Bombay Labour Union Representing the
Workmen of Messrs V. Messrs International Franchises Pvt. Ltd.  INSC 238
(3 November 1965)
03/11/1965 WANCHOO, K.N.
GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ) HIDAYATULLAH, M.
CITATION: 1966 AIR 942 1966 SCR (2) 477
RF 1981 SC1829 (92)
Industrial Dispute--Rule terminating
employment of women automatically on marriage--Validity of rule-Industrial
adjudication whether should interfere.
The respondent concern had a rule in its
packing and labelling department that if a woman employee got married her
service would stand automatically terminated. The appellant union raised an
industrial dispute on this question and it was referred to the Industrial
Tribunal, Maharashtra. The Tribunal held that the rule was justified whereupon,
the appellant came to this Court by special leave.
The justification given on behalf of the
respondent for the said rule was that in the particular department where the
rule operated team work was required for which regular attendance was
necessary, and married women, for obvious reasons, could not be expected to be
regular in attendance.
It was also contended for the respondent that
industrial adjudication should not interfere with the employer's right to
impose any condition in the matter of employment when he employs new workmen.
Rule 5(3) of the Indian Administrative Service (Recruitment) Rules, 1964, was
referred to as carrying a similar condition.
HELD: (i) There was nothing to show that married
women would by the more likely to be absent than unmarried women or widows. The
only difference was that married women would ask for maternity leave. This
could be provided for by having a few extra women as leave reserve. So far as
efficiency was concerned it could hardly be said that married women would be
less efficient than unmarried ones or widows. The economic interest of the
concern was also not affected in any material way. There was thus no good and
convincing reason why such a rule should continue in one department of the
pharmaceutical industry. The fact that such a rule existed in other concerns
also was no justification, if the rule could not be justified on its own
merits. The rule, therefore, had to be abrogated. [495E, GH; 496A-B, D] (ii) It
is too late in the day to stress the absolute freedom of an employer to impose
any condition which he likes on labour. It is always open to industrial
adjudication to consider the conditions of employment of labour and to vary
them if it is found necessary. [496 E-F] (iii) Rule 5(3) of the Indian
Administrative Service (Recruitment) an unmarried woman marries sub self the
maintenance of the efficiency her to resign. This rule does on marriage as a
matter of course as the case of the respondent concern. [497 B-C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 274 of 1964.
494 Appeal by special leave from the award
dated May 31, 1963 of the Industrial Tribunal, Maharashtra in Reference (I.T.)
No. 59 of 1963.
S. B. Naik and K. R. Chaudhury, for the appellants.
S. V. Gupte, Solicitor-General, G. B. Pal, J.
Dadachanji, O. C. Mathur and Ravinder Narain,
for respondent No. 1.
A. S. R. Chari, K. Raiendra Chaudhury, M. S.
K. Aiyangar and M. R. K. Pillai, for respondent No. 2.
A. S. R. Chari, M. K. Ramamurthi, for
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Wanchoo, J. The only question raised in this appeal by special leave is the
propriety of a service condition in the respondent concern by which unmarried
women in a particular department have to resign on their getting married. A
dispute was raised about this condition by the appellantunion on behalf of the
workmen and was referred to the Industrial Tribunal, Maharashtra, in the
following terms "The existing bar on ladies that on their getting married
they have to leave the service of the company should be removed." The
respondent is a pharmaceutical concern. It appears that there is a rule in
force in the respondent-concrn according to which if a lady workman gets
married, her services are treated as automatically terminated. It appears that
such a rule is in force in other pharmaceutical concerns in that region and the
matter came up on two occasions before industrial tribunals for adjudication
with reference to other pharmaceutical concerns, and on both occasions the
challenge by the workmen to such a rule failed. On the first occasion the
dispute was between the Boots Pure Drug Co. (India) Limited v. Their Workmen(1)
and a similar rule was upheld in 1956. On the second occasion the dispute was
between Sandoz (India,) Limited v. Workmen employed under it(2). There was
agitation in the respondent concern in connection with this rule and the
present reference was eventually made in February 1963. The tribunal followed
its earlier decision in Sandoz Limited case(2 ) and rejected the contention
that the rule be abrogated. The appellant obtained special leave to appeal from
this Court; and that is how the matter has come up before us.
(1) B.G.G. Part I -L, dated Jan. 26,1966.
(2) (1962) Industrial Court Reporter 22.
495 Ordinarily we see no reason for such a
rule requiring unmarried women to give up service on marriage, particularly
when it is not disputed that no such rule exists in other industries. It is
also not in dispute that no such rule exists in other departments of the
respondent-concern itself and it is only in one department that the rule is in
It can only be upheld if the respondent shows
that there are good and convincing reasons why in this particular department of
the pharmaceutical industry it is necessary to have such a rule. The only
reason given for enforcement of this rule in this department of the
respondent-concern is that the workmen have to work in teams in this department
and that requires that they should be regular and that this cannot be expected
from married women for obvious reasons, and that there is greater absenteeism
among married women than among unmarried women or widows against whom there is
no bar of this kind.
We are not impressed by these reasons for
retaining a rule of this kind. The work in this department is not arduous for
the department is concerned with packing, labelling, putting in phials and
other work of this kind which has to be done after the pharmaceutical product
has been manufactured. Nor do we think that because the work has to be done as
a team it cannot be done by married women. We also feel that there is nothing
to show that married women would necessarily be more likely to be absent than
unmarried women or widows. If it is the presence of children which may be said
to account for greater absenteeism among married women, that would be so more
or less in the case of widows with children also. The fact that the work has
got to be done as a team and presence of all those workmen is necessary, is in
our opinion no disqualification so far as married women are concerned. It
cannot be disputed that even unmarried women or widows are entitled to such
leave as the respondent's rules provide and they would be availing themselves
of these leave facilities. The only difference in the matter of absenteeism
that we can see between married women on the one hand and unmarried women and
widows on the other is in the matter of maternity leave which is an extra
facility available to married women. To this extent only, married women are
more likely to be absent than unmarried women and widows. But such absence can
in our opinion be easily provided for by having a few extra women as leave
reserve and can thus hardly be a ground for such a drastic rule as the present
which requires an unmarried woman to resign as soon as she marries. We have
been unable to understand how it can be said that it is necessary in the
interest of efficient ope496 ration and in the company's economic interest not
to employ married women. So far as efficient operation is concerned, it can
hardly be said that married women would be less efficient than unmarried women
or widows so far as pure efficiency in work is concerned, apart of course from
the question of maternity leave. As to the economic interest of the concern, we
fail to see what difference the employment of married women will make in that connection
for the emoluments whether of an unmarried woman ,or of a married woman are the
same. The only difference between the two as we have already said is the burden
on account of maternity leave. But as to that the respondent contends that the
reason for having this rule is not the respondent's desire to -avoid the small
burden to be placed on it on account of maternity leave. If that is so, we fail
to see any justification for a rule ,of this kind which requires an unmarried
woman to give up service immediately she marries.
We are therefore of opinion that there is no
good and convincing reason why such a rule should continue in one department of
the pharmaceutical industry. The fact that such a rule exists in other such
concerns is no justification, if the rule cannot be justified on its own
Then it is urged that the employer was free
to impose any condition in the matter of employment when he employs a now
workman and that industrial adjudication should not interfere with this right
of the employer. AR that need be said in this connection is that it is too late
in the day now to stress the absolute freedom of an employer to impose any
condition which he likes on labour. It is always open to industrial
adjudication to consider the conditions of employment of labour and to vary
them if it is found necessary, unless the employer ran justify an
,extraordinary condition like this by reasons which carry conviction. In the
present case the reasons which the respondent has advanced and which were the
basis of the two decisions referred -to earlier do not commend themselves to us
as sufficient for such -a rule. We are therefore of opinion that such a rule
should be abrogated in the interest of social justice.
Lastly it is urged that a similar rule exists
in certain government services and in this connection our attention is drawn in
particular to r. 5(3) of the 1954 Indian Administrative Service (Recruitment)
Rules. That rule reads as follows :"No married woman shall be entitled as
of right to be appointed to the Service, and where a woman appointed to the
Service subsequently marries, the Central Government may, if the maintenance of
the 497 efficiency of the Service so requires, call upon her to resign."
It will be seen that this rule for the Indian Administrative Service is not
unqualified like the rule in force in the respondent's concern. It only lays
down that where an unmarried woman marries subsequently, the Central Government
may, if the maintenance of the efficiency of the Service so requires call upon
her to resign. Therefore this rule does not compel unmarried women to resign on
marriage as a matter of course as is the case in the respondent concern. It is
only when the Central Government considers that marriage has impaired the
efficiency of the woman concerned that the Central Government may call upon her
to resign. The rule which is in force in the respondent-concern however assumes
that merely by marriage the efficiency of the woman-employee is impaired and
such an assumption in our opinion is not justified. At any rate this rule for
the Indian Administrative Service which has been brought to our notice only for
purposes. of comparison does not justify the drastic rule that we have in the
present case where an unmarried woman is compelled to resign immediately she
marries without regard to her continued efficiency.
On a careful consideration of the reasons advanced
on behalf of the respondent in support of the existing rule we are of opinion
that the reasons do not justify such a drastic rule.
We therefore allow the appeal and direct that
the rule in question in the form in which it exists at present be abrogated.
The abrogation shall take effect from the date of this judgment. The appellants
will get their costs from the respondent-company.