on the Registrar of Trade Unions to show cause why the order made by him, dated 16th May 1935, refusing to register the Inland Steam Navigation Workers' Union should not be set aside and the Union registered the matter in due course came before a Judge sitting on the original side of this Court. Then a question was raised as to whether the proper procedure had been adopted by the petitioner as representing the Trade Union the registration of which has been refused by the Registrar, and the learned Judge who dealt with the matter seems to have come to the conclusion that as the word 'appeal' was used in Section 11 it seemed likely that the right procedure was for the matter to come direct to this Court. Later an application was made before us for having the matter put in the list to be dealt with before this Court and for a date to be fixed for the hearing. At that time we had not had the advantage of considering in detail the provisions of Section 11 or of considering the corresponding provisions of the English enactment dealing with the registration of Trade Unions. But today in the course of the arguments as a result of some research, if I may be allowed to say so, on the part of the Court it now appears that there is considerable doubt as to whether or not the procedure that has been followed in this matter is correct. I need not repeat the terms of Section 11. The provisions have already been read by my Lord the Chief Justice and it is not necessary that I should recite them again. Section 11 is obviously based upon Section 2, Sub-section 4, English Trade Unions Act of 1913. That section provides that:

Any person aggrieved by any refusal of the Registrar to a combination as a trade union, or to give a certificate that an unregistered trade union is a trade union within the meaning of this Act, or by the withdrawal under this section of a certificate of registration, or of a certificate that an unregistered union is a trade union within the meaning of this Act, may appeal to the High Court or in Scotland to the Court of Session, within the time and in the manner and on the conditions directed by rules of Court.

10. In Section 11, Sub-section (1) of the Indian Act the only direction given with regard to the appeal is that 'it must be within such time as may be prescribed.' A period has been prescribed by the rules made under the provisions of Section 29 of the Act. As regards the manner and the conditions on which the appeal should take place instead of saying 'in the manner and on the conditions directed by rules of Court' we find in Sub-section (3) of Section 11 that it is enacted that:

For the purpose of an appeal under Sub-section (1) an appellate Court shall, so far as may be, follow the same procedure and have the same powers as it follows and has when trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

11. The position therefore is this: that in England appeals against a refusal to register the procedure is regulated by rules of Court. Appropriate rules were in fact made in the year 1913 and they prescribe that the procedure is to be by way of summons taken out in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. I need only refer to the first of those rules. It says:

All appeals to the High Court under Section 2 (4), Trade Unions Act, 1913, shall be brought in the Chancery Division of the High Court and shall be commenced by originating notice of motion within two months of the decision of the Registrar or within such further time as the Registrar or the Court may think fit to allow. And the rules of the Supreme Court for the time being in force shall (except if and so far as otherwise provided by these rules) apply to all proceedings on any such appeal.

12. It seems to me that the provisions of Sub-section 3 of Section 11 indicate that when there is an appeal to this Court it should come before a Judge sitting on the original side of the Court, who is to deal with the matter, if necessary in the same way as if he were trying a suit under the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. By reason of the provisions of Sub-section 3 of Section 11 it is obvious that it is not necessary that any further rules should be prescribed either by the Local Government or by the Court other than the one rule which has been prescribed providing for the period of limitation for filing an appeal.

13. There is one other matter in connection with that section which I desire to refer to and it is this--One cannot help feeling that there is a curious anomaly in this section in that the result of its provisions seems to be that in the case of a small trade union established in the mofussil any refusal of registration which is after all a refusal by an official of the Government of the Province can be challenged and must be challenged in some local Court exercising original jurisdiction and not in the first instance in the High Court. The result of that is that in the case of a comparatively small and unimportant trade union in the mofussil there will be two opportunities to challenge the decision of the Registrar of Trade Unions whereas in the case of a large and important trade union having its head office in Calcutta there will apparently be only one opportunity of challenging the decision of the Registrar namely, by an appeal direct to this Court. I entirely agree with what has fallen from my Lord concerning the question of procedure, but I desire to make it quite plain that so far as I am concerned I am by no means satisfied that the right procedure has been adopted on the present occasion. If and when a similar matter arises the appellant and the legal advisers of the Registrar ought to consider very carefully as to the form of the procedure to be adopted before any proceedings in this Court are instituted. As regards the merits of this appeal I only desire to add a word or two. The functions of the Registrar in connection with the registration of trade unions are clearly indicated in Section 8 of the Act. They are all comprised within that one section:

The Registrar, on being satisfied that the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements of this Act in regard to registration shall register the Trade Union.

14. The corresponding section in English law is Section 13, Sub-section 2, Trade Unions Act of 1871, which provides:

The Registrar, upon being satisfied that the trade union has complied with the regulations respecting registry in force under the Act shall register such trade union and such rules.

15. Under the English Act the 'regulations' are made by the Secretary of State. An examination of those regulations shows however that they contain very little more than is contained in the Rules made by Government under Section 29, Trade Unions Act. If there is any difference, Section 8 is if anything more stringent or rather more definite than the corresponding English provisions. It would seem that the function of the Registrar is merely to look and see whether on the face of the application which is put before him the requirements of the Act have been complied with. It is true that subsequent to the Act of 1871 in England additional provisions came into force by virtue of Sub-section 2 of Section 2 of the Act of 1913 which provides that

The Registrar of Friendly Societies shall not register any combination as a trade union unless in his opinion, having regard to the constitution of the combination, the principal objects of the combination are statutory objects.

16. I think the language of Section 8 is in the form in which we find it in order to make it quite clear that the Registrar has not only to consider the provisions of Sub-section 5, 6 and part of Section 7 or Sub-section 2 of the section, but has also to consider the implications of Section 2 (h) of the Act and, in addition, the provisions of Section 15. Putting all these things together it comes to this: that the Registrar has to satisfy himself that the declared objects of the Trade Union or the alleged Trade Union are such that the Trade Union can be registered. That is only another way of saying that he should satisfy himself as to the 'objects,' and as to the destination and use of the general funds of the Society. It seems to me that the Registrar can do very little more than satisfy himself that the technical requirements of the Act have been complied with. As regards the objects he can only look to the ostensible objects of the Trade Union. If he finds that the procedure in connection with the application is in order and if on the face of the application form which makes reference to the Rules of the Trade Unions he finds that the objects are apparently lawful, legitimate and intra vires the Trade Union, and if he further finds that the funds are only to be used in furtherance of those objects, then he has no option but to register the Trade Union, no matter what happens to it subsequently if, it, in fact, proceed counter to law or seeks to carry out its lawful objects in an unlawful way. In the present case I doubt very much whether it was within the power of the Registrar to consider at all the question whether the applicants were really another Trade Union which had been proscribed and which was seeking the registration under a different name. But even assuming that it was competent for the Registrar to go into that matter in connection with the objects of the Trade Union it seems clear that in the present case he ought to have given to the applicants an opportunity to explain away, if they could, the statement which occurred in the letter of the 22nd March 1935.

17. I am of opinion that without prejudice to the question as to whether the right procedure has been adopted or not, this matter should go back to the Registrar with a direction that he should decide the question as to whether this Trade Union should be registered or not solely upon the basis of the provisions of Section 8, Trade Unions Act, 1926, and not otherwise.


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