Dabur (Dr. S. K. Burman) Private Ltd.
Deoghar, Bihar Vs. The Workmen  INSC 162 (26 July 1967)
26/07/1967 BHARGAVA, VISHISHTHA BHARGAVA,
VISHISHTHA SHELAT, J.M.
CITATION: 1968 AIR 17 1968 SCR (1) 61
Industrial Dispute--Order of
Reference--Clerical error, if can be corrected.
The Government referred an industrial dispute
to Labour Court, Patna, and subsequently issued an order by way of corrigendum
substituting "Ranchi" for "Patna". In proceedings before
the Labour Court, Ranchi, objection was raised that once having made the
reference to the Labour Court, Patna, the Government was not competent to
cancel or withdraw that reference, so the Labour Court, Ranchi had no
jurisdiction. The Labour Court, Ranchi rejected the objection. The High Court
also rejected this Contention. In appeal to this Court:
HELD: The alteration in the order of
reference was a mere correction of a clerical error. because, by mistake, Patna
had been mentioned in place of Ranchi in the first notification and the second
notification merely corrected that mistake. Such a clerical error can always be
corrected and such a correction does not amount either to the withdrawal of the
reference from, or cancellation of the reference to the Labour Court, Patna.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 2568 of 1966.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated March 23, 1966 of the Patna High Court in Misc. Judicial Case No.
118 of 1963.
H. R. Gokhale and Sukumar Ghose, for the
M. K. Ramamurthi, Shymala Pappu and Vineet
Kumar, for the respondents.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Bhargava, J.-The Government of Bihar, by an Order dated 14th June, 1961,
referred an industrial dispute under section 10(1) of the Industrial Disputes
Act, 1947 (14 of 1947) to the Labour Court, Patna, wherein the following two
issues were referred:"(1) Whether the discharge of the following forty
workmen was proper? If not, whether they are entitled to reinstatement and/or any
other relief? (2) Whether the above-mentioned workmen are entitled to be made
permanent?" Subsequently, the Government issued an Order by way of
corrigendum on the 19th July, 1961, substituting "Ranchi" for
"Patna" 62 in the original order of reference dated 14th June, 1961.
The effect of this corrigendum was that the
reference of the dispute, instead of being made to the Labour Court, Patna,
came before the Labour Court, Ranchi. In the proceedings before that Court, the
principal objections that was raised was that the Government, having once made
a reference to the Labour Court, Patna, was not competent to cancel or withdraw
that reference and could not make a competent reference of the same industrial
dispute to the Labour Court, Ranchi, so that the latter Court had no
jurisdiction to deal with the reference. The case before the Labour Court was
also contested on various other grounds, but we need only mention those grounds
which have been urged before us in this appeal. While the Labour Court was dealing
with the reference, adjournments were sought on behalf of the appellant, M/s.
Dabur (Dr. S. K. Burman) Private Ltd.
After decision of some preliminary points by
the order dated 18th August, 1962, the case was fixed for hearing on 19th
November, 1962. On that date, the management again prayed for an adjournment on
the ground that their local Manager, Sri Basant Jha, had been lying ill for
some time past and it was not possible for the management to prosecute their
case with diligence. The Labour Court rejected this application and, thereupon,
proceeded to hear the reference ex parte.
The Labour Court held that the reference to
it was competent and it had jurisdiction to deal with it, even though, by the
original order of reference, the Government had purported to refer the dispute
to the Labour Court, Patna. On the first issue referred, the Court recorded the
finding that the 40 workmen, who had been discharged, were not casual workers
and that their discharge by the employers on the basis that they were casual
workers was not proper. It was further held that the discharge was mala fide
inasmuch as the purpose of the discharge was to avoid the liability of treating
these workmen as permanent employees by preventing them from completing 240
days of work in a year. There was the further finding that the workmen were all
discharged from service as they had demanded increase in rates of wages and had
also claimed that Sundays should be made paid holidays. Against this award, the
appellant filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution in the High
Court of Patna requesting that Court to quash the award.
That Court upheld the award and dismissed the
Consequently, the appellant has come up to
this Court by special leave against that judgment of the High Court.
Mr. Gokhale, appearing on behalf of the
appellant, emphatically urged that both the Labour Court, Ranchi as well as the
Patna High Court were wrong in holding that the reference to the Labour Court,
Ranchi, was competent even after the reference, 63 had originally been made to
the Labour Court, Patna. He relied on the principle laid down by this Court
that once the Government has made a reference to a particular Labour Court, it
is that Labour Court which becomes seized of that industrial dispute and,
thereafter, the Government has no jurisdiction either to withdraw that
reference or cancel it.
In this case, however, as is clear from the
judgment of the High Court, the question that arose was entirely different. The
High Court has clearly held that this was not a case where the Government
either withdrew or cancelled the reference to the Labour Court, Patna. The High
Court has held that, from the facts stated by the appellant in the writ
petition filed in that Court, it appeared that the alteration in the order of
reference was a mere correction of a clerical error.
because, by mistake, Patna had been mentioned
in place of Ranchi in the first notification. The second notification merely
corrected that mistake. Mr. Gokhale wanted us to hold that the High Court was
wrong in its view that the Government had merely made' correction of a clerical
error and that we should accept the submission on behalf of the appellant that,
in fact, the State Government bad first intentionally referred the dispute to
the Labour Court, Patna, and issued the corrigendum only when the Government
decided that the reference should go to the Labour Court, Ranchi and not Labour
Court, Patna, because Labour Court, Patna bad no jurisdiction to entertain the
reference. We are unable to accept this submission made on behalf of the
appellant. The High Court drew in inference from the facts stated in the writ
petition filed by the appellant itself that this was a case of mere correction
of a clerical error. This finding recorded by the High Court on the basis of
the facts given in the writ petition is not now open to challenge in this
special appeal, particularly because even a copy of that writ petition has not
been made a part of the paper-book before us. We cannot see how any objection
can be taken to the competence of the State Government to make a correction of
a mere clerical error. The finding that it was a clerical error means that the
Government in fact intended to make the reference to the Labour Court, Ranchi; but
while actually scribing the order of reference, a mistake was committed by the
writer of putting down Patna instead of Ranchi.
Such a clerical error can always be corrected
and such a correction does not amount either to the withdrawal of the reference
from. or cancellation of the reference to. the Labour Court, Patna. The High
Court was. therefore. right in rejecting this contention on behalf of the
On merits, Mr. Gokhale wanted to urge only
two points before us. 'One was that the Labour Court committed a manifest error
of law apparent on the face of the record in holding that the workmen concerned
were not casual workers.
The judgment of the High Court, however,
shows that before that Court 64 it was nowhere urged or argued that any such error
of law apparent on the face of the record had been committed by the Labour
Court. What was urged before the High Court was that, even on the ex parte
evidence on record, the Labour Court ought to have held that the workmen were
mere casual labourers. The High Court was right in holding that this point
urged on behalf of the appellant essentially raised a question of fact only and
that Court, in its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, could
not interfere on such a question of fact. Since no submission was made before
the High Court that the finding of the Labour Court that the workmen are not
casual labourers suffers from any manifest error of law apparent on the face of
the record, the appellant is not entitled to raise this point in this special
appeal before us. On the finding actually recorded by the Labour Court and
upheld by the High Court, the order of the Labour Court directing reinstatement
of these workmen is fully justified, so that the order made by the Labour
Court, insofar as it is against the interests of the appellant, is correct and
must be upheld. In view of this position, it is unnecessary to go into the
question whether the Labour Court was or was not right in recording the finding
as to mala fides.
The only other point urged was that the
Labour Court should not have proceeded ex parte when material was placed before
that Court on behalf of the appellant to show that its local Manager, Sri
Basant Jha, was in fact lying ill. The question whether an adjournment should or
should not have been granted on this ground was in the discretion of the Labour
Court. Even the order by which the Labour Court rejected that application for
adjournment is not before us and, consequently, it cannot be held that the
Labour Court committed any such error in rejecting the application for
adjournment and proceeding ex parte as would justify interference by this
The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.
Y.P. Appeal dismissed.