The Calcutta Jute MFG. Co. Ltd. Vs.
Calcutta Jute MFG. Workers' Union  INSC 321 (16 November 1961)
CITATION: 1966 AIR 1731 1962 SCR Supl. (1)
Industrial Dispute-Charge of defiance and
insubordination-Authority if must be a direct superior-Enquiry-Incidental
matter if could be considered-Standing Order 14 (c) (i).
J, a sardar of the Batching Department of the
appellant company, brought to the notice of G, a supervisor of the department,
that one R of the Spinning Department was throwing away as unusable some
workable roves. G on finding the report correct, with a view to make a
complaint against R's work to the superior authority asked J to collect the roves
thrown away. R tried to prevent J from collecting the roves; on G intervening R
took a menacing attitude and abused G in filthy language. Soon another sardar S
took R's side and also abused G and threatened him with violence.
The management of the appellant company on
the complaint of served charge-sheets on the 2 workmen R and S which stated
that as they had used abusive and filthy language and threatened to assault G,
a supervisor, they were guilty of misconduct understanding order No. 14 (c) (i)
which contemplated two types of misconduct; one wilful insubordination and the
other disobedience of any lawful and reasonable order of a superior.
The tribunal inter alia held that G not being
the supervisor of the Spinning Department where R and S worked was not a direct
superior of these workmen and they were not guilty of insubordination or
disobedience within the Standing Order.
484 ^ Held, that defiance of persons in
authority whether such persons were the direct superiors of the workmen charged
or not and also riotous conduct which made it impossible for the higher
officers to discharge their duties properly, amount to insubordination.
Held, futher, that an order of dismissal may
be rightly sustained if it is based on a finding on a charge which the workmen
concerned had the opportunity of meeting even though in the course of the
enquiry other incidental matters had crept in.
N. Kalindi v. M/s. Tata Locomotive &
Engineering Co. Ltd. (1960) 2 L.L.J. 228, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 11 of 1961.
Appeal by special leave from the award dated
January 7, 1960, of the Second Labour Court, West Bengal Calcutta, in case No.
VIII-C/157 of 1958.
M. C. Setalvad, Attorney-General for India S.
N. Andley, Rameshwar Nath and P. L. Vohra, for the appellant.
M. K. Ramamurthi, D. P. Singh, R. K. Garg and
S. C. Agarwal, for the respondent.
1961. November 16. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by SARKAR, J.-This is an appeal against the award of an
industrial tribunal holding that the dismissal of two workmen by the appellant
was unjustified and directing their reinstatement.
The appellant has a factory for making yarn
out of jute. There were, among others, two departments in the factory, namely
the Spinning and the Batching departments. The workmen concerned were Ramdhani
and Sitaram and they were employed in the Spinning Department. The preliminary
stage of the preparation of yarn takes place in the Batching Department which
in an unfinished stage is passed on to the Spinning Department for final
processing and it is thereafter used for weaving.
485 The appellant's case is that on March 22,
1958, a Roving Sardar of the Batching Department called Jagabandhu informed
Ghosh, who was in charge of that department, that Ramdhani was throwing away as
unusable some workable roves (slivers of jute drawn out and slightly twisted)
which came from the Batching Department to the Spinning Department. Ghosh
thereupon went to the Spinning Department and found that the report of the
Roving Sardar was correct. He then asked the Roving Sardar to collect the roves
thrown away by Ramdhani for being placed before the appropriate authority for
inspection. Ghosh obviously intended to make a complaint against Ramdhani's
work to the superior authority. At this Ramdhani, who was a Sardar in the
Spinning Department, tried to prevent the Roving Sardar from collecting the
roves. On Ghosh intervening, Ramdhani took a menacing attitude and abused him
in filthy language. Soon, Sitaram, another Sardar of the Spinning Department,
who had nothing to do with the matter, came there and took the side of
Ramdhani. He also abused Ghosh and further threatened him with violence.
Ghosh complained to the Management of the
factory about the conduct of Ramdhani and Sitaram and the Management thereupon
served charge-sheets on them. The charge-sheets in substance stated that
Ramdhani and Sitaram had used abusive and filthy language and threatened to
assault Ghosh and they were, therefore, guilty of misconduct under Standing
Order No. 14 (c) (i) of the Standing Orders of the appellant. That Standing
Order is in these terms :
14(c)-The following acts and omissions shall
be treated as misconduct :- (i)-wilful insubordination, or disobedience,
whether alone or in combination with 486 others, of any lawful or reasonable
order a superior.
Pursuant to the charge-sheets the appellant's
Labour Officer held an enquiry and came to the following findings :
"Both Sitaram and Ramdhani accepted the
statement of Jagabandhu the only witness of the incident. Jagabandhu's
statement clearly proves the offence of insubordination charged against Sitaram
and Ramdhani. These two workmen could not place any witness or evidence by
which it could be satisfied that they were not guilty.
The refusal of acceptance of charge sheet is
also another misconduct on the part of both these two workmen. Moreover, they
not only refused to accept charge sheet to explain their conduct but committed
another very serious offence of fomenting and causing other Sardars to stage a
stay in strike for two days on 24th and 25th March, 1958, and thereby caused
serious dislocation of work.
The situation created by this stay in strike
was so tense that it even threatened the whole work to be dislocated and
closure of the entire Mill.
From Jagabandhu's statement and its
acceptance by Ramdhani and Sitaram and from their subsequent conduct I
therefore find them guilty of the charge of insubordination and also activities
subversive to discipline." The appellant thereupon passed the following
"Further to the charge sheet issued to
you on 26-3-58. I have found you guilty of misconduct under Rule 14-C(I) of the
certified standing orders. My decision is that you 487 should be dismissed and
I hereby dismiss you from the services of the company." The Union, the
respondent in this appeal, then raised an industrial dispute as to whether the
dismissal of Ramdhani and Sitaram was justified and this was referred by the
Government to the tribunal resulting in the award earlier mentioned.
It was conceded by the appellant before the
tribunal that Ghosh was not the supervisor of the Spinning Department where
Ramdhani and Sitaram worked and was not, therefore, a direct superior of these
workmen. In view of this admission by the appellant the tribunal observed that
if Ramdhani and Sitaram disobeyed any orders of Ghosh they could not be held
guilty of insubordination and disobedience within the Standing Order as Ghosh
was not their superior. It came to the conclusion that the decision of the
enquiring officer of the appellant that these workmen were guilty of misconduct
mentioned in Standing Order No.14(c)(i) was, therefore, basically erroneous and
could not be upheld. It thereupon directed the reinstatement of the dismissed
workmen. It further held that the appellant had been influenced by the finding
of the enquiry officer that the workmen concerned had refused to accept the
charge sheets and had caused a stay in strike. It observed that these offences
were not the subject matter of the chargesheets and the appellant could not
take them into consideration in passing the order of dismissal.
The tribunal further observed that the
conduct of the workmen was not proper and in that view of the matter refused to
direct payment of their wages during the period of their forced unemployment,
which period was, however, ordered to be treated as a period of leave without
pay. It is against this award that the present appeal has been taken.
Though the tribunal did not express any
opinion as to the finding of fact by the enquiry officer 488 of the appellant,
it is clear that it accepted the same, otherwise it would not have disallowed
the workmen their wages for the period of their forced unemployment on the
ground that their conduct had not been proper. We have gone through the
evidence on the record and we feel not the slightest doubt that the case of the
appellant was true. The two workmen had been guilty of the misconduct imputed
The question is whether that misconduct came
within the Standing Order No.(14)(c)(i). We are entirely unable to agree with
the tribunal that the conduct of the workmen did not amount to wilful
insubordination. It is clear to us that the Standing Order contemplates two
types of misconduct; one is wilful insubordination and the other is
disobedience of any lawful and reasonable order of a superior. It is obvious
that these two constitute different categories of misconduct. If
insubordination, as the tribunal held, was disobedience to the order of an
officer directly under whom the workmen charged with misconduct worked, then
the two categories mentioned in the Standing Order would have amounted to the
same misconduct. This obviously cannot be the proper reading of the Standing
order. In our view, insubordination would include defiance of persons in
authority whether such persons were the direct superiors of the workmen charged
or not. It would also include riotous conduct which made it impossible for the
higher officers to discharge their duties properly. Mr. Ramamurthi for the Union
said that insubordination was disobedience to a prescribed rule. We think that
even in that sense the workmen were guilty of insubordination.
It was clearly an implied rule of the factory
that higher officers would not be thwarted and prevented from bringing to the
notice of the management the wastefulness of the workmen causing loss to the
489 employer. This is all that Ghosh was about in this case, and this aroused
the wrath of the workmen.
Mr. Ramamurthi also said that it was not a
case of wilful insubordination because Ramdhani was entitled to throw away
roves which he considered unworkable as his remuneration depended on his
out-turn. This contention is wholly unfounded. Ramdhani got weekly wages as he
admitted in his own evidence and therefore his wage did not depend on his
out-turn. Again the conduct with which he had been charged was not throwing
away the roves but adopting a menacing attitude towards one of the higher
officers employed by the appellant.
Mr. Ramamurthy further said that the dismissal
was not really on the finding that the workmen had been guilty of
insubordination and that the tribunal was justified in holding that the order
of dismissal had been induced by the finding of the enquiry officer as to the
refusal of the workmen to accept the charge-sheets and causing the stay in
strike as no charge in respect of these matters had been preferred against the
workmen and the latter had no chance of defending themselves against such a
charge. We have earlier set out the order of dismissal. That order does not
show that the order of dismissal had been based on any consideration other than
the finding on the charge brought against the workmen. In our view, an order of
dismissal may be rightly sustained if it is based on a finding on a charge which
the workmen concerned had the opportunity of meeting even though in the course
of the enquiry other incidental matters had crept in. One cannot take a too
legalistic view in these matters. We would also observe that the two matters
mentioned in the enquiry officer's report are really connected with the charge
and had been mentioned by the enquiry officer only to corroborate his finding
on the charge brought, for it was the misconduct mentioned in the charge-sheets
490 which led to the workmen refuse to accept the charge-sheets and causing the
stay in strike.
Inevitably, those questions would crop up in
the enquiry and the enquiry officer could legitimately refer to them. They
would further be relevant matters for the employer's consideration in deciding
the punishment to be awarded to the workmen concerned for the breach of the
Standing Order. In any event, there is no reason to think that the order of
dismissal was based on consideration of any finding other than that mentioned
in the charge sheets. We may refer to N. Kalindi v. M/s. Tata Locomotive &
Engineering Co. Ltd. (1), in this connection.
Mr. Ramamurthy also argued that the order of
dismissal was really an instance of victimisation and that this is in substance
what the tribunal had found. We are entirely unable to accept this contention.
The workmen in their evidence had not suggested that they had been dismissed by
way of victimisation and neither do we think that the tribunal had come to any
finding of victimisation.
We, therefore, think that the order of the
tribunal cannot be upheld. We accordingly set it aside and hold that the order
of dismissal Ramdhani and Sitaram had been properly made by the appellant.