Saxby and Farmer (India) Pvt. Ltd. Vs.
Their Workmen  INSC 62 (29 March 1973)
CITATION: 1975 AIR 534 1973 SCR (3) 830 1974
SCC (3) 327
Labour Law-Company producing essential goods
for railways- Whether workmen entitled to unpaid festival holidays in addition
to ten paid holidays.
The appellant company was a unit of the
Engineering Industry in West Bengal having three factories in various parts of
Calcutta. It was solely engaged in the production of brakes and signalling
equipment for the railways. The Government of West Bengal declared the
appellant to be a public utility service in exercise of power conferred by s.
2(c)(vi) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and also an 'essential service'
under the Defence of India Rules.. At the instance of the appellant company the
Government of West Bengal referred to the Industrial Tribunal the question
whether the nine unpaid festival holidays allowed by the company to its workmen
in addition to paid festival and other holidays should be continued. The
Tribunal, impressed by the fact that unpaid festival holidays had been enjoyed
by the workmen for a long time gave its award in favour of the workmen.
Allowing the company's appeal,
HELD : The Tribunal was wholly oblivious of
the present day conditions and the necessity for increased production,
particularly, in the matter of utility companies and the companies that are
producing goods for essential services like those carried on by the Indian
Railways. This Court has observed on more than one occasion that it is
generally accepted that there are too many public holidays in our country, and
that when the need for industrial production is urgent and paramount, it may be
advisable to reduce the number of such holidays in industrial concerns Indeed
it cannot be disputed that a necessary step in the direction of increasing the
country's productivity is the reduction of number of holidays.
There was accordingly no reason or
justification for unpaid holidays not being curtailed in the present case. All
the conditions which were necessary had been satisfied and the appellant was
carrying on the kind of work which requires efficiency and increased production
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
'No. 1923 of 1968.
Appeal by special leave from the Award dated
March 11, 1968 of the VIIth Industrial Tribunal, West Bengal Calcutta in Case
No. VIII-287 of 1966 published in the Calcutta Gazette dated April 18, 1968.
D. N. Mukherjee, for the appellant.
The respondent did not appear.
831 The Judgment of the Court was delivered
by GROVER, J. This is an appeal by special leave from the award of the Seventh
Industrial Tribunal, West Bengal.
The appellant company is a unit of the
Engineering Industry in West Bengal having three Factories in various parts of
Calcutta. The company employs about 1650 workmen in all these factories.
According to the appellant, it is solely engaged in the production of brakes
and signalling equipment for the railways. Its products, it is claimed, are
essential for the smooth working of the railways, which are its sole customers.
In order to ensure smooth production and uninterrupted flow of supply, the
government of West Bengal declared the appellant to be a public utility service
in exercise of the power conferred by sub-clause (vi) of clause (c) of s. 2 of
the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and also as 'essential service' under the
Defence of India Rules. It is said as a unit of engineering industry, the
appellant was a party to certain omnibus major awards made in 1958 and the
earlier awards of 1949 and 1950. In these awards, the service conditions,
including leave and holidays of the workmen were standardised. The appellant
has been granted leave and holidays as per those awards and in accordance with
the provisions of the Factories Act, the Shops and Establishment Act and the
Employees State Insurance Act. The paid holidays which are being granted are
ten in a year. There used to be a system in the appellant company's
establishment of granting nine days unpaid festival holidays in addition to the
paid festival and other holidays. It is pointed out that in no, other major
industry in the region this system of unpaid festival holidays is being
followed any longer.
At the instance of the appellant-company, the
government of West Bengal referred the following issue by an order dated June
7, 1966 to the industrial tribunal for adjudication.
"Curtailment of unpaid festival
holidays". In the written statement, which was filed by the appellant, it
was stated in para. 8 that the company allows nine festival unpaid holidays,
and the continuance of the said holidays would not only entail loss of wages to
the workmen but also loss of production and would prejudicially affect the
country's economy. It was also asserted that the system of granting unpaid
holidays was no longer being followed in the engineering industry. Moreover,
other holidays enjoyed by the workmen along with the workmen of other similar
units were far in excess of what prevails in other countries.
The union filed a written statement on behalf
of the workmen. In reply, the position taken up was that the assertion of the
company that the nine unpaid holidays should be discontinued, was in clear
disregard of the principle and practice followed so far in the matter of giving
benefits in the industrial concerns. It was said that the trend of the
decisions of the Industrial Tribunals in respect of major Engineering concerns
has always been against the curtailment of the existing facilities, and that
the management of the appellant-company had made an unfair attempt to curtail
those benefits, relating to unpaid festival holidays. The main ground given was
that in the interest of industrial peace, production and better relations
between the workmen and the management, the workmen should be kept contented.
Any attempt to curtail the existing benefits
according to time-honoured practice, would provoke discontent and labour
Each side examined one witness, P.W. 1,
Gobind Day, who appeared on behalf of the appellant, supported the assertions
made, in the written statement filed on behalf of the appellant. In other
words, he stated that 19 holidays were being given to the workers at present,
out of which ten were paid holidays and the rest, without pay. Ten festival
holidays were allowed on the basis of the ,award made by the tribunals. He admitted
in his cross-examination that in Bengal holidays for certain days like Netaji's
birthday or for religious festivals, were considered very essential.
O.P.W.1, who appeared on behalf of the
workers and who was the working president of the Union at the time he gave
evidence, merely con tented himself by saying that nine unpaid festival
holidays had been enjoyed by the workers since he joined the factory and prior
to that time.
According to him, even on festival holidays,
workers attended the factory and worked there and drew wages. Over- time wages
were paid at the rate of 150% of the basic wages.
The industrial tribunal does not appear to
have given any substantial reasons for coming to the conclusion that the unpaid
holidays should not be curtailed. According to it, there was no evidence to
show to what extent the Railways which were the sole customers of the company,
depended on the company to meet their requirements. The tribunal proceeded to
say that the company might be solely engaged in the production of signalling
equipment, but that was not sufficient to show the nature and extent of the
dependence of the Railways on the supplies of the company. The representative
of the company had argued that because the number of the holidays was large,
the production was suffering and the company was unable to meet the demands of
the Railways in time. The Tribunal, however, thought that in the absence of any
evidence to that effect, it could not be held that the production was not
adequate or was suffering because of the number of holidays for the workers.
This is how the Tribunal reasoned in the matter :
"...... in my humble opinion without
reducing the number of important festival holidays of any community in
India-which is the home of different communities and religions the number of
working holidays can be increased as a compensatory measure by converting a
good many Sundays to working days. I think this is quite a feasible proposition
and can be offered as a suggestion to those who take the view that as festival
and religious holidays are quite large in number they should be reduced without
reference to the feelings of the affected religious group or community. But
then this is too wide and too large a question for my embarkation and perhaps
such views will not find favour with the west oriented intellect and so-called
cosmopolitan outlook. Anyway, that I say is that there is no good ground to cut
down the number of festival holidays simply because the number of overall
holidays is large." The tribunal appears to have been impressed by the
contention raised on behalf of the workmen that they had enjoyed the facilities
for a long time.
It appears that the tribunal was wholly
oblivious of the present day conditions and the necessity for increased
production, particularly, in the matter of utility companies and the companies
that are producing goods for essential services like those carried on by the
Indian Railways. This Court has observed on more than one occasion that it is
generally accepted that there are too many public holidays in our country, and
that when the need for industrial production, is urgent and paramount, it may
be advisable to reduce the number of such holidays in industrial concerns.
Indeed, it cannot be disputed that a
necessary step in the direction of increasing the country's productivity is the
reduction of number of holidays. See Pfizer(P)Ltd.Bombay v.The Workmen(1) and
Associated Cement Staff Union and another v. Associated Cement Company and
others.(2) In Pfizer's case, the holidays. which were being granted were
reduced to ten from the number which the workers were enjoying previously in
accordance with those sanctioned under the Negotiable Instruments Act i.e., 16
(1)  Supp. 2 S. C. R. 627, 651. (2)
 1 L L.J. 12,15.
8 34 On giving the matter careful
consideration, we find no reason ,or justification for unpaid holidays not
being curtailed in the present case. All the conditions which are necessary
have been satisfied and the appellant is carrying on the kind of work which
requires efficiency and increased production. There should be more
concentration on increase of production and efficiency than on enjoying the
holidays if this country is to march ahead on the road to prosperity.
We would, accordingly, allow this appeal and
set aside the award. In other words, the system of unpaid holidays will not
continue with effect from the 1st January, 1973. There will be no order as to
G.C. Appeal allowed'.