M/S. Kesoram Cotton Mills Ltd. Vs.
Gangadhar & Ors  INSC 82 (3 April 1963)
03/04/1963 WANCHOO, K.N.
GUPTA, K.C. DAS
CITATION: 1964 AIR 708 1964 SCR (2) 809
R 1964 SC 719 (8) R 1969 SC 983 (9,10) D 1972
Industrial Dispute-Go slow and
strike-Agreement Suspension of Workmen pending inquiry-No inquiry
held-Reference to adjudication-If workmen entitled to wages for period of
suspension-Inquiry-Natural Justice-No examination-in-chief of
witnesses-Previous Statement read Copy of statement not given to
workmen-Propriety of procedure.
The appellant suspended 1600 workmen as they
retorted to go slow and illegal strikes. On December 23, 1957, an 810 agreement
was arrived at between the workers Union and the management under which the
workmen resumed work. Clause 7 of the agreement provided that the suspended
workmen shall not be entitled to any wages or compensation for the suspension
period. Clause 9 provided that 29 of the workmen shall remain suspended pending
inquiry and disciplinary action by the management. The management did not hold
any inquiry and had the matter referred for adjudication. With respect to
another 5 workmen, the management held an inquiry on various charges and
'dismissed them. In the inquiry, the management did not examine their witnesses
but had their previous statements read out, and without giving copies of those
statements to the workmen. asked them to cross.
examine the witnesses. The dispute arising
out of the dismissal of these 5 workmen was also referred to adjudication.
With respect to the 29 workmen the Tribunal
permitted the dismissal of 9 and ordered reinstatement of the remaining and
awarded 12 months' wages to the dismissed workmen and 15 months' wages to the
reinstated workmen for the period during which they remained suspended. With
respect to the 5 workmen dismissed the Tribunal held that the inquiry was not
held in accordance with the principles of natural justice but that the evidence
produced before the Tribunal, justified the dismissal of 4 of the workmen. The
appellant contended that in view of cl. 7 of the agreement none of the 29
workmen were entitled to any compensation or wages for the period of suspension
and that the inquiry with respect to the 5 workmen was in accordance with
principles of natural justice. The workmen contended that all the 29 workmen
were entitled to full wages for the period of suspension.
Held that cl. 7 of the agreement referred to
the period of suspension up to the date of the agreement and not to the
suspension thereafter. Ordinarily, the law is that a workman may be suspended
pending inquiry and disciplinary action; and if after the inquiry he is
dismissed he is not entitled to any wages for the suspension period, but if he
is reinstated lie is entitled to full wages for the period of suspension.
Clause (9) envisaged suspension pending inquiry and also envisaged the legal
consequences. The Tribunal was accordingly justified in awarding wages for the
suspension period subsequent to the date of the agreement.
The Straw Board Mfg. Co. v. Govind, 
Supp. 3 S. C. R. 6I8 referred to.
Held, further that all the 29 suspended
workmen were entitled to full wages from the date of the agreement up to the
811 date of the award. There was no provision in the standing orders., nor was
there any term of service, which entitled the management to suspend a workman
without payment of wages. In these circumstances there was no justification for
depriving the workmen who had been ordered to be reinstated and to whom the
Tribunal had awarded 15 months wages for any period of their suspension. The 9
workmen who had been allowed to be dismissed were also entitled to full wages
for the entire period of suspension. Under cl. (9) of the agreement they were
to remain suspended pending inquiry and disciplinary action, but the management
held no inquiry and took no disciplinary action, but applied for the dispute to
be referred to adjudication. As the management wanted to dismiss these workmen
without holding an inquiry, the workmen were entitled to their full wages up to
the date of the enforcement of the award.
The Management of Hotel Imperial New Delhi v.
Hotel Workers' Union,  1 S. C. R. 476 and M/s. Sasa Musa Sugar Works, (P)
Ltd. v. Shobrati Khan,  Supp. 2 S. C. R.
836, releid on.
Held further, that the inquiry with respect
to the five workmen violated principles of natural justice. The rules of
natural justice do not change from tribunal to tribunal;
but since their purpose is to safeguard the
position of the person against whom an inquiry is being conducted so as to
enable him to meet the charges against him, the nature of the inquiry and the
status of the person charged will have a bearing on what should be the minimum
requirements of the rules of natural justice. In a domestic inquiry in an
industrial matter the proper course for the management is to examine the
witnesses from beginning to end in the presence of the workman at the inquiry
itself. In exceptional cases, a witness may be asked merely to confirm his
previously recorded statement and then tendered for cross-examination by the
workman, but in such cases the previous prepared statement of the witness
should be given to the workman well in advance before the inquiry begins at
least two days before.
The Union of India v. T. R. Verma,  S.
C. R. 499, State of Mysore v. S. S. Makapur,  2 S. C. R. 943, and New
Prakash Transport Co. v. New Suwarna Transport Co.
 S. C. R. 98, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeals
Nos. 425 and 426 of 1962.
812 M. C. Setalvad and B. P. Maheshwari, for
the appellants (in C. A. No. 425 of 1962) and the respondents (in C. A. No.
426 of 1962).
Y. Kumar, for the respondents (in C. A. No.
425 of 1962) and the appellants (in C.A. No. 426 of 1962).
1963. April 4. The judgment of-the Court was
delivered by WANCHOO J.-These are two appeals by special leave against the same
award of the First Industrial Tribunal; West Bengal and will be dealt with
together. Appeal No. 425 is by the employers and Appeal No. 426 is by the
workmen. The employers will be referred to as the appellant throughout this
judgment while the workmen will be referred to as the respondents. There was a
dispute between the appellant and the respondents with respect to two matters,
which were referred to the tribunal for adjudication by the Government of West
Bengal in the following terms:(1) To what relief the suspended workmen whose
names are mentioned in list 'A' are entitled ? (2) Whether the termination of
employment of the workmen whose names are mentioned in list 'B' was justified ?
Are they entitled to reinstatement and/or compensation ? List 'A' consisted of
29 workmen while list 'B' consisted of 12 workmen.
The genesis of the dispute as to the
suspended workmen was this according to the case of the 813 appellant. The
workmen of the weaving department of the appellant commenced slow down from
October 28, 1957 in spite of the warning given by the appellant. On November 3,
1957, doffers of carding refused to work on new machines. The workmen of loose
godown and folding section started slow down from October 27, 1957 and November
4, 1957 respectively. On November 23, 1957, the workmen of the spinning
department adopted slow down tactics and indulged in other subversive
activities and left their respective machines in groups rendering the work in
backward and forward processes idle. As a result of this conduct of the workmen
for a period of about four weeks, the appellant had to lay-off a large number
of workmen without compensation.
Then on December 3, 1957, the workmen of dye
house and printing department went on an illegal stay-in-strike. In the first
week of December, 1957, the workmen of blow room and carding went on strike. On
December 9, the strike was commenced in the engineering department, cotton
godown, bale godown, canteen, high speed winding and old stores department. In
the circumstances the appellant had to suspend 1600 workmen on charges of slow
down and various other charges. Thereafter negotiations were started between
the union of the workmen and the management and an agreement was arrived at on
December 23, 1957. The, interpretation of some of the terms of the agreements
is in dispute and we shall refer to them in due course. Suffice it to say here
that by this agreement the workmen resumed work and undertook not to take
recourse to go-slow activities either individually or jointly and not to take
recourse to illegal methods and means for the achievement of their demands or
for getting their grievances redressed. It was also agreed that maintenance of
discipline was of paramount importance and the workmen as also the union at all
times would cooperate with the management in taking appropriate disciplinary
814 action against the workmen for the maintenance of discipline in the
factory. The agreement however provided that thirty workmen named in annexure
'A' thereof would remain suspended pending inquiry and disciplinary action by
The first term of reference with respect to
suspended workmen is about the thirty workmen who were to remain suspended
under the terms of the agreement of December 23, 1957.
The twelve workmen with which the second term
of reference is concerned, were claimed by the appellant to have been guilty of
various acts of misconduct for which they were liable to dismissal under the
standing orders. They were duly charge sheeted and inquiries were held against
them and thereafter they were dismissed according to the provisions of law. As
however the dismissals had taken place during the pendency of a dispute before
the first industrial tribunal in which the appellant was a party, applications
were made under s. 33 (2) (b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of
1947), (hereinafter 'referred to as the Act) for approval of the action taken
by the appellant in regard to these twelve workmen. It seems, however, that
before these applications could be disposed of, the dispute before the tribunal
was decided, with the result that no orders were passed by the tribunals on
The appellant, however, claimed that the
dismissal of these workmen was justified and therefore no case for
reinstatement or compensation arose. This claim of the appellant was disputed
by the respondents and therefore we find this dispute being referred for
adjudication in the second 'term of reference.
We shall first deal with the matter relating
to suspension of the twenty-nine workmen in list 'A' to the order of reference.
It may be mentioned that though in annexure 'A' to the agreement there were 815
thirty workmen, the reference was made only with respect to twenty-nine, as it
is said that one of the workmen out of 30 had died by the time the reference
came to be made. Further out of the 29 workmen with which the first term of
reference was concerned, the respondents gave up the case of five of the
workmen. The tribunal therefore dealt with the case of the remaining 24. These
24 workmen were divided by the tribunal into five groups. The first group
consisted of two workmen, the second group of five workmen, the third group of
13 workmen, the fourth group of two workmen and the fifth group of two workmen.
Learned counsel for the appellant has not pressed the appeal with respect to
six workmen in groups I, IV and V, and we need not therefore consider the order
of the tribunal with respect to these workmen, who are Govindo (No. 1),
Bholanath (No. 8), Khageswar (No. 7), Ramjatan (No. 27), Rampujan (No. 26) and
Khetrabasi (No. 28) of list 'A' attached to the order of reference.
As to the five workmen in group II, namely,
Gangadhar (No. 2). Ramchandra (go. 3), Babaji Nayak (No. 4), Pahraj (No. 5) and
Shankdardas (No. 6) of list 'A' attached to the order of reference, the
tribunal ordered that they should be reinstated in their jobs with effect from
the date the award came into force and should be paid compensation amounting to
fifteen months' wages in all for the period during which they remained
suspended. The appellant has challenged this order of the tribunal.
As to group III, the tribunal decided that
nine of the thirteen workmen should be dismissed. As to the remaining four the
tribunal held that they should be reinstatedIt may be mentioned that the reason
why the tribunal proceeded to consider whether any of the workmen in list ,A'
to the order of reference should be dismissed was on account of the appellant's
filing an application under s. 33 (1) (b) of, the Act 816 before the tribunal
for permission to dismiss the twenty nine workmen. The order of the tribunal with
respect to the reinstatement of four workmen, namely, Gulzarali (No. 18), Farid
(No. 16), Din Mohd. (No. 17) and Mohd. Islam (No. 24) of list 'A' attached to
the order of reference is being challenged by the appellant on the ground that
there was no reason for the tribunal to treat these four workmen out of this
group of 13 differently from the other nine as the evidence was the same in all
these cases. Finally, the tribunal also ordered with respect to all the 24
workmen on an interpretation of the agreement of December 23, 1957, that they
should be paid 12 months' wages for the period of their suspension irrespective
of whether it was permitting them to be dismissed or not. This order of the
tribunal is also being attacked by the appellant.
We shall first take the case of the five
workmen in group II. The contention of the appellant in that behalf is twofold.
In the first place it is urged that these workmen 'were charged with adopting
go-slow tactics by causing spindle stoppage unnecessarily and there was clear
documentary evidence to support this charge and the tribunal's decision that
there was no proof of go-slow tactics in the circumstances was perverse. In the
second place, it is urged that all these five workmen were charged with other
misconduct also and the tribunal did not consider the evidence with respect to
other misconduct at all and gave no finding thereon and so the case of these
five workmen at any rate should be. remanded to the tribunal for considering
the evidence on the other charges against them.
Now the appellant relied on an extract from
two registers, Exs. AA and AA-1, which had been produced before the tribunal in
this connection and this extract was set out in the special leave petition. The
respondents, however, contended that, what was 817 set out in the special leave
petition was not an extract at all from Exs. AA and AA-1. On the other hand it
was said to be a spurious document prepared to mislead this Court at the time
of the admission of the appeal and so it was urged that the leave should be
revoked. This extract related to four workmen, namely, Paharaj, Shankdardas,
Gangadhar and Babaji, and was with respect to spindle stoppage from November 10
to 23, 1957. In view of the charge made by the respondents, the original registers
were sent for and have been examined by us and we have come to the conclusion
that the extract given in the special leave petition was not a true copy of
Exs. AA and AA-1 as it should have been, if it was merely an extract from those
registers. The figures of spindle stoppage given in the extract certainly tally
with the figures in the two registers but the registers do not show the names
of the persons who were manning the four machines, the spindle stoppage of
which was given in this extract. It is however urged that the names of the four
workmen were given in the extract though they were not to be found in the
registers because these workmen actually manned the machines on the dates
mentioned in the extract and reference was made to some evidence in that
Even assuming that these workmen manned these
machines we find another serious misrepresentation in this extract.
Paharaj was charge-sheeted on November 17 and
was suspended forthwith. Therefore he could not have worked after November 17,
but this extract shows as if he continued working even after November 17 upto
November 23. It is remarkable that serious spindle stoppage occurred on the
machine which Paharaj was said to be manning mainly after November 17 when it
must have been manned by somebody else.
Similarly Shankdardas was chargesheeted on
November 17 and suspended forthwith and could not have worked thereafter.
But in his case also the extract shows as if
he continued to 818 work thereafter from November 18 to 23, and the more serious
spindle stoppage is during this period when he obviously could not have manned
this machine. Babaji was chargesheeted on November 18 and suspended forthwith.
He could not have therefore worked on the machine on which his name is shown in
the extract between November 19 and 23 and the more serious spindle stoppage
occurred after November 18 when somebody else must have been manning this
Gangadhar was charge-sheeted on November 22
and was suspended forthwith. In his case also the extract shows as if he had
worked on November 23. We strongly deprecate the manner in which the extract
was used in the special leave petition to convey a wrong impression to this
Court. But we do not think that we should revoke the special leave granted in
this case on this ground alone. However our examination of the extract which we
have set out above clearly shows that the contention of the appellant that the
tribunal had patently misunderstood Exs. AA and AA-1 cannot be made out.
It seems to us that the reasons given by the
tribunal for holding that go-slow by these five workmen had not been proved
cannot be said to be inadequate for the purpose of coming to the conclusion
which it did. We may only note one reason which is given by the tribunal and
which shows that everything was not all right in the appellant company in this
matter. Though the charge-sheets to these workmen of the spinning department
were given on November 17, IS and 22, it is remarkable that in the
written-statement of the appellant before the tribunal the case made out was
that the workmen of the spinning department adopted slow down tactics and
indulged in other subversive activities from November 23, 1957. This seems to
be surprising statement to make in the face of the charges given to these five
workmen and can only .show that the appellant did not really know what the
correct facts were. It is further remarkable that 819 in the application under
s. 33 (1) (b) which was made four months after the written-statement of the
appellant had been filed the same thing was repeated and it was said that the
workers of the spinning department adopted go-slow tactics on November 23 and
indulged in other subversive activities.
It is true that in the evidence the appellant
tried to prove that slow down tactics had started earlier ; but if in the
circumstances the tribunal refused to believe the evidence it cannot be said
that it went wrong. The contention of the appellant therefore that the view
taken by the tribunal was perverse and clearly against the two registers to
which we have referred above must fail.
This brings us to the other contention of the
appellant with respect to this group of workmen, namely that the tribunal did
not consider the evidence with respect to other charges.
It is true that in the last paragraph of the
award dealing with these five workmen, the tribunal said that the appellant had
failed to prove that these five workmen had adopted go-slow tactics and did not
say anything about the other charges. But a perusal of the entire discussion by
the tribunal with respect to this group of workmen shows that it considered the
oral evidence of all the witnesses with respect to other charges and held that
their evidence was not worthy of acceptance, though it did not say so in so many
words that that evidence was insufficient to prove the other charges also. On
the whole however a reading of the discussion of the tribunal with respect to
this group of workmen convinces us that the tribunal had considered the entire
evidence including the evidence with respect to other charges and did not
consider that evidence worthy of acceptance. The mistake that the tribunal made
was that when it recorded its conclusion in the final paragraph dealing with
this group of workmen it confined itself only to say that go-slow tactics had
not been proved and did not say 820 anything about other charges. Even so we
are of opinion that the consideration of the entire award of the tribunal with
respect to this group of workmen leaves no doubt that the evidence on the other
charges was also considered and was found unworthy of acceptance. We may add
that the reason why the tribunal seems to have confined itself only to go-slow
in the final paragraph is that everybody before the tribunal was concentrating
on go-slow and did not worry to see what the other charges were. This will be
clear when we consider the case of some other workmen in group III which will
show that though there was no charge against those workmen of go-slow, the
evidence was given about goslow and the tribunal also came to the conclusion
that those workmen were guilty_ of go-slow. It seems therefore that nobody
worried about any other charges before the tribunal and that is how the
tribunal seems to have confined its conclusion only to the charge of go-slow,
even where no such chargesheet was given to the workmen. On the whole, however,
we do not think that any case is made out for remand for consideration of other
charges against these five workmen, for the tribunal seems to have considered
all the evidence and did not think it worthy of acceptance. In the
circumstances the appeal with respect to these five workmen in group II must
Then we come to the four workmen in group III
whose names we have already mentioned. These workmen were charged with having
incited on and from various dates in October 1957 their co-workers to slow down
work. The entire evidence against these workmen was considered by the tribunal
and it did not place any reliance on it for one main reason. In the case of
Gulzarali the tribunal found that there was no written report against him as
was the case with respect to others, and in the case of the other three the
tribunal found that the written report which had been produced very late 821
before it did not bear the endorsement of the weaving master as it should have
done, as in the case of other such reports made by the Assistant weaving
master. In the circumstances when the evidence was considered by the tribunal
and for reasons given by it no reliance was placed upon it, we cannot say that
it went wrong in not relying on that evidence. The appeal of the appellant with
respect to these four workmen of group III must also fail.
We now come to the general attack on the
order of the tribunal awarding 12 months wages to all the 24 suspended workmen
whose cases were processed before it by the respondents. We have in this
connection to consider four clauses of the agreement dated December 23, 1957,
which are as below :I. (b)-It is agreed between the parties that the charge-sheets
against such workmen who are allowed to resume duty in terms of para (1)
herein, however, shall not be withdrawn.It is further agreed that the
suspension of workmen whose names are contained in the annexure A herein, shall
continue and their respective order of suspension shall remain operative
pending enquiry as laid down hereinafter.
7. The suspended workmen shall not be
entitled to any wages or compensation for the suspension period. The workmen
shall not raise any dispute or make any claim with regard to the suspension
period or lay-off period in any shape or form.
8. Without prejudice to the other provisions
of this agreement or claims relating to the suspension order served on the
workmen 822 respectively and the lay-off order by the company and/or all claims
or issues for the period connected with slowing down of production and
disciplinary action taken thereon by the company are hereby finally settled and
all workmen are bound by this agreement and no worker shall be entitled to make
any demand or claim in this behalf.
9. The workers in annexure 'A' shall remain
suspended pending enquiry and disciplinary action by the management. The
management will try to reach an amicable settlement with the Union regarding
disciplinary action taken or may be taken by them against the said workmen.
If the parties fail to reach settlement, the
matter will be referred to the tribunal for settlement of the dispute in this
The tribunal has held that cl. (7) which lays
down that the suspended workmen shall not be entitled to any wages or
compensation for the suspension period does not apply to workmen who remained
suspended under cl. (9), and the reason given by the tribunal for this view is
that cl. (7) only applied to those workmen who were allowed to resume duty in
the first clause of the agreement. This view of the tribunal has been
challenged by the appellant and it is contended that the seventh clause applies
even to workmen who remained suspended under cl. (9) and therefore in view of
cl. (7) such workmen were not entitled to any compensation whatsoever for the
entire period of their suspension whether before December 23, 1957 or
We agree with the contention of the appellant
that cl. (7) applies to all suspended workmen whether they went back to work
according 823 to the first clause of the agreement or remained suspended
according to cl. (1) (b) set out above. But as we read this agreement we are of
opinion that cl. (7) read along with cl.
(8) refers only to suspension upto the date
of the agreement and not to suspension thereafter. Clause (7) says that the
suspended workmen shall not raise any dispute or make any claim with regard to
the suspension period or lay off period in any shape or form. This provision
could only refer to suspension or lay-off in the past; it could not be the
intention of the agreement, for example, that if any lay-off took place in
future cl (7) would apply to it. Further though under cl. (9) suspension of 30
workmen continued, that suspension was pending enquiry and disciplinary action.
We cannot read cl.(7)and cl. (9) together for
the future also unless there are clear terms to that effect.
Ordinarily, the law is that a workman may be
suspended pending enquiry and disciplinary action. If after the enquiry the misconduct
is proved the workman is dismissed and is not entitled to any wages for the
but if the inquiry results' in the
reinstatement of the workman he is entitled to full wages for the suspension
period also along with reinstatement, unless the employer instead of dismissing
the employee can give him a lesser punishment by way of withholding of part of
the wages for the suspension period. In The Straw Board Mfg. Co. v. Govind (1),
this Court was considering what would happen where approval was granted or
withheld on an application under s. 33. (2) (b) of the Act, and it was pointed
out that "'if the tribunal does not approve of the action taken by the
employer, the result would be that the action taken by him would fall and thereupon
the workman would be deemed never to have been dismissed or discharged and
would remain in the service of the employer." It follows therefore that if
a workman is fully exonerated after the inquiry, he would remain in the service
of the employer and (1)  Supp. 3 S.C.R. 618.
824 would be entitled to his full wages
during the period of his suspension also. Therefore when cl. (9) envisages
suspension pending inquiry and disciplinary action it also envisaged the
consequence, namely, that if the inquiry results in dismissal, 'the workmen
would get no wages for the suspension period while if the inquiry results in
the reinstatement of the workman he would be entitled to full wages for the
suspension period, if he is fully exonerated or to such less wages as the
employer may give in case the exoneration is not complete and some punishment
less than dismissal can be inflicted. We see nothing in el. (7) which clearly
takes away this legal consequence following an inquiry and disciplinary action,
and it seems to us that cl.
(7) must be confined to the period of
suspension upto the date of agreement and there is nothing in it which would
induce us to hold that it must apply to the future also. So far as the future
is concerned it is cl. (9) which must wholly apply and that clause envisaged
inquiry and disciplinary action and the consequence thereof depending upon the
inquiry going one way or the other must also be envisaged by it in the absence
of any provision about the future in this agreement. If the intention was that
the workmen who remained suspended under cl. (9) would get no wages for the
future, even if they were fully exonerated after an inquiry under that clause
we should have found a specific provision that to effect in cl. (9) itself. We
are therefore of opinion that cl. (7) refers to the period up to the date of
the agreement including the period of grace given to the workmen in cl. (1) in
order to join their duties and not to the future. In this view of the matter
the tribunal was not unjustified in granting wages for the suspension period
after the date of this agreement to those whom it reinstated. The contention of
the appellant in this behalf must fail with respect to those reinstated. We
shall consider the case of nine workmen permitted to be dismissed when
considering the appeal of the workmen, 825 Coming now to the second term of
reference, we find that inquiries were held in the case of the five workmen
with whom we are concerned. The respondents however contended that the
inquiries were not in accordance with the principles of natural justice
inasmuch as the witnesses were not examined-in-chief before the inquiry
officer. What actually happened at the inquiries was that when the witnesses
were produced, previously prepared signed statements of the witnesses were read
over to them and they were asked whether the statements were correct, and they
had signed them. Statements were also read over and explained to the workmen
charged and they were then asked to cross examine the witnesses. No copies of
statements of witnesses were supplied to the workmen at any time. The tribunal
has held that this procedure followed by the inquiry officer was open to
objection and was against the principles of natural justice and that the
witnesses should have been examined-in chief in the presence of the workmen
against whom the inquiries were going on. The requirements of principles of
natural justice were laid down by this Court in The Union of India V. T. R.
Verma (1), where it was observed:"Rules of natural justice require that a
party should have the opportunity of adducing all relevant evidence on which he
relies, that the evidence of the opponent should be taken in his presence, and
that he should be given the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses examined
by that party, and that no materials should be relied upon against him without
his being given an opportunity of explaining them.
If these rules are satisfied, the enquiry is
not open to attack on the ground that the procedure laid down in the Evidence
Act was not strictly followed." This matter was further considered in the
State of Mysore v. S. S. Makapur (2), where the (1)  S.C.R. 499.
(2)  2 S.C.R. 943.
826 following observations were made:"When
the evidence is oral, normally the examination of the witness will in its
entirety, take place before the party charged, who will have full opportunity
of cross examining him. The position is the same when a witness is called, the
statement given previously by him behind the back of the party is put to him,
and admitted in evidence, a copy thereof is given to the party, and he is given
an opportunity to cross-examine him. To require in that case that the contents
of the previous statement should be repeated by the witness word by word, and sentence
by sentence, is to insist on bare technicalities, and rules of natural justice
are matters not of form but of substance. In our opinion they are sufficiently
complied with when previous statements given by witnesses are read over to
them, marked on their admission, copies thereof given to the person charged,
and he s given an opportunity to cross-examine them.
It is urged on behalf-of the appellant that
rules of natural justice are the same whether they apply to inquires under Art.
311 or to domestic inquiries by managements relating to misconduct by workmen.
It may be accepted that rules of natural justice do not change from tribunal to
Even so the purpose of rules of natural
justice is to safeguard the position of the person against whom an inquiry is
being conducted so that he is able to meet the charge laid against him
properly. Therefore the nature of the inquiry and the status of the person
against whom the inquiry is being held will have some bearing on what should be
the minimum requirements of the rules of natural. justice.
Where, for example, lawyers are permitted
before a tribunal holding an inquiry and the party against whom the inquiry is
being 827 held is represented by a lawyer it may be possible to say that a mere
reading of the material to be used in the inquiry may sometimes be sufficient:
(see New Prakash Transport Co. v. New Suwarna Transport Co. (1), but where in a
domestic inquiry in an industrial matter lawyers are not permitted, something
more than a mere reading of statements to be used will have to be required in
order to safeguard the interest of the industrial worker. Further we can take
judicial notice of the fact that many of our industrial workers are illiterate
and sometimes even the representatives of labour union may not be present to
defend them. In such a case to read over a prepared statement in a few minutes
and then ask the workmen to cross-examine would make a mockery of the
opportunity that the rules of natural justice require that the workmen should have
to defend themselves. It seems to us therefore that when one is dealing with
domestic inquiries in industrial matters, the proper course for the management
is to examine the witnesses from the beginning to the end in the presence of
the workman at the enquiry itself. Oral examination always takes much longer
than a mere reading of a prepared statement of the same length and brings home
the evidence more clearly to the person against whom the inquiry is being held.
Generally speaking therefore we should expect a domestic inquiry by the
management to be of this kind. Even so, we recognise the force of the argument
on behalf of the appellant that the main principles of natural justice cannot
change from tribunal to tribunal and therefore it may be possible to have
another method of conducting a domestic inquiry (though we again repeat that
this should not be the rule but the exception) and that is in the manner laid
down in Shibavasappa's case (2). The minimum that we shall expect where
witnesses arc not examined from the very beginning at the enquiry in the
presence of the person charged is that the person charged should be given a
copy of the (1)  S.C.R. 98.
(2) (1963) 2 S.C.R. 943.
828 statements made by the witnesses which
are to be used at the inquiry well in advance before the inquiry begins and
when we say that the copy of the statements should be given well in advance we
mean that it should be given at least two days before the inquiry is to begin.
If this is not done and yet the witnesses are not examined-in-chief fully at
the inquiry., we do not think that it can be said that principles of natural
justice which provide that the person charged should have an adequate
opportunity of defending himself are complied with in the case of a domestic inquiry
in an industrial matter. In the present case all that had happened was that the
prepared statements were read over to the workmen charged and they were asked
then and there to cross-examine the witnesses. They were naturally unable to do
so and in the circumstances we agree with the tribunalthough for different
reasons-that the enquiry did not comply with the principles of natural justice.
The order of the tribunal therefore holding that the inquiries were vitiated by
the disregard of rules of natural justice is correct. We may add however that
inspite of the above finding the tribunal permitted termination of the service
of four of these five workmen and reinstated only one. We shall deal with this
aspect of the matter further when considering the appeal of the workmen.
Turning now to the appeal by the workmen
respondents, the first contention raised on their behalf is that the tribunal
went completely wrong in permitting the dismissal of nine workmen in list 'A'
to the order of reference, namely, Hanif (No. 10), Narayan (No. 11), Khalil
(No. 12), Abdul Subhan (No. 13), Bhagwan Singh (No. 15), Ram Ekbal (No. 19),
Mangroo (No. 20), Satish (No. 21), and Raja Ram (No. 22).
The contention in this behalf is that these
nine workmen in group III were charged with inciting other workers to slow down
work and that was the only charge given to them ; there was 829 no charge of
go-slow by these nine workmen themselves. But the tribunal allowed evidence to
be led to the effect that these nine workmen were actually guilty of go-slow
themselves and give a finding to that effect and therefore permitted them to be
dismissed. It was also urged that there was no finding by the tribunal and no
evidence to the effect that these workmen had incited other workmen to slow down
work and therefore there was no proof of the charge given to these workmen.
Consequently, they could not be dismissed on a charge which was never made
against them completely ignoring the charge which was in fact made against them
and which had not been proved. We have therefore to see in the case of each
workman whether this contention of the respondents is correct.
Hanif is the first workman in this group of
nine. It appears from the discussion in the award with respect to Hanif that
though in the finding part there is a suggestion as if this workman was guilty
of go-slow himself, it appears that the tribunal knew that the charge against
Hanif was for inciting co-workers to slow down work. There was evidence before
the tribunal to the effect that Hanif roamed about in the department and
incited workers to slow down work and that evidence was considered by the
tribunal. It also appears that the tribunal accepted that evidence and the
final conclusion at which the tribunal arrived was that Hanif was rightly
chargesheeted by the appellant and the appellant should be permitted to dismiss
him. In the circumstances it cannot be said so far as this workman is concerned
that there was no evidence to support the charge actually framed against him.
It would also be wrong to say that the tribunal did not find that the charge
actually framed against him had been proved, though it may be admitted that
there is an undercurrent in the discussion as if Hanif was guilty of go-slow
himself. Even so the tribunal appears to 830 have found him guilty of inciting
other workers and this would clearly be misconduct understanding order No. 22
(k), for which a workman Could be dismissed. In the circumstances we arc of
opinion that there is no reason for our interference with the order of the
tribunal in the case of Hanif.
The next workman is Narayan. He was also
charged with having incited other workers to slow down work. In his case also
the tribunal apparently came to the conclusion that he took part in deliberate
slow-down, but during the discussion in the award, the tribunal started by
saying that he was charged with inciting other workers to slow down work and
referred to the evidence which showed that Narayan had gone round in the
department and asked the workmen to work two looms instead of four and to give
low production. This evidence was apparently accepted by the tribunal, though
at the end of the discussion the tribunal did say that Narayan took part in
deliberate 'go-slow tactics. Though therefore the conclusion of the tribunal
with respect to Narayan seems to suggest as if he was dismissed for taking part
in go-slow himself, the discussion in the award with respect to him shows that
the tribunal was apparently satisfied that he had also incited other workers to
slow down. In the circumstances we do not think that a case has been made out
for interference with the order of the tribunal in the case of Narayan.
Then we come to the case of Khalil. He was
also charged with having incited other workers to slow down. In his case also
there was evidence that he had incited other workers to slow down which was
apparently accepted by the tribunal.
Though therefore the discussion in the award
was with respect to incitement by this workman, at the end however the tribunal
came to the conclusion that the appellant had succeeded in proving that Khalil
was 831 indulging in go-slow tactics, causing fall in production and therefore
the tribunal permitted the dismissal of Khalil for the misconduct of
slowing-down as shown in the charge-sheet.
It seems that tribunal has not expressed its
conclusion in this and other cases in proper words and has perhaps taken the
incitement of other workmen to slow down work as amounting to the misconduct of
go-slow by the workman himself. But the entire discussion in the award shows
that the tribunal had accepted the evidence to the effect that Khalil was
inciting his co-workers to slow down. In this view of the matter we arc of
opinion that there is no reason to interfere with the order passed by the tribunal
simply because its conclusion was not expressed in appropriate words.
Next we come to the case of Abdul Subhan. In
his case also the charge was for inciting other workmen to slow-down work.
The evidence was that he incited other
workers to work two looms ,instead of four. This evidence was apparently
accepted by the tribunal but in the end it said that the appellant had
succeeded in proving that Abdul Subhan had indulged in go-slow tactics and
therefore permitted his dismissal. Here again it seems to us that the
conclusion of the tribunal has been expressed in inappropriate words, though
the real finding is that Abdul Subhan had incited other workers and thus
brought about go-slow. In his case also therefore we see no reason to interfere
with the finding of the tribunal.
Next we come to Bbagwan Singh. He was charged
with incitement of other workers to slow down work and evidence was led before
the tribunal that Bhagwan Singh went round instigating the weavers not to work
more than two looms, though they were expected to work on four looms. This
evidence was apparently accepted by the tribunal, though it expressed its
conclusion by saying that Bhagwan 832 Singh had committed the misconduct of
deliberate go-slow tacticts. Here again, we are of opinion that the conclusion
of the tribunal has been expressed in inappropriate words, though in fact it
did find that Bhagwan Singh was guilty of inciting other workers to slow down.
We therefore see no reason to interfere with the order of the tribunal with respect
to Bhagwan Singh.
Next we come to Ram Ekbal. His case is
exactly similar to that of Bhagwan Singh and the evidence is also exactly the
same. In the circumstances we see no reason to interfere with the order of the
tribunal in his case either.
Next we come to Mangroo. The charge against
him was of incitement of other workers to slow down work. In his case also the
evidence was that he went round in the weaving-shed asking the weavers to work
two looms instead of four looms.
This evidence was apparently accepted by the
tribunal, though it expressed its conclusion inappropriately to the effect that
Mangroo had adopted go-slow tactics as shown in the charge-sheet and therefore
his dismissal was permitted.
We are of opinion that the conclusion of the
tribunal in this case also was expressed inappropriately but in fact the
finding was that Mangroo had incited other workers to goslow. As we have
already said, the tribunal seems to think that this incitement of other workers
to go-slow amounts to adoption of deliberate go-slow tactics by the person who
is guilty of incitement and that is why the tribunal expressed its final
conclusion in words which we consider inappropriate. But in substance the
finding is that Mangroo was guilty of inciting other workers to go-slow. We
therefore see no reason to interfere with the finding of the tribunal with
respect to Mangroo.
Next we come to Satish. He was also charged
with inciting other workmen to go-slow. There was 833 evidence before the
tribunal that Satish incited other weavers to slow down work and this evidence
was apparently accepted by the tribunal. In his case also the tribunal
expressed its conclusion in inappropriate words by saying that it held that
Satish had indulged in go-slow tactics as charged in the chargesheet. It
therefore permitted his dismissal. We are however of opinion that on a
consideration of the discussion of the matter in the award the substance of the
finding is that Satish was guilty of inciting other workers. In the
circumstances we see no reason to interfere with the finding of the tribunal.
Lastly we come to Raja Ram. His case is
exactly similar to that of Satish and the evidence was also to the same effect
viz., that they were going round together and inciting other workers to slow down
work. In the circumstances we see no reason to interfere with the order of the
The next contention on behalf of the
respondents is that the tribunal should have allowed full wages to the workmen
in list "A' in whose case it had ordered reinstatement, and not merely 15
months' wages as it actually did. It is well settled that "under the
ordinary law of master and servant the power to suspend the servant without pay
could not be implied as a term in an ordinary contract of service between the
master and the servant but must arise either from an express term in the
contract itself or a statutory provision governing such contract: (see The
management of Hotel Imperial New Delhi v. Hotel Workers' Union (1). No
provision in the standing orders has been brought to our notice which entities
the appellant in this case to suspend the workman without payment of wages.
But, as held in The Hotel Imperial's case (1), where under s. 33 of the Act the
right of the employer to dismiss an employee except with the permission of the
industrial tribunal, was taken away, it would be (1)  1 S.C.R. 476.
834 open to the employer to suspend the
workman pending inquiry and permission of the tribunal. In such circumstances
'such a term in the contract of employment would be implied and the result
would be that if the tribunal granted the permission, the suspended Contract
would come to an end and there would be no further obligation on the part of
the employer to pay any wages after the date of suspension. If on the other
hand, the permission was refused, the workmen would be entitled to a] I their
wages from the date of suspension. It follows therefore that in the case of
those workmen who have been ordered to be reinstated there can be no
justification for depriving them of their wages from the date of the suspension
which in the case of the workmen in list 'A' to the reference, in view of the
agreement of December 23, 1957, must start from December 24, 1957.
Therefore, so far as these 15 workmen, out of
the 29 workmen, of list 'A' are concerned, who have been ordered to be
reinstated we see no reason for depriving them from their full wages for the
entire period from December 24, 1957.
The appeal of the respondents therefore with
reference to these fifteen workmen in list 'A' must be allowed and the order of
the tribunal is hereby varied to the effect that they will be paid full wages
from December 24, 1957.
As to the five workmen in list 'B' to the
reference, one workman, namely, Hiralal Bhomick, was ordered to be reinstated
by the tribunal and he was allowed compensation equivalent to 15 months' wages.
His case in our opinion is on a par with the case of the fifteen workmen in
list 'A' which we have considered above and he will therefore be entitled to
his full wages from the date of his suspension and not only 15 months' wages as
ordered by the tribunal.
Then we come to the case of nine workmen from
list "A' whose cases we have already considered 835 and who were permitted
to be dismissed. Further there are four workmen of list 'B' namely., Misra (No.
1), Abdullah (No. 2), Narayan Tewari (No. 5) and Din Mohd. (No. 6), whose
services were allowed to be terminated with effect from the date of the
enforcement of the award. The first nine workmen were allowed 12 months' wages
while the other four workmen were paid wages for a period of one month along
with compensation equivalent to 15 days' average pay for each completed year of
service or any part thereof in excess of six months. It is contended on behalf
of the respondents that these workmen should have been allowed full wages upto
the date the award became enforceable, even though the tribunal had eventually
permitted their dismissal or allowed their services to be terminated.
I So far as the nine workmen in list 'A' are
concerned, their case in our opinion is fully covered by the decision of this
Court in Messrs Sasa Musa Sugar Works (P) Ltd. v. Shobrati Khan (1). Clause (9)
of the agreement which permitted the continuance of the suspension of these
workmen, also provided that they shall remain suspended pending inquiry and
disciplinary action by the management.
The clause went on to say that the management
would try to reach an amicable settlement with the union regarding disciplinary
action taken or to be taken by it against the workmen and that if the parties
failed to reach a settlement, the matter would be referred for adjudication.
The contention on behalf of the respondents
is that this clause clearly contemplated inquiry by the management followed by
disciplinary action and as the appellant held no inquiry whatsoever and
straightaway applied when the dispute was referred for adjudication, for
permission to dismiss these workmen they would be entitled to full wages till
the date of the enforcement of the award. On the other hand it is contended on
behalf of the appellant that though cl. (9) envisaged inquiry and (1) 
Supp 2 S.C.R. 836.
836 disciplinary proceedings against the
suspended workmen it also provided that the management would try to reach an amicable
settlement with the union, failing which there would be a reference to
adjudication. It is said that in view of this the appellant held no inquiry.
Particularly, the factory manager stated that he had discussions with the
secretary of the union over the matter of these workmen and no settlement could
be reached. He also stated that the management wanted to hold inquiries but the
Secretary of the union stated that no useful purpose would be served by holding
inquiries because before final action was taken by the management, it had to
consult the union. This statement was made by the factory manager who appeared
as the last witness in the case. The secretary of the union appeared long
before as the first witness in the case and he was not questioned on this
matter at all. No such case was made out even in the application for permission
to dismiss which was filed on,' June 29, 1959, to the effect that the inquiries
were not held because the secretary of the union suggested that it would be
useless to do so; nor was any such allegation made in the written-statement of
In the circumstances it would be difficult to
hold that the reason why no inquiry was held was that the respondents did not
want the inquiry. In the circumstances therefore this is a case where the
management wanted to dismiss the workmen without having held an inquiry and the
decision in Sasa Musa case (1), would be fully applicable to these nine workmen
who have been permitted to be dismissed and they would be entitled to full
wages from December 23, 1957 till the date the tribunal's award permitting
dismissal becomes enforceable.
Lastly we come to the case of the four
workmen whose services have been allowed to be terminated. Nothing was urged
before us with respect to the (1) (1959) Supp. 2 S.C.R, 836.
837 order permitting termination of service.
Nor do we think that the order of the tribunal in this behalf is wrong. In
their case the tribunal has said that if the inquiry proceedings had not been
defective, these four persons would be liable to dismissal as ordered by the
appellant. It is only because there was defect in the inquiry proceedings as
stated above that it was held that the dismissal was unjustified. The tribunal
therefore went on to permit the termination of service of these four workmen
under one of the standing orders and finally ordered payment of wages for, a
period of one month along with compensation at the rate of 15 days average
wages for every completed year of service or any part thereof in excess of six
months. The circumstances of the case are not exactly similar to those in the
Sasa Musa case (1), and therefore the principle of that case would not
necessarily apply. In the circumstances we do not think that we should
interfere with the order of the tribunal.
In the result, the award of the tribunal is
affirmed in the light of and subject to the above modifications; and
consequently the appeal by the management is dismissed and by the workmen
allowed only with respect to the grant of wages in the manner indicated above.
In the circumstances parties will bear their own costs in both appeals.
C. A. 425 of 1962 dismissed.
C. A. 426 of 1962 allowed in part.
(1)  Supp 2 S.C.R. 836.