Delhi Cloth & General Mills Ltd. Vs.
Shambhu Nath Mukherjee & Ors  INSC 185 (3 October 1977)
CITATION: 1978 AIR 8 1978 SCR (1) 591 1977
SCC (4) 415
F 1980 SC1219 (12) R 1981 SC1253 (8) R 1982
SC 854 (5,6,7) D 1983 SC 865 (6) RF 1983 SC1320 (11) R 1984 SC 500 (2) RF 1986
SC 132 (7) E&D 1990 SC1808 (5)
Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, s. 2-A-Vires
questioned in writ petition whether statement of facts in support of legal
ground dispensable-S. 2(OO), whether includes striking off name of workman from
the rolls by management without compliance with provisions of s. 25F(a) and
(b)-Section 10, whether violates Art. 14 of the Constitution of India.
Shri Mukherjee was a Motion-setter employed
by the appellants. His post was abolished and he was given the job of a trainee
on probation for the post of Assistant Line Fixer (Assistant Grade 1). The management
found him unsuitable for the job even after extending his probation period up
to nine months, and offered him the post of a fitter on the same pay which he
had received as a Motion-setter. The letter stated that unless he accepted the
offer within two days of receiving it, his rejection of the same would be
presumed and he could then be retrenched. Shri Mukherjee wrote to the
management to give him another chance to show his efficiency in his job, but
instead of replying to him, the management struck off his name from the rolls,
without complying with the provisions of s. 25F(a) and (b) of the Industrial
Disputes Act. A dispute between the parties led to a reference to the Labour Court
which resulted in an award in favour of Shri Mukherjee. The management's writ
petition was rejected first by the Single Judge and then by the Division Bench
of the High Court in appeal.
Dismissing the appeal by Certificate, the
HELD :(1) Merely questioning the vires of s.
2-A in the writ application does not dispense with the requirement of stating
facts in order to support the legal ground. If the ground was taken by making
the appropriate allegation that the dispute relating to the termination of
service of the workman was not espoused by the union, it would have been
necessary for the Labour Court to call for a report from the Administration,
and it would have been possible for the workman to show that his case was, in
fact, espoused by a substantial number of workmen or by a Union. [594 B-C]
(2)No order, even under s. 27(c) of the Standing Orders can be passed against
the workman who is not absent for "more than eight consecutive days."
Striking off his name from the rolls by the management, is termination of his
service and such termination of service is retrenchment within the meaning of
s. 2(00) of the Act. Any order of retrenchment, in violation of the mandatory
provisions of s.
25F(a), the proviso apart, and (b), is
invalid. [595 H, 596 A.G-D] (3)The law has been laid down by this Court holding
that s. 10 of the Act does not violate Art. 14 of the Constitution. [595 E]
Niemla Textile Finishing Mills Ltd. v. The 2nd Punjab Industrial Tribunal
 SCR 335, applied.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 1903 of 1970.
From the Judgment and Order dated 20-2-1970
of the Delhi High Court in L. P. A. No. 66 of 1969.
Rameshwar Dial, Adarsh Dial and A. D. Mathur
for the Appell ant.
For Respondent No. 1 (In person) 592 The
Judgment of the Court was delivered by GOSWAMI, J.-This is a fight between a
Goliath and a dwarf in an Industrial arena. The workman, who is the respondent
before us, was "automatically struck off the rolls" by the management
(appellant) on August 24, 1965.
The management has been persistently fighting
him for the last twelve years having lost before the Labour Court, the single
Judge of the Delhi High Court and lastly before the Division Bench of the High
Court until the matter has landed in this Court on certificate.
The facts may briefly be stated The workman
was recruited as a labourer in the Store in 195
1. After about six months he was promoted as
a Fitter-Helper and after about one and a half years he was promoted to the
post of Motion Setter till 1964. On October 1, 1964, there was some
reorganisation in the management's establishment ;and the post of Motion-Setter
was abolished. Ordinarily, therefore, the workman would have been retrenched,
but, in terms of a settlement between the management and the representatives of
the workmen, no employee was retrenched. On the other hand, the management
agreed to offer work "on any other suitable post." It is in that way
that the management offered to the workman the job of a trainee on probation
for the post of Assistant Line-Fixer (Assistant Grade I) without loss of wages.
The management found him unsuitable for this post even after extending the
period of probation upto nine months and, therefore, offered him the post of a
fitter on the same pay which he as a Motion-Setter used to get. This offer was
made by the management by a letter of July 31, 1965, which closed with the
following paragraph "In case you agree to the above proposal, then your
acceptance should reach my office within two days of the receipt of this letter
otherwise it will be presumed that the above proposal is not acceptable to you
and as a consequence you can be retrenched from the service of the Mills.
The workman was on leave and' this letter was
received by him on August 11, 1965. It is common ground that he worked as a
Trainee (Assistant Grade 1) upto August 14, 1965. August 15 being a public
holiday, on 16th August, 1965, the workman wrote to the management to give him
a further chance to show his efficiency in his job and if he failed to improve
the would voluntarily tender his resignation. The workman closed letter as
"So, I hope that you will be kind to
inform me without delay regarding the order served on me because I am a
displaced person of East Pakistan and unable to stay more without any job.
Hope to get an early reply at the address
given above." The management did not reply to this letter and the workman;
also did not report to the management. It
appears from the letter written by the management to the workman on January 19,
1966 that593 "your name has been automatically struck off the rolls under
the provisions of the Standing Orders with effect from 24-8-65, for continued
absence without any intimation".
This is the only reply which the workman got
from the management to his letter dated 16th August, 1965. It is surprising
that the management did not immediately send a reply to the workman informing
its inability to agree to his proposal 'in which case the only alternative with
the management was to retrench his service. If this were done on receipt of the
workman's letter of 16th August, 1965, the management could have been spared
this tortuous and expensive litigation which may not affect the management but
has caused immense hardship to the workman. It Is a trite saving that one stich
at a time saves nine and the management could have avoided 'all this dispute by
writing a two-line letter by offering the appropriate compensation under
section 25F of the Industrial Disputes. Act, 1947 (briefly the Act).
Thus a dispute arose which led to
conciliation and then to the Reference which resulted in an award in favour of
the workman on December 21, 1967, reinstating him in service with full back
wages. The Labour Court, however, made it clear that "if, the management wants
to revert or retrench him it should do so in accordance with the rules and
regulations applicable to his case after taking proper proceedings according to
rules". Even this reasonable order of the Labour Court was not palatable
to the management.
The management therefore preferred an
application under Article 226 of the Constitution before the High Court and the
learned single Judge rejected the same. A further appeal to the Division Bench
met with the same fate resulting in this appeal by Certificate.
Before the Labour Court an objection was
taken questioning the Reference and the following issue was framed
"Whether the dispute is an industrial dispute and the reference is
bad" ? The Labour Court answered the issue Against the management holding
as follows:-"Under the newly added section 2A of the Industrial Disputes
Act, any dispute regarding discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination of
services of even an individual workman amounts to an industrial dispute. I am
therefore unable to accept the argument of the management that the dispute
referred to this-Court cannot be treated as an industrial dispute because it
relates to an individual workman".
It is clear from the above that objection was
taken by the management to the effect that the case of the, workman had not
been espoused by other workmen or by any union. It is precisely by raising this
factual quest ion that a new point with regard to vires of section 2A of the Industrial
Disputes Act has been presented before this Court for the first time. It is
true that in the grounds taken in the High Court it was stated "that
section 2A of the Industrial Disputes Act is ultra-vires the powers of the
Legislature under Item 22 594 List III to Schedule VII of the Constitution of
India", but this objection can only be, as is now 'made clear by the
appellant, on the basis that the dispute relating to the workman had not been
espoused by other workmen or by a union. A perusal of the Reference under
section 10 (1) (c) does not' ex-facie show that it was a Reference of an
individual disputes under section 2A. That being the, position, if the
appellant wanted to raise this question before the Labour Court it was necessary
for it to raise a triable issue by stating the facts that the dispute relating
to the termination of service of the workman was not espoused by the union.
Merely taking a ground in the writ application does not dispense with the
requirement of stating facts in order to support the legal ground. If the
ground were taken by making appropriate allegations it would have been
necessary for the Labour Court to call for a report from the Administration and
it would have been possible for the workman to show that his case was in fact
espoused by a substantial number of workmen or by a union.
From the judgment of the learned single Judge
it does not appear that this question of the vires of section 2A had been urged
before him. It was only urged that section 2A 'was invalid since it offended
Article 14 of the Constitution.
Another objection was taken before the
learned single Judge "that there could be no reference in respect of the
industrial dispute under section 2A which was placed on the Statute Book after
the termination of the employment of the workman in this case". The
appellant has not pressed this point urged before the learned single Judge but
has addressed us on Article 14 of the Constitution. Before the Division Bench
the objection under Article 14 was repeated but the question of section 2A
being ultra vires because of legislative incompetency was not urged. It may be
that the point was not specifically argued because of a Full Bench decision of
the Delhi High Court but that does not satisfy the basic factual requirement
for the objection that it was actually a case of an individual dispute under
section 2A, unespoused by the union, Which was referred by the Administration
under section 10(1) (c) of the Act.
We have to state the above facts in some detail
a the appellant on the second day of the, argument submitted before us that
since he was raising the vires of section 2A on the ground of legislative
incompetency the appeal had to be heard by a Bench of seven Judges under
Article 144A which was introduced by the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution.
Before this constitutional question could be
raised it must be manifest on the records that the question arose on the facts
disclosed. As we have pointed out, there was no allegation by stating
appropriate facts that the dispute of the workmen had not been espoused by the
union or by a substantial number of workmen. There is nothing to show on the
face of the Reference that the Administration was considering the case on the
basis of section 2A of the Act.
Even though recital of section 2A was not
there in the Reference, it was open to the management to raise the issue before
the Labour Court as to whether in fact it was a dispute which was referred, by
the Administration merely on the application 595 of the workman. On the other
hand, we find that the Reference was made by the Lieutenant Governor under
section 10(1)(c) read with section 12(5) of the Act. There is nothing to show
that even before the Conciliation Officer any objection was taken by the
management that it was not an industrial dispute within the meaning of section
2(k) of the Act. Nothing prevented the management from raising such an issue
even before the Conciliation Officer. We are, therefore, clearly of opinion
that this is not a case where litigation can be allowed to be dragged on by
allowing the management to raise this question for the first time in this Court
without any basis. We, therefore, decline to accede to the request that this is
at all a fit appeal for reference to a Bench of seven Judges. There is no basis
for considering the provision of section 2A in this appeal.
With regard to the objection on the score of
Article 14 of the Constitution, it is sufficient to state that the matter is
concluded by the principle laid down by this Court in Niemla Textile Finishing
Mills Ltd. v. The 2nd Punjab Industrial Tribunal(1). In that case a challenge
was made, inter alia, to section 10 of the Act as being invalid on the ground
of violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. In an exhaustive judgment, this
Court, repelled the contention.
It is submitted by Mr. Dial that decision
this Court was only required to consider the objection raised on the score of
Article 14 on a ground which is different from' the one he would like to 'Lake
before us. We are, however, unable to accept this submission. If this Court
held section 10 as intra vires and repelled the objection under Article 14 of
the Constitution it would not be permissible to raise the question again by
submitting that a new ground could be raised to sustain the objection. It is
certainly easy to discover fresh grounds of attack to sustain the same
objection, but that cannot be permitted once the law has been laid down by this
Court holding that section 10 of the Act does not violate Article 14 of them.
Constitution. The ratio decidendi of Niemla, Textile Finishing Mills (supra)
will apply while dealing with the objection under Article 14 of the
Constitution in respect of the present reference under section 10(1) (c) of the
Act. The submission of the learned counsel is, therefore, devoid of substance.
The question then arises whether the High
Court was right in refusing to interfere with the. award under Article 226 of
the Constitution. There is no manifest error of law onthe face of the award and
none could be pointed out by the learned counsel. Neither is there any error of
jurisdiction. The issue before the Labour Court was one of reinstatement of the
workman and the Labour Court was entitled to go into the whole question which
it did. We do not find any infirmity in the award.
On the face of it, the order striking off the
name of the workman from the rolls on August 24, 1965, is clearly erroneous. No
order, even under section 27(c) of the Standing Orders, could have (1) 
596 been passed on that date. The clause in
the Standing Orders reads as follows:"If any workman absents for more than
eight consecutive days his services shall be terminated and shall be treated
having left the service without notice".
The workman last attended work on 14th
August, 1965. 15th August was a public holiday. He was, therefore, absent from
work only from 16th of August. So even under the Standing Orders the workman
was not absent for "more than eight consecutive days" on 24th August,
1965. The order is, therefore, clearly untenable even on the basis of the
Standing Orders. It is not necessary to express any opinion in this appeal
whether "eight consecutive days" in the Standing Orders mean eight
consecutive working days.
Striking of the name of the workman from the
rolls by the management is termination of his service. Such termination of
service is retrenchment within the meaning of section 2(00) of the Act. There
is nothing to show that the provisions of section 25F (a) and (b) were complied
with by the management in this case. The provisions of section 25F (a), the
proviso apart, and (b) are mandatory and any order of retrenchment, in
violation of 'these two peremptory conditions precedent, is invalid.
We do not find any merit in this appeal which
is dismissed with costs.