Employers In Relation to The Bhowra
Colliery Vs. Their Workmen  INSC 30 (30 January 1962)
Industrial Dispute-Bonus-Malis Working in officers bungalows-Whether entitled-Coal Mines Provident Fund and Bonus
Schemes Act, 1948 (46 of 1948) s. 5.
In exercise of the power conferred by 5. 5 of
the Coal Mines Provident Fund and Bonus Schemes Act, 1948, the Central
Government framed a Bonus Scheme for the payment of bonus to employees of coal
mines. Paragraph 3 of the scheme made every employee in a coal mine eligible
for a bonus except, infer alia, "a mali on domestic and personal
work". The question for consideration was whether under this paragraph the
malis working in the officers' bungalows had any right to bonus.
^ Held, that these malis were not entitled to
any bonus under the Bonus Scheme. Paragraph 3 contemplated malis who were employees of the colliery owners and were yet on domestic work.
Domestic meant as of the home. The malis 884 who were working in the bungalows occupied by the officers, were working in the
homes of the officers. They were therefore, on domestic work.
The work they were doing did not cease to be
domestic work because the bungalows belonged not to the officers but to the
appellant or because they were under the control and orders of the appellant.
Further, these malis were on personal work. The word "personal" was
used in the sense of work for an individual as distinguished from work for the
coal mine as an institution. These malis were undoubtedly working for the
officers as individuals.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 96 of 1961.
Appeal by special leave from the award dated
December 7, 1959, of the central Government Industrial Tribunal Dhanbad in
reference No. 42 of 1959.
S.C. Banerjee and P. K. Chatterjee, for the
Janardan Sharma, for the respondent.
1962. January 30. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by SARKAR, J.-The appellants, the Bhowra Kankanee Coal Co. Ltd.,
own the Bhowra and other collieries. On the Bhowra Colliery there are a number
of residential bungalows belonging to the appellants occupied by their officers
employed in the colliery. The appellants employ certain malis for working as
such in these bungalows and their duty is to look after and maintain the
gardens there. A dispute along between the appellants and their workmen as to
whether these malis, who were fourteen in number, were entitled to bonus. By an
order made on June 23, 1959, under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the
Government of India referred this dispute along with another with which we are
not concerned in this case, for adjudication to the Industrial Tribunal,
The Points referred concerning the dispute
above mentioned were in these terms:
(1) Whether the withdrawal of the benefit of
bonus provided in the Coal Mines Bonus 885 Scheme by the management of the
Bhowra Colliery from the following garden mazdoor/malis is justified. If not,
to what relief are they entitled and from what date? (2) Whether the garden
mazdoors/malis referred to above are employed on domestic and personal work
within the meaning of paragraph 3 (b) of the Coal Mines bonus Scheme, 1948 and
if not, to what relief are they entitled and from what dates The points so
referred were decided by the Tribunal against the appellants by an award made
on December 7, 1959, and the present appeal is against that award.
Till January 1, 1955, the Bhowra and certain
other collieries managed as a group, were owned by the Eastern Coal Company
Ltd., and on that date these collieries were sold to the appellants. At the
time when this sale was being arranged, the workmen in these collieries raised
a dispute that their services should be treated as continuous inspite of the
transfer of the collieries from one owner to another by the sale and that the
conditions of their service and the facilities which they were enjoying under
the previous owners should be guaranteed and continued by the succeeding
owners, that is the appellants, after the latter took over the collieries. At
the instance of the conciliation officer appointed under the Act this dispute
was settled by an agreement made on January 14, 1955, to which the Conciliation
officer the workmen the previous owners and the appellants were parties.
Paragraph 3 of this agreement provided as follows: "Agreed that the
existing service conditions and the facilities will be continued, excepting pension."
Now in 1948 an Act called the Coal Mines Provident Fund and Bonus Schemes Act
had been passed by s. 5 of which the Central Government was 886 empowered to
frame a bonus scheme for the payment of bonus to the employees of coal mines,
The Central Government had framed a Bonus Scheme under this provision in 1948
and since then the previous owners had been paying the malis employed for the
bungalow gardens belonging to the Bhowra Colliery, bonus in terms of it. In
1951 they once stopped the bonus but that caused an industrial dispute and they
thereupon restored the bonus. Upto the acquisition of the Bhowra Colliery by
the appellants they position thus was that these malis had been receiving bonus
since 1948 excepting for a short period during which it had been stopped as
earlier mentioned. After they became the owners of the Bhowra Colliery, the
appellants however stopped the payment of bonus to these malis. This raised the
industrial dispute which had led to this appeal.
Paragraph 3 of the Bonus Scheme framed under
the Act, so far as relevant for this case, is in these terms:
Paragraph 3. Except as hereinafter provided
every employee in a coal mine to which this Scheme applies shall be eligible to
qualify for a bonus, Exceptions:- An employee in a coal mine shall not be
entitled to a bonus under the Scheme for the period during which- (a)
(b) he is employed as a mali, sweeper or
demestic servant on demestic and personal work;
One of the questions raised in this appeal is
whether the bungalow malis were entitled to bonus under this paragraph. The
appellants contended before the Tribunal that malis as a class were excepted
from the benefit of the Bonus Scheme by the provision 887 in exception (b) in
this paragraph. They further contended in the alternative that these malis were
excepted in any event because they were In malis employed on domestic and
personal work within the meaning of the exception. The Tribunal rejected these
contentions of the appellants and held (a) that these malis were entitled to
bonus under paragraph 3 of the agreement of January 14, 1955 and (b) that they
were not employed on domestic and personal work and were therefore not within
the exception. For these reasons the Tribunal held that the withdrawal of the
bonus by the appellants was not justified.
It is not clear on what ground the Tribunal
held that the malis were entitled to bonus under paragraph 3. of the agreement
of January 14, 1955.
It may be that the Tribunal thought that the
Bonus Scheme framed by the Central Government formed a condition of service of
the malis or a facility to which they were entitled and which the appellants
undertook by the agreement of January 14, 1955, to continue. If this was the
point of view, then of course the further question still remains whether the
malis were on domestic and personal work for if they were, then they would not
be entitled to the bonus as a facility or a condition of their service under
It was however contended on behalf of the
respondent workmen in this Court that the right to bonus was a condition of the
service of the malis and a facility to which they were entitled independently
of the Bonus Scheme and that this is what the Tribunal had held. The record
however is not very clear on this question. The appellants dispute the
contention of the workmen and further say that in any event the Tribunal had no
jurisdiction to decide that question for the question referred to it was the
right of the malis to bonus under the Bonus Scheme.
888 We think that the appellants' contention
is well founded. What had been referred was the question "whether the
withdrawal of the benefit of bonus Provided in the Coal Mines Bonus Scheme
...... is justified". On the language of the order of reference it seems
to us that the dispute referred was as to the right as provided in the Bonus
Scheme and not as to any other right. This also was the workmen's case before
the Tribunal as appears from its written statement filed there. In the
statement of case filed in this appeal also, the respondent took the same
position. We therefore think that if the Tribunal had held that the malis were
entitled to the bonus under the agreement of January 14, 1955 independently of
the Bonus Scheme it had exceeded its jurisdiction and its award cannot be
The question still remains as to whether on a
proper construction of paragraph 3 of the Bonus Scheme these malis had any
right to bonus. That was un-dubitably the question referred to the Tribunal.
The words requiring construction are "on domestic and personal work".
The Tribunal held that malis working in bungalows belonging to the appellants
were not working for the home or household of private persons or individuals
and were therefore not on domestic work. It also held that as the malis work
under the direction and control of the appellants and were liable to be
transferred from one bungalow to another or to some other work they were not on
personal work. We are unable to accept this construction of paragraph 3 of the
Bonus Scheme. Domestic means as of the home. We feel no doubt that the malis
who were working in the bungalows occupied by the officers were working in the
home of the officers.
They were, therefore, on domestic work. The
work they were doing would not cease to be domestic work because the bungalows
belonged not to the officers but to the appellants. Whether a work 889 is
domestic or not would depend on its nature.
Suppose an officer has employed his own mali
for working in the bungalow garden, that mali would surely be on domestic work.
This is not disputed.
The nature of that work would not change
because the the mali was working not under the orders of the officer occupying
the bungalow but under the appellants, nor because the bungalow did not belong
to the officer but to the appellants. Nor for the same reason does the fact
that the malis were employed by the appellants and not by the officers make any
differences The fact that Malis might be transferred to other jobs and cease to
be malis altogether is also irrelevant. On such transfer they might become
entitled to bonus. The exception in paragraph 3 deprives them of the bonus only
for the time they are malis on domestic and personal work.
Paragraph 3, of the Bonus Scheme contemplated
malis who were employees of the colliery owners and were yet on domestic work.
The Tribunal thought that paragraph 3 only contemplated cases of malis
appointed by the officers who were paid some allowance by the colliery owners
for keeping malis in the gardens of the bungalows occupied by them. It may be
that malis to engaged would be the employees of the colliery owners, as the
term employee is defined in the Act under which the Bonus Scheme was framed,
but we see no reason to restrict malis on domestic work referred to in
paragraph 3 to such malis only. As we have said earlier, whether a malis on
domestic work or not would depend on the nature of the work. As the work which
the malis with whom we are concerned did, was domestic work. these malis must
be deemed to be within the exception mentioned in paragraph
3. They would not cease to be malis on domestic work because they had been working in the bungalows belonging to the
appellants or were under their control and orders.
We further feel no difficulty in holding that
890 these malis were on personal work. The word "personal" is
obviously used in the sence of work for an individual as distinguished from
work for the Coal mine as an institution. These malis were undoubtedly working
for the officers as individuals. Therefore they were on personal work.
For these reasons in our view the malis in the present case were not entitled to any bonus under the Bonus Scheme. As in our
opinion the order of reference does not raise any question as to whether the
malis were entitled to bonus apart from the Bonus Scheme, it is unnecessary for
us to express any opinion on that question and we do not do so.
The result is that this appeal allowed and we
set aside the award of the Tribunal in so far as it is concerned with the two
points of dispute earlier set out which had been referred to it. We do not
think it a fit case to make any order for costs.