M/S. Muller & Phipps (India) Ltd.
Vs. K. C. Sud  INSC 72 (11 April 1960)
GUPTA, K.C. DAS GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B.
CITATION: 1960 AIR 1028 1960 SCR (3) 508
Industrial Dispute-Scheme for gratuity-Claim
for gratuity by workmen under the scheme in addition to retrenchment
compensation If must depend on the construction of the scheme-Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947), S. 25F.
The Labour Court, Delhi, made an award
framing gratuity scheme, one of the provisions being that on the termination of
service by the company, the workmen shall be entitled to half a month's basic
salary or wage for each year of completed service as gratuity. The respondent
who was retrenched had received compensation under S. 25F of the Industrial
Disputes Act made an application under s. 33C of the Act claiming the gratuity
in accordance with the scheme in addition to the retrenchment compensation
already received. The contention of the appellant was that the gratuity which
the respondent claims was in essence the same thing as compensation for the
retrenchment and to allow gratuity in addition to the retrenchment compensation
under s. 25F would be to give double benefit for the same event, i. e.,
Held, that whether retrenched workmen can
claim the benefit of a gratuity scheme in addition to the retrenchment compensation
would depend on the construction of the material terms of 509 the scheme
considered in the light of s. 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The
reasonable conclusion from the present scheme is that the gratuity that could
be claimed under the award was intended to be in addition to the retrenchment
compensation and not in lieu thereof. The respondent was entitled to such
gratuity even though he had already received payment of compensation for
retrenchment in accordance with the provisions of S. 25F of the Act.
Indian Hume Pipe Co. v. Its Workmen,  2
S.C.R. 32, followed.
Bramachayi Research Institute v. Its Workmen,
 2 S.C.R. 45, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 147 of 1960.
Appeal by special leave from the decision
dated May 18, 1959, of the Labour Court, Delhi, in L.C.A. No. 53/1959.
Purshottam Tricumdas, S. N. Andley, J. B.
Dadachanji and Rameshwar Nath, for the appellants.
Sukumar Ghose, for the respondent.
1960. April 11. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by DAS GUPTA, J.-This appeal is against an order of the Judge, Labour
Court, Delhi, in an application under s. 33C of the Industrial Disputes Act by
the respondent, K. C. Sud, by which the Court computed the amount due to the
petitioner by way of gratuity under an award to be Rs. 80.42 np. only.
Sud, who was a workman of the appellant
company, M/s. Muller & Phipps (India) Ltd. was retrenched by the company on
January 31, 1958. At that time a reference on the question of introduction of a
gratuity scheme for the workmen of the company was pending before the
Industrial Tribunal. An application by Sud against this order of retrenchment
under S. 33A failed. In the reference abovementioned the Court made an award
framing a gratuity scheme in the following terms:" On the death of an
employee while in the service of the company, or on his becoming physically or
mentally incapable of further service, half a month's basic salary or wages for
each year of continuous service shall be paid to the disabled employees, or if
he has died, to his heirs or legal representatives or assigns.
67 510 On voluntary retirement or resignation
of an employee, after five years' continuous service, half a month's basic
salary or wages for each year of continuous service.
On termination of service by the company,
half a month's basic salary or wages for each year of completed service. "
The scheme was also made applicable with effect from the date on which the
reference had been made, viz., June 28,1957. It was on the basis of this award
that Sud has made his application under s. 33C, his case being that as his
retrenchment amounted to termination of service within the meaning of the award
he was entitled to half a month's basic salary for each year of completed
service. Admittedly he had completed two years of service. It is also not
disputed that his basic wage at the time of retrenchment was Rs. 80.42 np. If,
therefore, he is entitled to have a gratuity in accordance with the scheme of
the award the amount due to him will be Rs. 80.42 DP.
of the many contentions raised on behalf of
the company in resisting the petition, all of which were rejected by the Court
below, the only one which is pressed before us is on the question whether the
respondent is entitled to recover gratuity under this scheme in addition to the
compensation, he bad admittedly received already in accordance with the
provisions of s. 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act. In support of this
contention it is urged that the gratuity which the respondent claims is in
essence the same thing as compensation for his retrenchment and to allow him
gratuity in addition to retrenchment compensation -under s. 25F would be to
give double benefit for the same event i.e., retrenchment. This it is urged is
unfair to the employer and is against the Industrial Disputes Act.
The question whether a double benefit of a
gratuity scheme as well as retrenchment compensation can be given to workmen,
came up for consideration before this Court in Indian Hume Pipe Co. v. Its
Workers (1). This Court there considered in some detail the real nature and
object of the retrenchment compensation (1)  2 S.C.R. 32.
511 provided by s. 25F of the Industrial
Disputes Act and the nature and object of a gratuity scheme as a retirement
benefit. It pointed out that while gratuity is intended to help workmen after
retirement to whatever cause the retirement may be due to, the retrenchment
compensation is intended to give relief for the sudden and unexpected
termination of employment by giving partial protection to the retrenched person
and his family to enable them to tide over the hard period of unemployment. The
Court also traced the history of development of the industrial law as regards
gratuity schemes and retrenchment compensations, and after a full consideration
of the question, came to the conclusion that there was nothing in law to
prevent a workman from getting double benefit, one under a gratuity scheme and
the other as retrenchment compensation. The Court however took care to point
out that gratuity schemes may be so framed, whether by consent or by award,
that retrenchment compensation is there under payable only in lieu of gratuity
and again they may be so framed as to provide for payment of gratuity in
addition to retrenchment compensation.
Accordingly, the Court laid it down that the
question as to whether retrenched workmen can claim the benefit of a gratuity
scheme in addition to the retrenchment compensation under s. 25F or not would
depend on the construction of the material terms of the scheme considered in
the light of the provisions of s. 25F of the Act.
On the very day this pronouncement was made
the Court also delivered judgment in Brahmachari Research Institute v. lts
Workmen (1) in which the question as indicated above fell to be considered. In
Brahmachari's case the Court after mentioning that the general question as to
double benefits of retrenchment compensation and gratuity being available to
workmen had already been considered in the Indian Hume Pipe Company's case
proceeded to examine the award that had been made in a dispute between the
Institute and its workmen to ascertain whether gratuity in addition to
retrenchment compensation was provided thereby. The Court pointed out that in
that award (1)  2 S.C.R. 45.
512 the word ' gratuity' had been used to
cover all three cases, viz., (i) retrenchment, (ii) termination of service by
any reason other than misconduct and (iii) resignation with the consent of the
management ; what deserved special notice was that cases of retrenchment as
such were specifically covered by the award. It was of opinion that such
payment to workmen for retrenchment as such did not lose its character of
retrenchment compensation by reason of the mere fact that it was described as
gratuity. It was mainly on the basis of this fact that the award had provided
gratuity for retrenchment as such in addition to gratuity for other modes of
termination of service that the Court decided in Brahmachari's case that the
gratuity there on retrenchment was nothing more or less than compensation on
account of retrenchment as provided under s. 25F of the Act and decided that
the workmen were entitled to only one or the other, whichever is more
advantageous to them.
If we examine the award in the case before us
in the light of the two decisions of the Court mentioned above the first thing
that strikes us is that this award did not make any provision for gratuity for
retrenchment as such. It is important to notice that the workmen themselves in
their statement of claim had urged for a distinct provision for retrenchment in
addition to other modes of termination of service. The Tribunal however made no
special provision for retrenchment but provided in its scheme of gratuity for
three classes of cases, namely, (i) on the death of an employee or on his
becoming physically or mentally incapable of further service, (ii) on voluntary
retirement or resignation and (iii) on termination of service by the company.
Retrenchment, it is true, will fall within the termination of service. That,
however, as is clear from the above cases, cannot by itself justify a
conclusion that the gratuity that could be claimed under such a scheme in case
of retrenchment was in lieu of retrenchment compensation.
If the intention was that in cases of
retrenchment the gratuity will be in lieu of retrenchment compensation provided
under s. 25F the obvious thing would be to make separate provisions for
gratuity for retrenchment as such and 513 gratuities for other modes of
termination of service. That was the method followed in the award that fell for
consideration in Brahmachari's case. That method has however not been followed
in the award that we have to consider here. In this case there is no specific
reference in the award to retrenchment as such. The reasonable conclusion from
the scheme as drawn up is that the gratuity that could be claimed under this
award by retrenched workmen because of the fact that retrenchment is also one
kind of termination of service within the meaning of the award was intended to
be in addition to the retrenchment compensation and not in lieu thereof.
The decision in Brahmachari's case on the
special facts of the award therein is therefore of no assistance to the
appellant. We are bound to hold on an examination. of the award in the present
case that the gratuity which the respondent claims on the basis of the award is
distinct from and in addition to the retrenchment compensation he has received.
We are of opinion therefore that the Tribunal was right in holding that the
respondent is entitled to such gratuity even though he has already received
payment of compensation for retrenchment in accordance with the provisions of
s. 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act.
The appeal is accordingly dismissed with