Andheri Marol Kurla Bus Service &
ANR Vs. The State of Bombay  INSC 41 (21 April 1959)
IMAM, SYED JAFFER
CITATION: 1959 AIR 841 1959 SCR Supl. (2) 734
CITATOR INFO :
R 1961 SC 304 (9)
Proceedings-Pendency of- Whether terminate on expiry of 14 days-industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 (XIV Of 1947) ss. 12(6), 20(2), 31(1) and 33(1).
Conciliation proceedings were started in
January. 1952 with respect to some disputes between appellant 1 and its
workmen. On May 9, 1952, the Union and on June 2, 1952, the appellant 1
indicated to the Conciliation Officer that the negotiations had failed. In the
meantime on March ~I8, 1952, the appellant 1 dismissed (1) I.L.R. 1947 All. 155.
735 one of its workmen. The two appellants and three others were prosecuted
under s. 31 Of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for a breach of s. 33 for
dismissing a workman during the pendency of the conciliation proceedings. The
appellants contended that since s. 12(6) required the report of the
conciliation proceedings to be submitted within 14 days of the commencement
thereof, the proceedings had terminated on the expiry of the 14 days and the
dismissal was, therefore, not during the pendency of the conciliation
Held that, in cases where no settlement was
arrived at the conciliation proceedings terminated when the report of the
Conciliation Officer was received by the appropriate Government and not on the
expiry of 14 days from the commencement of the proceedings. The commencement
and termination of conciliation proceedings were determined by S. 20 and not by
s. 12(6). The dismissal of the workman was during the pendency of the
conciliation proceedings and the appellants were guilty under s. 31(1) of the
Workers of the Industry Colliery, Dhanbad v.
Management Of the Industry Colliery,  S.C.R. 428 ; Colliery Mazdoor
Congress, Asansol v. New Beerbhoom Coal Co. Ltd., 1952 L.A.C. 219, applied.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 46 of 1957.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated the February 4, 1955, of the Bombay High Court in Criminal Appeal
No. 1256 of 1954, arising out of the judgment and order dated June 19, 1954, of
the Chief Presidency Magistrate, Bombay, in Case No. 176/S of 1953. Hardayal
Hardy, for the appellants.
H. J. Umrigar and B. H. Dhebar, for the
1959. April 21. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by KAPUR, J.-This is an appeal by special leave against the judgment
and order of the High Court of Bombay reversing the judgment of the Chief
Presidency Magistrate, Bombay, and thus convicting accused Nos. 1 & 5 under
s. 31(1) read with s. 33(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act (XIV of 1947)
(hereinafter called the Act) and sentencing accused No. 1 to a fine of Rs. 250
and accused No. 5 to a fine of Rs. 50, 736 The appellants are the Andheri Marol
Kurla Bus Service who was accused No. 1 (now appellant No. 1) and its Manager
H. M. Khan who was accused No. 5 (now appellant No. 2). Some disputes arose
between the appellant No. 1 and its workmen.
On December 13, 1951, the Conciliation Officer
wrote to the appellant No. I and enclosed the demands of the Union which were
dated August 9, 1951. On December 31, 1951, the appellant No. I was asked to
appear before the Conciliation Officer on January 9, 1952, and after getting
one adjournment the appellant No. I appeared before the Conciliation Officer on
January 17, 1952, and filed its Written Statement and raised various
objections. The next date of hearing was January 31, 1952, and the proceedings
went on till June 2, 1952, when the appellant No. 1 wrote to the Conciliation
Officer saying that no useful purpose would be served by holding any further
meetings. On May 9, 1952, the Union had also indicated to the Conciliation
Officer that the negotiations had failed. On March 18, 1952, the appellant dismissed
Louis Pereira, a bus conductor and proceedings were taken on a complaint by
Assistant Commissioner of Labour under s. 33 read with s. 31 of the Act against
5 accused persons the two appellants and the partners of appellant No. 1. The
Chief Presidency Magistrate acquitted all the accused including the appellants
and held that as the conciliation proceedings had continued for a period of
more than 14 days as from January 17, 1952, further proceedings for
conciliation were illegal and therefore the accused persons could not be
convicted under s. 31(1)of the Act. The State took an appeal to the High Court
and the judgment of acquittal was reversed and of the accused persons the two
appellants were convicted and the others were acquitted. The two appellants
have appealed by special leave.
The question for decision is whether the
conciliation proceedings could be said to be pending when Louis Pereira was
dismissed. If the answer is in the affirmative then the appellants have been
properly convicted and if not the conviction must be set aside. Section 31(1)
makes the contravention of the provision 737 of s. 33 of the Act an offence
punishable with imprisonment for a period which may extend to six months or
with fine or with both. Section 33(1) pro- K. vides:
S. 33(1) " During the pendency of any
conciliation proceedings before a conciliation officer or a Board or of any
proceeding before a Labour Court or Tribunal or National Tribunal in respect of
an industrial dispute, no employer shall:- (a) in regard to any matter
connected with the dispute, alter to the prejudice of the workmen concerned in
such dispute, the conditions of service applicable to them immediately before
the commencement of such proceedings; or (b) for any misconduct connected with
the dispute, discharge or punish, whether by dismissal or otherwise, any
workmen concerned in such dispute, save with the express permission in writing
of the authority before which the proceeding is pending ".
Therefore the question reduces itself to the
meaning of the words “pendency of any conciliation proceedings before a
conciliation officer ".
The argument raised on behalf of the
appellant is that the object of conciliation is to get a settlement made with
expedition and therefore under s. 12 the Conciliation Officer was bound to make
his report within 14 days of the commencement of the conciliation proceedings
or within such shorter period fixed by the appropriate Government. From this it
was submitted that as 14 days had expired before March 18, 1952, the dismissal
could not be said to be one within the words " pendency of conciliation
The Act provides for commencement and
conclusion of conciliation proceedings under s. 20 but the first sub- section
of s. 20 deals with what are called utility services and sub-s. 2 of that
section provides as to when the conciliation proceedings conclude. That
sub-section is as follows:- S.
(2) A conciliation proceeding shall be deemed
to have concluded- 93 738 (a) where a settlement is arrived at, when a
memorandum of the settlement is signed by the par ties to the dispute;
(b) where no settlement is arrived at, when
the report of the conciliation officer is received by the appropriate
Government or when the report of the Board is published under s, 17, as the
case may be; or (c) when a reference is made to a Court, Labour Court, Tribunal
or National Tribunal under section 10 during the pendency of conciliation
The provisions of sub-section 2 apply to all
conciliation proceedings whether in regard to utility services or otherwise.
All conciliation proceedings under this sub- section shall be deemed to have
concluded in the case where no settlement is reached, when the report of the Conciliation
Officer is received by the appropriate Government. The conciliation proceedings
therefore do not end when the report under s. 12(-6) is made by the
Conciliation Officer but when that report is received by the appropriate
Government. It was contended that the conciliation proceedings should be held
to terminate when the Conciliation Officer is required under s. 12(6) of the
Act to submit his report but the provisions of the Act above quoted do not
support this contention as the termination of the conciliation proceedings is
deemed to take place when the report is received by the appropriate Government.
This is how s. 20(2)(b) was interpreted in Workers of the Industry Colliery,
Dhanbad v. Management of the Industry Colliery (1).
It was next contended that on this
interpretation the conciliation proceedings could be prolonged much beyond what
was contemplated by the Act and the termination would depend upon how soon a
report is received by the appropriate Government. It is true that s. 12(6) of
the Act contemplates the submission of the report by the Conciliation Officer
within 14 days but that does not affect the pendency of the conciliation
proceedings and if for some reason the Conciliation Officer delays the
submission of his report his action (1)  S.C.R. 428.
739 may be reprehensible but that will not
affect the interpretation to be put on s. 20(2)(b) of the Act. Section 12 lays
down the duties of the Conciliation_ officer. He is required to bring about
settlement between the parties and must begin his investigation without delay
and if no settlement is arrived at he is to submit his report to the
appropriate Government. No doubt s. 12 contemplates that the report should be
made and the proceedings closed within a fortnight and if proceedings are not
closed but are carried on, as they were in the present case, or if the
Conciliation Officer does not make his report within 14 days he may be guilty
of a breach of duty but in law the proceedings do not automatically come to an
end after 14 days but only terminate as provided in s. 20(2)(b) of the Act.
Colliery Mazdoor Congress, Asansol v. New Beerbhoom Coal Co. Ltd (1). As the
conciliation proceedings were pending at the time when Louis Pereira was
dismissed the appellants were rightly convicted under s. 31(1) read with s. 33
of the Act.
The appeal is therefore dismissed.