State of Punjab Vs. The Gandhara
Transport Company (P) Ltd & Ors  INSC 98 (26 April 1973)
REDDY, P. JAGANMOHAN
CITATION: 1975 AIR 531 1974 SCR (1) 98 1975
SCC (4) 838
Industrial Disputes Act (14 of 1947) s.
2(k)-Dispute espoused by five out of the total sixty workmen-If an industrial
The respondent company dismissed three of its
workmen and retrenched another employee. Some of the workers demanded the
reinstatement of the dismissed workmen and payment of retrenchment compensation
to the retrenched workmen and raised a dispute about the matter. TheState
Government referred the dispute to the Labour Court The management raised the
objection that there was no industrial dispute in as much as the cause of the
workmen had not been espoused by a substantial body of the workmen of the
company. The Labour Court rejected the objection. In a writ petition, the High
Court held that there were 60 workmen in the employment of the respondent
company, out of whom only 18 workmen have espoused the cause of the dismissed
and retrenched employees, and even out of these 18 workmen 13 had already been
dismissed and that therefore, only 5 out of 60 workmen had espoused the cause
of the dismissed and retrenched workmen; and hence, it could not be said that a
substantial body of the workmen had espoused the cause of the workmen and
therefore, there was no industrial dispute which could be referred.
Dismissing the appeal to this Court,
HELD: The State Government will have
jurisdiction to make a reference only if there is an industrial dispute.
As the espousal of the dispute in the present
case was only by five out of sixty employees it could not be said that there
has been an espousal of the dispute in this case by an appreciable body of the
workmen of the respondent-company so as to make it an industrial dispute. Since
there was no industrial dispute. the reference made by the State Government had
been rightly held by the High Court to be incompetent. [161E-F] Workmen of
Rohtak General Transport Company v. Rohtak General Transport Company,  1
L.L.J. 634, distinguished.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 449 of 1969.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order September 10, 1968 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh in
L.P. No. 108 of 1966.
V. C. Mahajan and R. N. Sachthey, for the
Bishen Narain and Harbans Singh, for
respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
VAIDIALINGAM, J. This appeal, by special leave, is directed against the
judgment and order dated the 10th September, 1968, of the Division Bench of the
High Court of Punjab and Haryana in L.P.A. No. 108 of 1966, confirming the
order' of the learned single Judge and holding that the order of the State
Government dated the 5th March, 1962 referring a dispute for adjudication was
The respondent company dismissed three of its
workmen between the 15th December, 1959 and 6th January, 1960 and it also
retrenched another employee on the 7th February' 1960.
The District Motor Transport Workers' Union
appears to have raised a dispute with the-management on the 17th November, 1960
and demanded the reinstate99 ment of the dismissed workmen as well as the
payment of retrenchment compensation regarding the workman who was retrenched.
The demand not having been met with by the management and conciliation having
failed, the State Government was approached for making a reference of the
dispute for adjudication. On the 9th June, 1960, the State Government declined
to make a reference. A further attempt was made to persuade the State
Government by the 'workmen concerned to make a reference, but that attempt also
failed, as will be seen from the order dated the 29th July 1961. In this order,
the State Government had stated that out of sixty workmen employed in the
concern, only 18 workmen had supported the demand and these 18 included
thirteen dismissed workers of 'the company. It is the further view of the
Government that as a substantial number of workmen had not espoused the cause
of the dismissed workmen, there was no industrial dispute which could be
referred for adjudication. It is to be noted from this order of the State
Government that out of the 18 workmen, who are stated to have espoused the cause
of the workmen in this case, only five were in the employment of the respondent
company and thirteen others were workmen of the respondent who had already been
dismissed from service. Therefore, he espousing of the cause of the present
workmen was only by five workmen, who were, at the relevant time, actually in
the employ of the company.
Another attempt appears to have been made to
induce the State Government to make a reference and this time the attempt
succeeded, as will be seen from the order dated the 5th March, 1962. The State
Government, which had twice refused to make a reference, acceded this time to
the request of the workmen and referred for adjudication to the Labour Court,
Rohtak, the following two questions :"1. Whether termination of services
of Sarvashri Manmohan Singh, Jagir Singh and Inderjit. Singh is justified and
in order ? If not, to what relief they are entitled ?
2. Whether the retrenchment of Shri Mohinder
'Singh, Booking Clerk, is justified, and in order ? If not, to what relief he
is entitled ?" When the Labour Court commenced the, proceedings in respect
of this dispute, the management raised two preliminary objections. We are
concerned with only the first objection.
namely, that the dispute that has been
referred by the State Government for adjudication is not an industrial Dispute
under section 2(k) of the Industrial Disputes Act inasmuch as the cause of the
workman had not been espoused by a substantial body of the workmen of the
Company. Tie Labour Court accepted the plea of the workmen that the dispute was
industrial dispute and overruled the preliminary objection raised in that
regard by the management.
The company filed a writ petition in the High
Court for quashing the order of the Labour Court as well as the.
reference made by the State Government. The
learned single Judge accepted the plea of the management that the dispute in
question had not been sponsored by a substantial body of the workmen of the
respondent company, and in this view, held that the order of reference was
100 The workmen did not challenge the
decision of the single Judge. But the State challenged the same in Letters
Patent Appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court. The Division Bench has
agreed with the views of the learned single Judge and confirmed his order
holding that the reference made by the State Government was incompetent.
According to the findings of the learned
single Judge, which have been accepted by the Division Bench. the position is
that on the 17th November, 1960, when the espousal of the cause of the
dismissed and retrenched workmen was made, there were sixty workmen in the
employ of the respondent company. It has also been found that the demand was
supported by 18 workmen, namely, five workmen, who were in the employ of the
respondent and thirteen others, who had already been dismissed from service.
The view of the High Court is that having due regard to the strength of the
workmen, namely' sixty, and the admitted position that only five of the workmen
then in employ espoused the dispute, it cannot be stated that a substantial
body of the workmen have espoused the cause of the dismissed and retrenched
Mr. V. C. Mahajan, learned counsel for the
appellant, has no doubt strenuously urged that the view of the learned single
Judge and the Division Bench is erroneous. In support of his contention, the
learned counsel referred to us the decision of this Court in Workmen of Rohtak
General Transport Company v. Rohtak General Transport Company(1).
He pointed out that the facts in that case
show that though only five out of twenty-two workmen espoused the cause of the
dismissed employee, it was held by this Court that five workmen could be
considered to form a substantial or appreciable body of the workmen of the company
and hence there was an industrial dispute giving power to the Government to
refer the same for adjudication. Based upon this decision, the counsel urged
that as it has been found in the present case that out of the total of sixty
workmen, five have supported the cause of the workmen concerned, it must also
be held that there has been an espousal of the dispute by an appreciable number
of the employees of the company and that there is an industrial dispute, which
was properly referred by the Government.
It is no doubt true that on a superficial
reading of the above decision, it can be stated that an espousal by five out of
twenty-two workmen will amount to a sponsoring of a dispute by an appreciable
body of the workmen of an employer. We will assume that the said decision lays
down such a proposition. Even applying the ratio of the said decisionto the
case on hand, the proportion is very low, being five to sixty. That means only
1/12th of the employees in the establishment of the management has espoused the
cause of the dismissed workmen. Such an espousal, in our opinion, cannot be
considered to be by an appreciable or substantial body of workmen so, as to
constitute the dispute an industrial dispute.
In our opinion, the above decision does not
lay down the proposition that whenever five out of twenty-two workmen sponsor a
dispute or in such proportion, there is always an espousal of the cause by a
(1)  (1) LLJ 634.
101 substantial or appreciable body of
workmen so as to make the dispute an industrial dispute. No such proposition,
in our opinion, is laid down by this Court in the said decision.
If the said decision is carefully read, it
will be clear that the workmen therein relied on certain resolutions passed by
all the employees of the company supporting the cause of the dismissed workmen.
Further, there was also material on record to show that the cause of dismissed
employees was taken up by a union. It was in view of all these circumstances,
added to the fact that the management therein had not challenged those items of
evidence, that this Court held in the particular circumstances of that case
that there has been a proper espousal of the cause of the dismissed employees
so as to make the dispute an industrial dispute. This decision, therefore, does
not give any assistance to the appellant.
In this connection it must be stated that the
workmen did not plead even before the Tribunal that any union, representative
of the workmen, has taken up the dispute. On the other hand, the sole
contention that was raised before the Labour Court for justifying the order of
reference was that the espousal of the cause of the dismissed workmen has been
by an appreciable number of the workmen of the respondent's establishment. In
view of this, it is not necessary for us to consider whether any union,
representative of the workmen concerned, has espoused the cause of the workmen
in this case. In fact, we do not find from the judgment either of the single
Judge or of the Division Bench that any such plea was even advanced by the
workmen. In fact the Labour Court has held that no such plea was taken by the
The sponsoring by the 13 dismissed employees
will have to be left out of consideration. If so, we are left with the position
that the espousal of the dispute, in this case, was only by five out of sixty
employees of the respondent company. It cannot in the circumstances, be held
that there has been an espousal of the dispute in this case by an appreciable
body of the workmen of the respondent-company so as to make it an Industrial
Dispute. The State Government will have jurisdiction to make a reference only
if there is an Industrial Dispute. As there was no Industrial Dispute, the
reference made by the State Government has been rightly held by the High Court
to be, incompetent.
The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs
of the first respondent.
V.P.S. Appeal dismissed.