Management of M/S Pradip Lamp Works Vs.
Pradip Lamp Workers Karamcharya Sangh & ANR  INSC 287 (16 October
Industrial Dispute-Illegal strike by workmen
followed by unjustified lock-out by employers-Wages for period of lock- out
when blame apportionable between employers and Workmen- Adjournment for
producing evidence as to blame circumstances justifying.
There was a one-day strike by the workmen in
the appellant factory on February 27, 1964. On the same day the management
declared a lock-out which continued till March 22, 1964. The industrial dispute
being referred to the Tribunal, the latter found that the strike was illegal
and therefore the lock-out on February 27 was justified. The Tribunal however
held that the prolonged lock-out from February 28, onwards was unjustified. On
this finding the Tribunal awarded wages for the period of the lock-out after
February 28, 1964 to the workmen. In appeal by special leave before this Court
it was contended on behalf of the employers that the workmen were not free from
blame in the matter of lock-out and therefore in view of the decisions of this
Court only half the wages for the period of the unjustified lock-out should
have been awarded to the workmen. It was also submitted that the Tribunal was
wrong in refusing the appellant's prayer for adjournment which was sought for
the purpose of producing evidence regarding the blame for the lock-out.
HELD: (i) It was incumbent on the Tribunal to
apply its mind to the question of apportionment of blame on the two parties and
to its effect on the amount of wages to be awarded to the workmen for the
period of lock-out after February 28. 1964. The order of the Tribunal ignoring
this important aspect was difficult to sustain. (885 B-C] India General
Navigation and Railway Co. Ltd. v. Their Worknzeii,  2 S.C.R. 1, India
Marine Service Private Ltd. v. Their Workinen,  3 S.C.R. 575 and jeypore
Sugar Company Ltd. v. Their Employees.  1 L.L.J.
444, referred to.
(ii) On the facts of the case it would have
been more appropriate exercise of judicial discretion on the part of the
Tribunal to adjourn the case to the following day for the production of the
appellant's evidence, if necessary on payment of costs. [885 C-D] (iii) In the
circumstances of, the case it was not necessary to prolong the litigation by
remitting the case back to the Tribunal. It was more just and proper to end the
controversy by directing that half wages should be paid to the workmen for the
period of the lock-out from February 28, 1964. 1885 E]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 482 of 1967.
Appeal by special leave from the Award dated
October 13, 1966 of the Industrial Tribunal, Bihar, Patna in Reference No. 7 of
1964 pronounced on the November 10, 1966.
881 H. R. Gokhale, K. B. Rohtagi and S. P.
Wad, for the appellant, S. C. Manchanda, S. S. Khanduja and R. A. Gupta, for
respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Dua, J. This appeal by special leave is directed against the award of the
Industrial Tribunal, Bihar, dated October 13, 1966. by means of which the
workmen of the appellant were held entitled to wages for the period of the lock
out beginning with February 28, 1964 and ending with March 22, 1964.
On March 20, 1964 the Governor of Bihar
referred the following disputes to the Industrial Tribunal :
1. Whether the strike launched by the workers
on the morning of the 27th February, 1964, was justified ?
2. Whether the lock-out declared by the
Management is justified ?
3. Whether the workmen are entitled to wages
for the period of strike and/or lock-out ? On the first point the Tribunal came
to the conclusion that the strike by the workmen on February 27, 1964 was not
justified. As a result of this conclusion the lock-out declared by the
Management on February 27, 1964 was held to be justified but on a consideration
of the material placed before the Tribunal no justification for continuing- the
lock-out on the following days was shown. On this conclusion the Tribunal decided
under point No. 3 that the workmen were entitled to wages for the remaining
period of the lock-out.
In this Court the learned Advocate for the
appellant raised only two points. The first submission attacked the decision of
the Tribunal under point No. 2, where it is held that the lockout by the
Management was unjustified after February 27, 1964 and the second submission
assailed the decision under point No. 3 awarding to the workmen wages for the
period of lock-out between February 28, 1964 and March 22, 1964.
On the first point Shri Gokhale very frankly
conceded that the finding of fact arrived at by the Tribunal was not open to
challenge in the present appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution. He,
however, contended that the order of the Tribunal in this respect is open to
question on the ground that the appellant had been deprived of a reason-able
opportunity of adducing evidence in support of its case. He referred us to the
proceeding--, of the Tribunal held on September 29, 1966. On that date the
Tribunal recorded the following order 882 "Parties present. Management is
represented by Shri. Pandey S. Prasad, personal officer and the workmen are
represented by Shri Kalika Nandan Singh, Advocate, on behalf of Pradeep Lamp
Works Karamchari Sangh and Shri B. B.
Karan on behalf of Pradeep Lamp Workers'
Union. Shri Karan files written statement on behalf of his union today. This
written statement cannot be accepted it has been filed so late. The Workers'
Union may adduce its evidence if it so likes.
Hearing oil the case is taken up. As the
Karamchari Sangh pleaded its inability to start its evidence, the management is
called upon to produce its witnesses. The management examines M.W. 1.
Trilokinath Rastogi and M.W.
2 Shri R. M. Kahattriya who are discharged
after cross-examination. M.W. 1. proves Exts.
A, A-1, B, B/1, B/2 & B/l for the
Thereafter the management prays that the case
may be adjourned as it wants to examine more witnesses. The parties should have
come ready with all their evidence today. The prayer for adjournment by the
management is therefore rejected. Oral evidence on behalf of the management
closed. Union examined L.W.l.
Krishna Thakur who is discharged, after
cross- examination. As it is late, the case is adjourned for tomorrow for
Call for the letter of the Labour
Commissioner dated 13-3-64 on party's risk." The argument strongly pressed
on behalf of the appellant was that the Tribunal was wrong in rejecting the
appellant's prayer for adjournment when it had already given time to the
Karamchari Sangh to produce its evidence later because of its inability to
start its evidence in the first instance.
According to the appellant's argument the
discretion exercised by the Tribunil was arbitrary and contrary to the accepted
judicial procedure. In this connection our attention was also drawn to a
written application made by the appellant to the Tribunal on September 29, 1966
seeking an opportunity for producing the witnesses named therein, but the
prayer was disallowed by the Tribunal. The order of the Tribunal disallowing
the prayer was described the learned Advocate to be discriminatory and
violative of the recognised standards of judicial impartiality. Had the Sangh
been compelled to start its evidence, then, so proceeded the argument, the
appellant's oral evidence could not be closed because the case was ad journey
to the following day without concluding the recording of the evidence of the
Union and on that day the remaining evidence of the management could be
produced in the normal course.
883 On behalf of the respondent Shri
Manchanda tried to meet this argument by submitting that the parties must be
presumed to have been directed by the Tribunal on the previous hearing to come
ready with their oral evidence on September 29, 1966. To rebut this
presumption, argued Shri Manchanda, the appellant should have got printed the
previous order adjourning the case to September 29, 1966 for recording the
evidence of the parties. The learned Advocate also submitted that the question
whether or not a party is entitled to an adjournment for producing its evidence
is a matter of discretion and the exercise of discretion cannot be assailed on
appeal under Art. 136 of the Constitution.
The second point strongly urged by Shri
Gokhale relates to the grant of full wages to the workmen for the remaining
period of the lock-out. If the blame for the lock-out was apportionable to both
the parties the, according to the submission, full wages could not be awarded.
In such cases the normal practice, argued the learned Advocate, was to award
half of their wages. In support of this submission reference was, to begin
with, made to a decision of this Court as India General Navigation and Railway
Co. Ltd. v. Their Workmen. (1) At page 31 of the report this Court said :
"As regards the remaining workmen, the
question is whether the Tribunal was entirely correct in ordering their
reinstatement with full back wages and allowances on and from August 20, 1955,
till reinstatement. This would amount to wholly condoning the illegal act of
the strikers. On the findings arrived at before us, the workmen were guilty of
having participated in an illegal strike, for which they were liable to be
dealt with by their employers. It is also clear that the inquiry held by the
appellants, was not wholly regular as individual charge sheets had not been
delivered to the workmen proceeded against. When the blame attaches to both the
parties, we think that they should divide the loss half and half between them.
We, there- fore, direct that those workmen whose reinstatement by the Tribunal
is upheld by us, should be entitled only to half of their wages during the
period between the date of the cessation of the illegal strike (i.e. from
August 20, 1955) and the date the Award became enforceable. After that date
they will be entitled to their full wages, on reinstatement." (1)  2
Sup.(CI)170-11 884 The other decision cited
on this point is reported as India Marine Service Private Ltd. v. Their
Workmen.(1) At page 583 of the report it was observed thus :
"It is true that the strike was intended
to be a token one. But the object of that strike being to circumvent settlement
in an amicable manner, even though the company was ready for such settlement,
we have no doubt that strike was unjustified. It is in the light of this
finding that the lock-out has to be judged.
In our opinion, while the strike was
unjustified the lock-out when it was ordered on November 13, 1958, was
justified. It seems to us, however, that though the lock-out was justified at
its commencement its continuation for 53 days was wholly unreasonable and,
therefore, unjustified.. In a case where a strike is unjustified and is
followed by a lock-out which has because of its long duration, become
unjustified it would not be a proper course for an industrial tribunal to
direct the payment of the whole of the wages for the period of the lock-out. We
would like to make it clear that in a case where the strike is unjustified and
the lock-out is justified the workmen would not be entitled to any wages at
all. Similarly where the strike is justified and the lock-out is unjustified
the workmen would be entitled to the entire wages for the period of strike and
Where, however,. a strike is unjustified and
is followed by a lock-out which becomes unjustified a case for apportionment of
blame arises." In that case also the blame for the situation was
apportioned roughly half and half between the Company and the Workmen with the
result that the workmen were given half of their wages for the period in
The, respondent's learned Advocate, submitted
in reply that the management had been adopting dilatory tactics and there was a
very trivial instance of slapping a workman which had led to a demand by the
workmen for an apology from the offending party and this had led to the strike
and the lock out. In the background of this situation, the learned Advocate
contended, the order giving full wages to the workmen was fully justified. It
was emphasised that for one day when the strike was held to be illegal, the
workmen have been deprived of their wages completely. Thereafter they were
always willing to work but the management declared a lock out and continued the
same with- out any justification.
The learned Advocate referred us to a (1)
 3 S.C.R. 575.
885 pany Ltd. v. Their Employees(1) in
support of his submission that the assault on a workman was not a matter of
such a serious nature as would justify the management to declare the lock-out,
more particularly to continue it for such a long duration.
In our opinion, it was incumbent on the
Tribunal to apply its mind to the question of apportionment of blame on the two
parties and to its effect on the amount of wages to be awarded to the workmen
for the period of the lock out after February 28, 1964. The order of the
Tribunal ignoring this important aspect is infirm and is difficult to sustain.
In so far as the first question in concerned, prima facie, the order of the
Tribunal does appear to be somewhat arbitrary and injudicious and it would have
been more appropriate exercise of judicial discretion to adjourn the case to
the following day for the production of the appellant's evidence, if necessary,
on payment of costs. Had we decided to remit the case back to the Tribunal for
considering the question of the effect of both parties being blame worthy for
the lock out on the amount of wages to awarded, we would have perhaps thought
it proper also to direct the Tribunal to permit the appellant to adduce
evidence. This evidence, we were informed, was only sought to be adduced on the
question of apportionment of blame. On a consideration of all the facts and
circumstances of the case we, however, feel that it would be more just and
proper not to prolong this litigation and to put to an end to the controversy
by directing that half wages should be paid to the workmen for the period of
lock out from February 28, 1964.
We accordingly allow the appeal to the extent
stated but in the circumstances of the case there would be no order as to
(1)  2 L.L.J. 444.