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Allen Berry and Co. Ltd. Vs. A. Das Gupta and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Matter No. 135 of 1951
Judge
Reported inAIR1952Cal850
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 6, 10, 10(1) and 14
AppellantAllen Berry and Co. Ltd.
RespondentA. Das Gupta and ors.
Appellant AdvocateH.N. Sanyal, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateA.K. Sen, Jr. Standing Counsel and ; P.L. Sanyal, Adv.
Excerpt:
- .....dispute, and as soon as the industrial dispute ceases to exist, the relevancy or connection of the matter referred to the court of enquiry, must necessarily cease to exist. in other words, as soon as the dispute disappears the ancillary or the subsidiary matter also disappears and the relevancy or connection thereof having ceased the purpose for which the court of enquiry was set up is exhausted and it will be useless to pursue the enquiry only for the sake of coming to a finding in respect of the matter referred to and for submitting a report in respect thereof. this argument of mr. h. n. sanyal is no doubt reasonable and impressive but in my view the provisions of the act lead to a different conclusion. it appears to me upon a plain reading of section 6 and section 10 that the very.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Bose, J.

1. This is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution for an appropriate writ directing the Chairman and Members of a Court of Enquiry appointed by the Government under the Industrial Disputes Act to cancel or recall an order passed by them and dated 8-5-1951.

2. In July and August 1946 the petitioner company purchased from the Government of India a large number of vehicles which the Government disposed of as surplus. Such vehicles were parked in five depots viz., Jodhpur, Sodepur, Ondal, Brooklyn and Konnagar. As the vehicles required repair and reconditioning the company set up establishments at these five depots for carrying out the work of reconditioning and repair. Workmen were recruited and employed at such establishments. The establishments carried on work smoothly for some time but thereafter the business gradually deteriorated and the petitioner company had to economise expenses and was ultimately obliged to close down the depots between June 1949 and July 1950. It is alleged in the petition that as the Konnagar workshop became an unnecessary burden it was finally closed down on 29-7-1950 and the petitioner company discharged the workers employed there by issuing a notice dated 28-7-1950. After the issue of the said notice large number of workers approached the company and an amicable arrangement was arrived at between the petitioner and the said workers as regards compensation payable to them and 79 persons accepted compensation and left the petitioner's service but 58 persons refused to do so with the result that an industrial- dispute arose between 'the company and the workers of the Konnagar depot represented by two Unions, viz., The Allen Borry Mazdoor Congress and The Allen Berry Head Office Employees Union. The said industrial dispute was referred by Government notification dated 17-8-1950 to an Industrial Tribunal under the Industrial Disputes Act. During the pendency of the proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal the Government of West Bengal by a notification dated 16-11-1950 appointed a Court of Enquiry with the first three respondents as its Chairman and Members. The said notification runs as follows:

'Government of West Bengal

Labour Department

Notification

Calcutta, 16-11-1950.

No. 6550-Lab.

Whereas Messrs. Allen Berry & Co. Ltd. of 62 Hazra Road have within about 12 months closed down 6 of their depots and workshops at Jodhpur, Sodepur, Howrah, Brooklyn, Ondal and Konnagar in rapid succession throwing out of employment about 2,745 workers;

And whereas the industrial dispute existing between the said company and their workers relating to the closing down of their depot at Konnagar has been referred to an Industrial Tribunal for adjudication:

And whereas the reason for the closing down of the depots and workshops referred to above in quick succession' (hereinafter referred to as the said matter) appears to be a, matter connected with and relevant to the said industrial dispute;

Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6 and Section 10, Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 the Governor is pleased hereby to constitute, for enquiring into the said matter, a Court of Enquiry, and the said matter is hereby referred for enquiry, to the said Court of Enquiry consisting of the following three independent persons viz.;

(1) Sri A. Das Gupta-District Judge,

(2) Sri H. D. Choudhury-Director of Engineering.

(3) Sri B. P. Roy-Registrar, Joint Stock Companies West Bengal.

and appoint the said Sri A. Das Gupta, the District Judge as the Chairman of the said Court of Enquiry. The said Court shall meet at such places and on such days as the Chairman may direct.

By order of the Governor

D. S. P. Mookerji

Jt. Secy, to the Govt. of West Bengal.'

3. On 16-12-1950 the Industrial Tribunal made its final-award. Both the petitioner and the workers appealed from the said award to the Labour Appellate Tribunal on 9-2-1951. Towards the end of March 1951 all outstanding disputes between the petitioner and its workers were amicably settled. On 29-3-1951 the parties before the Appellate Tribunal filed an agreement containing the terms on which the industrial disputes between them had been settled. On 30.3.1951 the Labour Appellate Tribunal disposed of the matter in accordance with the terms of settlement. It is alleged that thereupon the said industrial dispute came to an end. As the disputes had ceased to exist the parties who were before the Appellate Tribunal presented a joint petition to the Court of Enquiry on 10-4-1951 praying for withdrawal of the proceeding before the Court of enquiry but the court of enquiry was of the view that the settlement arrived at before the Appellate Tribunal did not dispense with the necessity of the enquiry as it did not touch the subject-matter of the reference before the court and by its order dated 8-5-1951 directed that the court would proceed with the enquiry from 21-5-1951 and called upon the company to file its account books and statement of stock, etc.

4. The Preamble of the Industrial Disputes Act (Act XIV [14] of 1947) is as follows:

'Whereas it is expedient to make provision for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes, and for certain other purposes hereinafter appearing;'

It was therefore with this object that the Statute was enacted.

5. Section 2(b) defines 'Court' as meaning the Court of Enquiry constituted under this Act.

6. Section 2(k) defines the industrial dispute.

7. Section 6(1) of the Act is as follows :

'The appropriate Government may as occasion arises by notification in the official gazette constitute a Court of enquiry for enquiring into any matter appearing to be connected with or relevant to an industrial dispute.'

8. Section 10(1) is as follows :

'If any industrial dispute exists or is apprehended the appropriate Government may by order in writing refer any matter appearing to be connected with, or relevant to the dispute to a Court for enquiry.'

9. Section 14 of the Act casts obligation upon a Court of Enquiry to enquire into the matters referred to it and to submit a report to the Government.

10. Section 16 deals with the publication of the report by the Government.

11. Mr. H. N. Sanyal, the learned counsel for 1 he petitioner, argues that the whole object of setting up a Court of enquiry is that it should enquire into a matter which is connected with or relevant to the existing industrial dispute. It is a fact-finding body and the work of enquiry entrusted to it is in aid of disposal of the existing industrial dispute, and as soon as the industrial dispute ceases to exist, the relevancy or connection of the matter referred to the Court of enquiry, must necessarily cease to exist. In other words, as soon as the dispute disappears the ancillary or the subsidiary matter also disappears and the relevancy or connection thereof having ceased the purpose for which the Court of enquiry was set up is exhausted and it will be useless to pursue the enquiry only for the sake of coming to a finding in respect of the matter referred to and for submitting a report in respect thereof. This argument of Mr. H. N. Sanyal is no doubt reasonable and impressive but in my view the provisions of the Act lead to a different conclusion. It appears to me upon a plain reading of Section 6 and Section 10 that the very fact of the existence of an industrial dispute empowers the Government to set up a Court of enquiry and refer any matter connected with or relevant to the dispute to such Court of enquiry.

12. Section 10(1) of the Act makes it quite clear that if an industrial dispute exists or is apprehended then the Government can without referring the dispute to an Industrial Tribunal refer any matter connected with or relevant to the dispute to a Court of Enquiry for investigation and for coming to a finding thereon. The reference to the Court is not a subsidiary proceeding which is dependent upon the existence of any proceeding relating to the Industrial dispute before an industrial tribunal. It is an altogether independent proceeding which can be pursued to its conclusion whether the proceeding, if any, before the industrial tribunal in respect of the industrial dispute is pending or not. The only thing necessary for giving jurisdiction or power to the Government to set up a Court of enquiry, is the existence of an industrial dispute. In the present case at the time the relevant matter was referred to a Court of enquiry there was a dispute subsisting. Consequently the Court of Enquiry became vested with jurisdiction to enquire into the matter referred to; and under Section 14 of the Act it is incumbent upon the Court of enquiry to pursue the enquiry into the matter referred to its conclusion, and submit its report to the Government. The settlement of the dispute between the parties to the industrial dispute does not divest the Court of Inquiry of its jurisdiction to make enquiry into the matter referred to it, by the Notification of 16th November 1950. It may be pointed out that the scope of the enquiry is to investigate into the reason for closing down of not merely the Konnagar depot but of all the six depots in quick succession. It may be that after the Court makes a report the Government may find something in it which may lead it to take further steps in the matter.

13. In my view the order made by the Court of enquiry on 8th May 1951 was absolutely justified and is not open to challenge. The Court had jurisdiction to give the directions that it did, and it has the jurisdiction to proceed with the investigation of the matter referred to it.

14. Certain minor points were argued by Mr. P. L. Sanyal appearing for the added respondent (Seramporo Union) but as they have no substance it is not necessary to deal with them at all.

15. In the result the petition fails and the Rule is discharged. The petitioner will pay one set of costs to Mr. A. K. Sen's clients, the Chairman and Members respondents of the Court of Enquiry.


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