Atherton West & Co. Ltd. Vs. Suti
Mill Mazdoor Union & Ors  INSC 22 (16 March 1953)
BHAGWATI, NATWARLAL H.
MAHAJAN, MEHR CHAND
CITATION: 1953 AIR 241 1953 SCR 789
CITATOR INFO :
R 1955 SC 258 (13) R 1957 SC 1 (7) RF 1957 SC
82 (19) RF 1957 SC 194 (3,5,6) R 1957 SC 326 (7) R 1958 SC 79 (22) R 1958 SC
761 (4) R 1959 SC 230 (20) RF 1959 SC 389 (16) R 1960 SC 160 (26) RF 1963 SC
677 (17) RF 1978 SC 995 (6,10)
U.P. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 ss. 3,
8--U. P. Government Notification No. 781 (L)/XVIII of March 10, 1948, cls. 4, 7, 23 Dismissal of workmen with permission of Regional Conciliation
Officer-Jurisdiction of Board to hear the dispute whether dispute ceases to be
an industrial dispute-Award of Board-Absence of one member during hearing-
Validity of award.
Under the provisions of clauses 4 and 7 (3)
of Notification No. 781 (L)/XVIII issued by the United Provinces Government on
March 10, 1948, the absence of one of the members of the Regional Conciliation
Board on the last date of hearing and his nonparticipation in the making and
signing of the award would not render the award void or inoperative.
The dismissal of workmen and their
non-employment would not cease to be An industrial dispute merely because the
Regional Conciliation Officer had given written permission to the employer to
dismiss them under clause 23 of the U.P. Government Notification of March 10,
1948. Such permission does not validate the dismissal but only removes the ban
on the right of the employer, his agent or manager to dismiss the workmen
concerned during the pendency of proceedings relating to an industrial dispute.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 8 of 1953.
Appeal by special leave from the decision
dated 16th August, 1951, of the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India, Calcutta,
in Appeal No. 43 of 1951 (Cal.).
C. K. Daphtaru, Solicitor-General for India, (Sri Narain Andley, with him) for the appellant. C. P. Varma for the respondent.
1953. March 16. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by BHAGWATI J.-This is an appeal by special leave from a decision of
the Labour Appellate Tribunal 'of India, Calcutta, confirming an award made by
the Regional Conciliation Board (Textiles & Hosiery), Kanpur, in an
industrial dispute between the appellants and the respondents.
781 The respondents 2, 3 and 4 were employees
of the appellants, respondent 2 was employed in the clerical cadre while
respondents 3 and 4 were employed as wrapping boy and piecer respectively and
their service conditions were governed-by the standing orders of the Employers'
Association of Northern India, Kanpur, of which association the' appellants
There was a theft in the canteen within the
mill premises between the night of January 6 and 7, 1950, and some money
belonging to the appellants invested in the canteen account was stolen from the
safe. A report of the theft was made to the police authorities and an investigation
was made by the police, as well as the appellants in the matter with no result.
The management of the appellants thereafter took action against one J. P.
Gurjar, who was in charge of the canteen in connection with the losses of money
from the account of the canteen and after the completion of the enquiries
terminated his services. An industrial dispute in respect of the non-employment
of the said J. P. Gurjar arose between the parties which dispute was at the
material time taken in appeal before the Industrial Court (Textiles &
Hosiery), Kanpur. During the pendency of those proceedings, some time in
August, 1950, the respondent 4 made a confession in regard to the said theft
implicating the respondents 2 and 3 also therein. On the 29th August, 1950, the
management of the appellants presented to the respondents 2,3 and 4
charge-sheets in respect of the said theft and suspended them on the 30th
August, 1950, from their service. They also made an application on the 2nd
September, 1950, to the Additional Regional Conciliation Officer, Kanpur,
asking for permission to dismiss the respondents 2, 3 and 4. The Additional
Regional Conciliation Officer, Kanpur, instituted an enquiry, heard the
respondents 2,3 and 4, considered the evidence which was led before him by the
appellants as well as the respondents 2,3 and 4 and made an order on the 12th
October, 1950, according to the appellants permission for the dismissal of the
782 respondents 2, 3 and 4. The respondents 2, 3 and 4 were accordingly
dismissed from their employ by the appellants with effect from the 13th
An industrial dispute thereupon arose between
the appellants and respondents 2, 3 and 4 in respect of the -non-employment of
respondents 2,3 and 4 and respondent 1, a registered trade union, of Which the
respondents 2, 3 and 4 were members, ultimately moved the Regional Conciliation
Board (Textiles and Hosiery), Kanpur, on the 1st November, 1950, challenging
the propriety and bona fides of the appellants in terminating the services of
respondents 2, 3 and 4.
The appellants filed their written statement
on the 25th November, 1950, contending inter alia that the dismissal was fully
justified, regular and proper, having' been made in accordance with the
permission accorded by the Additional Regional Conciliation Officer. The only
issue which was canvassed before the Regional Conciliation Board was whether
any or all of the three workmen named in the application dated the 1st
November, 1950, has/have been wrongfully dismissed and if so, to what relief is
The Board consisted of three members, Shri R.
P. Maheshwari, Chairman, and Shri B. B. Singh and Shri J. K. Bhagat, Members.
Shri J. K. Bhagat was not present on the last date of the hearing and the award
was therefore signed on the 20th April, 1951, by Shri R. P. Maheshwari and Shri
B. B. Singh. Under the terms of the award the Board held that the dismissal was
wrongful and that the respondents 2, 3 and 4 were entitled to reinstatement as
also to the full wages, including dearness allowance from the date of their
suspension to the date they were taken back on duty.
The appellants preferred an appeal to the
Labour Appellate Tribunal of India, Calcutta. The appeal was heard on the 16th
August, 1951, and the Labour Appellate Tribunal dismissed the appeal of the
appellants. The appellants obtained special leave from this Court and filed the
783 Two contentions were urged by Shri C. K.
Daphtary who appeared for the appellants before us-(1) that the award was void
and inoperative as it was made by only two members of the Board, the third,
member, Shri J. K. Bhagat not having- been present at the last hearing and-not
having signed the same and (2) that the Additional Regional Conciliation
Officer having given the written permission for dismissal of respondents 2, 3
and 4 no industrial dispute could arise by reason of the -non-employment of
respondents 2, 3 and 4 and the Regional Conciliation Board had therefore no
jurisdiction to entertain the application made before it by respondent 1 on
behalf of the respondents 2, 3 and 4 and the award of the Regional Conciliation
Board ordering the reinstatement of respondents 2, 3 and 4 was therefore
without jurisdiction, void and inoperative and the Labour Appellate Tribunal was
in error in confirming the same.
In support of his first contention Shri C. K.
Daphtary relied upon clause 4 and clause 7, sub-clause (3) of the G.
N. No. 781 (L)/XVIII, dated 10th March, 1948,
issued by the United Provinces Government regarding the constitution of
Regional Conciliation Boards and Industrial Courts for the settlement of
industrial disputes within the State.
Clause 4-" No business may be transacted
at any meeting of any Board unless all the three members are present Clause 7
(3)-" Where no amicable settlement can be reached on one or more issues
the Board, if all the members thereof agree or if they do not so agree, the
majority of,the members -agreeing or if no two members agree, the Chairman
alone, shall record an award and the reasons for such award, on the issues -on
which the parties were unable to reach an amicable settlement." Shri C. K.
Daphtary therefore urged that Shri J. K. Bhagat not having been present at the
last meeting of the Board and not having signed the 784 award the award could
not be lawfully made by the Chairman and the other member who were present and
who signed the award and the award was therefore void and inoperative.
Shri C. P. Varma who represented the
respondent before us however drew tour attention to the Government Order No. 388(11)/
XVIII/37 (LL)-/50 dated 2nd March, 1951, which amended the above clauses 4 and
Clause 4 as amended provides:- " (1)
Notice of every meeting of the Board shall be given to the members by the
Chairman in advance.
( 2) If apart from the Chairman either or
both the other members fail to attend any meeting of the Board of which notice
has been given to them, the Chairman may transact the business' of the Board
without the presence of the absent member or members ; and no such business or
proceedings, of the Board shall be held invalid merely by reason of the fact
that either one or both of the members were not present at the meeting."
Clause 7 (3) as amended provides:- "Where no amicable settlement can be
reached on one or more issues, if all the members present agree the Board or if
they do not so agree the majority of the members agreeing 'or if no two members
present agree or if only the Chairman is present, he alone, shall record an
award and the reasons for such award on the issues on which the parties were
unable to reach an amicable settlement." These amendments in the clauses 4
and 7 (3) are enough in our opinion to repel the contention of Shri C. K.
Daphtary that the absence of Shri J. K. Bhagat from the last meeting and also
his non-participation in the making and signing of the award rendered.the award
void and inoperative. The Board was empowered under the amended clauses 4 and
7(3) to act in the absence of Shri J. K. Bhagat and the award as it was made
and signed by the two remaining members, viz., Shri R. P. Maheshwari and Shri
B. B. Singh, was lawful and binding on the parties.
785 In support of his second contention Shri
C. K. Daphtary relied upon clauses 23 and 24 of the Government Notification
dated the 10th March, 1948, above referred to.
Clause 23 :-" Save with the written
Permission of the Regional Conciliation Officer or the Assistant Regional
Conciliation Officer concerned irrespective of the fact whether an enquiry is
pending before a Regional Conciliation Board-or the Provincial Conciliation
Board or an appeal has been filed before the Industrial Court, no employer, his
agent or manager, shall discharge or dismiss any workmen during the continuance
of an enquiry or appeal and pending the issue of the orders of the State
Government upon the findings of the said Court...........
Clause 24:-"(1) Except as hereinbefore
provided every order made or direction issued under the provisions of this
Order shall be final and conclusive and shall not be questioned by any party
thereto in any proceeding...........
Shri C. K. Daphtary contended that the order
made by the Additional Regional Conciliation Officer on the 12th October' 1950,
giving the appellants permission to dismiss respondents 2, 3 and 4 was final
and conclusive in regard to the appellants' right to dismiss them from their
employ and their dismissal accordingly by the appellants could not be the
foundation of any industrial dispute which could be referred to the Regional
Conciliation Board at the instance of respondent 1. He further contended that
if no industrial dispute could thus arise the Regional Conciliation, Board had
no jurisdiction to entertain the same and the award made by the Board was
therefore without jurisdiction, -void and inoperative and could not also be
confirmed by the Labour Appellate Tribunal.
We are unable to accept this contention. The
Government Notification dated 10th March, 1948, was issued by the Governor of
the United Provinces in exercise of the powers conferred by clauses (b), (c),
786 (d) and (g) of section 3 and section 8 of the ,United Provinces Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947. It provided for the constitution by the Provincial
Government of such number of Conciliation Boards as might be deemed necessary
for the settlement of industrial disputes consisting of three members of which
one was to be the Conciliation Officer for the area, one was to be
representative of the employers and one was to be the representative of
workmen, the Conciliation Officer for the area being the Chairman of the Board.
The order provided for the mode in which industrial disputes may be referred to
the Board for enquiry and the manner in which the enquiry was to be conducted.
It also provided for the constitution by the Provincial Government of such
number of Industrial Courts as it might be necessary consisting of a President
assisted by such equal number of assessors as the President might determine
representing employers and employees. Provision was made for appeals to such
Industrial Courts from the awards of the Board and also for the hearing of the
said appeals. After making further provision for the procedure to be adopted
before the Boards as well as the Industrial Courts, the Order by clause 23
above mentioned imposed a' ban on the discharge or dismissal of any workman by
the employer, his agent or manager during the pendency of an enquiry before the
Regional Conciliation Board or the Provincial Conciliation Board or of an appeal
before the Industrial Court except with the written permission of the Regional
Conciliation Officer or the Assistant Regional Conciliation Officer concerned
and by clause 24 made every order or direction issued under the provisions of
the said Government Order final and conclusive except as therein before
It is clear that clause 23 imposed a ban on
the discharge or dismissal of any workman pending the enquiry of an industrial
dispute before the Board or an appeal before the Industrial Court and the
employer, his agent or manager could only discharge or dismiss 787 the workman
with the written permission of the Regional Conciliation Officer or the
Assistant Regional Conciliation Officer concerned. Even if such) written
permission was forthcoming the employer, his I agent or manager might or might
not discharge or, dismiss the workman and the only effect of such written
permission would be to remove the ban against the discharge or dismissal of the
workman during the pendency of those proceedings. The Regional Conciliation
Officer or the Assistant Regional Conciliation Officer concerned would
institute an enquiry and come to the conclusion whether there was a prima facie
case made out for the discharge or dismissal of the workman and the employer,
his agent or manager was not actuated by any improper motives or did not resort
to any unfair practice or victimisation in the matter of the proposed discharge
or dismissal of the workman. But he was not entrusted, as the Board or the
Industrial Court would be, with the duty of coming to the conclusion whether
the discharge or dismissal of the workman during the pendency of the
proceedings was within the rights of the employer, his agent or manager.
The enquiry to be conducted by the Regional
Conciliation Officer or the Assistant Regional Conciliation Officer concerned
was not an enquiry into an industrial dispute as to the non-employment of the
workman who was sought to be discharged or dismissed, which industrial dispute
would only arise after an employer, his agent or manager discharged or
dismissed the workman in accordance with the written permission obtained from
the officer concerned. This was the only scope of the enquiry before the
Regional Conciliation Officer or the Assistant Regional Conciliation Officer
concerned and the effect of the written permission was not to validate the
discharge or dismissal but merely to remove the ban on the powers of the
'employer, his agent or manager to discharge or dismiss the workman during the
pendency of the proceedings. Once such written permission was granted by him
that 102 788 ,order made or direction issued by him was to be final land
conclusive and was not to be questioned by any party thereto in any
proceedings. The only effect of )clause 24(1) was to prevent any party to the
pending proceedings from challenging the written permission thus granted by the
officer concerned Such written permission could not be made the subject-matter
of any appeal at the instance of either party and both the parties would be
bound by the order made or direction issued by the officer concerned so far as
it gave or refused the permission to the employer, his agent or manager in the
matter of the proposed discharge or dismissal of the workman.
This was the only scope of the provisions of
clauses 23 and 24 (1) above. mentioned. '-Once the written permission was
granted by the officer concerned, the ban against the discharge or dismissal of
the workman would be removed and the employer, his agent or manager could in
the exercise of his discretion discharge or dismiss the workman but in that
event an industrial dispute within the meaning of its definition contained in
section 2(k) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, would arise and the workmen
who had been discharged or dismissed would be entitled to have that industrial
dispute referred to the Regional Conciliation Board for enquiry into the Same.
That right of the workman to raise an industrial dispute could not be taken
away in the manner suggested by Shri C. K. Daphtary by having resort to the
provisions of clauses 23 and 24(1) aforesaid. That right was given to the
workman by the terms of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the U.P. Industrial
Disputes Act, XXVIII of 1947, and would remain unaffected by any of the
provisions hereinbefore referred to.
We are therefore, of the opinion that this
contention of Shri C. K. Daphtary also fails.
We may before concluding advert to one circumstance
and that is that even though the Labour Appellate Tribunal rightly confined its
jurisdiction to 789 determining substantial questions of law involved in the
appeal, it nevertheless observed that even on the) facts the conclusions of the
Board were perfectly justified and there was no substance in the appeal on
merits as well. The appellants were not heard at all on merits; and it was
hardly legitimate for the Labour, Appellate Tribunal suo motu to consider the
merits of the appeal and arrive at a finding in regard to the same.' If at all
the Labour Appellate Tribunal bad any jurisdiction in regard to the merits it
was incumbent upon it to have heard the appellants in regard to the merits
before arriving at a conclusion in regard to the same.
The result is that this appeal fails and must
be dismissed with costs.
Agent for the appellant : S. S. Shukla.