H.D. Singh Vs. Reserve Bank of India
& Ors  INSC 195 (10 September 1985)
KHALID, V. (J) KHALID, V. (J) REDDY, O.
CITATION: 1986 AIR 132 1985 SCR Supl. (2) 842
1985 SCC (4) 201 1985 SCALE (2)607
Industrial Disputes Act 1947, sections 2
(oo), 25 F, Schedule V, Item 10.
Reserve Bank of India - Employment of Tikka
Mazdoor - Persons helping examiner of coins and notes - Daily rated workers -
Name of worker struck off the rolls after passing matriculation examination -
Whether amounts to 'retrenchment' - Confidential circular of Bank instructing
officers to give work on rotational basis - Whether an 'unfair labour
The appellant was a tikka mazdoor-person who
helps the Examiners of Coins and notes in the Reserve Bank of India, the 1st
Respondent. He was selected in 1974 on daily wages basis and he had to report
to the bank regularly in the morning to ascertain whether he could get work
every-day. On days when no work was given he had to wait till noon to be told
by the authorities concerned that no work was available. Thus, he had work only
for four days in 1974, and one hundred and fifty four days in 1975, and one
hundred and five days in 1976. At the time he was selected for employment, he
was not a matriculate. He passed the matriculate examination in 1975. His name
was struck off the list of Tikka Mazdoors as the confidential circular issued
by the bank indicated that persons who passed the matriculation examination
could not be retained in the list.
As the appellant was not given any work after
July 1976 and as there were no written order terminating his service and as
attempts to get his grievances redressed by correspondence having failed he
moved for conciliation. The Assistant Labour Commissioner though impressed with
the genuineness of the claim of the appellant, could not persuade the bank.
Thereupon, the Central Government referred the dispute for adjudication to the
Central Government Industrial Tribunal.
The appellant in his claim statement before
the Tribunal, pleaded that he had presented himself for duty daily but was not
843 offered jobs on the days when he reported for duty for reasons best known
to the bank, that he was employed for 4 days in 1974, 154 days in 1975 and 105
days in 1976, that he was not told at the time when he accepted the job that
his name would be struck off from the rolls if he passed the matriculate
examination and that he had worked continuously for 240 days if the Sundays and
Holidays were taken into account, and that the action of the bank in striking
out his name from the list amounted to retrenchment.
The claim of the appellant was resisted by
the Bank contending that the reference was had since the dispute was not
sponsored by any representative trade union, that Section 2-A of the Industrial
Disputes Act 1947 was not attracted, and also that the dispute in question was
not an industrial dispute, that the appellant failed to inform the bank that he
had passed the matriculation examination after getting selected and that he had
not worked for 240 days in any year.
The Tribunal held that the action of the
Reserve Bank, in not giving regular appointment to the appellant was legal and
proper and that his name could be struck off from the list of approved Tikka
Mazdoors in terms of a proper and justifiable policy followed by the management
of the Bank;
Allowing the appeal, ^
HELD: 1. Striking off the name of the
appellant is clearly termination of his service and the dispute squarely comes
within Section 2A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Tribunal grossly
erred in upholding the preliminary objection raised by the Bank. [852 C]
2. Striking off the name of a workman from
the rolls by the employer amounts to 'termination of service' and such termination
is 'retrenchment' within the meaning of Sec.
2(oo) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 if
effected in violation of the mandatory provision contained in Sec. 25-F and in
invalid. [850 F, 853 F-G] Delhi Cloth & General Mills Ltd. v. Shambhu Nath
Mukherjee & Ors.  1 S.C.R. 591., State Bank of India v. Shri N.
Sundra Money,  3 S.C.R. 160., referred to.
In the instant case, the pleadings, documents
and the confidential circular indicate that the Bank was determined to adopt
methods to terminate the services of employees like the 844 appellant. The
appellant was not told that he would be struck off the rolls if he passed
matriculation. He was not given any order in writing either refusing work or
informing him that his name would be struck off the rolls. The appellant's name
had been struck off the list contrary to the mandate contained in Section 25F.
3. The 5th Schedule to the Industrial
Disputes Act contains a list of unfair labour practices as defined in sec.
2(ra), and to employ workmen as 'badlis casual or temporaries and to continue
them as such for years, with the object of depriving them of the statue and
privileges of permanent workmen' is one of them as indicated in Item 10.
4. The Bank has deliberately indulged in
unhealthy labour practice by rotating employees like the appellant to deny them
benefits under the Industrial Law. It is disturbing to find that the appellant
was denied job because he had become better qualified. [853 B-C] In the instant
case, the confidential circular directed the officers that workmen like the
appellant should not be engaged continuously but should as far possible, be
offered work on rotation basis and the case that the appellant is a 'badli'
worker, have to be characterised as an unfair labour practice.[852 H]
5. Industrial adjudication in bona fide
claims have been dragged on by employers for years by raising technical and
hyper technical pleas. It would always be desirable for employers to meet the
case of the employees squarely on merits and get them adjudicated quickly. It
is too late in the day for this Court to alert the employers that their attempt
should be to evolve a contended labour. [853 D-E]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 6417 of 1983.
From the Award dated the 5th April, 1983 of
the Central Government Industrial Tribunal, New Delhi in I.D. No. 54 of 1979.
O.P. Malhotra, N.S. Das Bahl, Pawan K. Bahl
and Miss Indu Malhotra for the Appellant.
Dr. Y.S. Chitale and H.S. Parthar for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
845 KHALID, J. The appellant was a Tikka Mazdoor with the first respondent, the
Reserve Bank of India. A Tikka mazdoor is a person who helps the Examiners of
Coins/notes. He was so selected on daily wages of Rs. 3 as per appointment
letter dated 30/4/1974. As per the appointment order he used to report to the
bank regularly at 9.30 A.M. to ascertain whether he could get work on
every-day. On days when no work was given to him he had to wait till noon to be
told by the authorities concerned that no work was available on such days. Thus
he was given work only for four days in 1974, One Hundred and Fifty Four days
in 1975 and One Hundred and Five days in 1976. At the time he was selected for
employment, he was not a matriculate. He passed the matriculate examination in
1975. At the time he was selected he was not told that his name would be struck
off the list of Tikka Mazdoors if he passed the matriculate examination. On
23/7/1976, he received a letter from the bank asking him to state within a week
(latest by 29/7/1976) as to what his educational qualification was. He was also
informed that his name would be struck off since he had concealed his
educational qualification and that his services would be terminated without any
notice and compensation from the bank. It appears that Tikka Mazdoors are
placed in List II maintained by the bank. A confidential circular seems to have
been issued by the bank on 27/6/1976 to the effect that matriculates would not
be retained in this list. The appellant sent a reply stating that he was not a
matriculate in 1974 when he was selected and that he passed the examination
only in 1975. He enclosed the certificate and the marks-sheet to prove that he
passed the examination only subsequent to his selection as Tikka Mazdoor.
2. The appellant was not given any work after
July 1976. There is no written order terminating his services.
The representative of the first respondent
admitted, while he was cross-examined, that no formal order intimating the
appellant that his name was struck off the list was issued.
His father was also an employee of the bank.
He knew that the appellant's name had been removed permanently from the list of
Tikka Mazdoors. Thereupon, both his father and the appellant made
representations to the bank against the action taken. No reply was given to
When his attempt to get his grievances
redressed by correspondence failed, he moved for conciliation. The Assistant
Labour Commissioner appeared to be impressed with the genuineness of his case,
but his persuation did not move the bank in his favour. Thereupon, the Central
Government made a reference by Notification dated 19/9/1979, for adjudication
of the following dispute to Central Government Industrial Tribunal, New Delhi.
846 "Whether the action of the
Management of Reserve Bank of India, Kanpur, in striking off the name of Shri
H.D. Singh from the list of approved Tikka Mazdoors from July, 1976, is
Justified and legal? If not, to what relief the workman in question is
3. The appellant in his claim statement
pleaded as follows:
(i) He had presented himself for duty daily,
but was not offered jobs on the days when he reported for duty for reasons best
known to the bank;
(ii) He was employed only for four days in
the year 1974, 154 days in 1975 and 105 days in 1976;
(iii) He was not told at the time when he
accepted the job that his name would be struck off from the rolls if he passed
the matriculate examination.
(iv) He pleaded mala fides, in that persons
similarly placed like him who had become matriculates after selection had been
retained in service and that he alone was discriminated against;
(v) He stated that acquisition of high
qualification should never have been used against him to deny him his job;
(vi) He had worked continuously for 240 days
if the Sundays and holidays are taken into account;
(vii) The action of the bank in striking out
his name from the list amounted to retrenchment.
4. The claim of the appellant was resisted by
the bank raising both preliminary legal objections and factual objections. It
was contended that the reference was bad since the dispute was not sponsored by
any representative trade union, that Section 2-A was not attracted and also
that the dispute in question was not an industrial dispute.
On merits, the claim was resisted with the
plea that the appellant failed to inform the bank that he had passed
matriculation examination after getting selected and secondly that he had not
worked for 240 days in any year.
These rival contentions were considered by
the Tribunal and it was held as follows:
847 "....... The action of the Reserve
Bank of India, Kanpur, in not giving regular appointment to Shri H.D.Singh is
held to be legal and proper and his name could be struck off from the list of
approved Tikka Mazdoors in terms of a proper and justifiable policy followed by
the management of the Reserve Bank of India, Kanpur. Mr. H.D. Singh is held not
entitled to any relief." It is against this award that the appellant has
come up to this Court by special leave.
5. Before considering the questions involved
in this appeal, it would be appropriate to extract in full the Memorandum
issued by the Reserve Bank of India, Kanpur, which lays down the terms and
conditions of service of a Tikka Mazdoor.
M E M O R A N D U M No. 6602 Dated: 30th
From: Reserve Bank of India To: Shri Harindra
dhwaj Kanpur Singh C/o Shri B.D.
Singh, C/N Examiner Gr.
II., R.B.I Kanpur.
With reference to his application dated
31/7/73, Shri Harendra Dhwaj Singh is informed that the Bank is prepared to
offer him the post of a Tikka Mazdoor on the following terms and conditions:
(i) He should call at the office of the bank
by 9.30 A.M. on every working day to ascertain whether he would be offered
employment on that day and he should leave only if he is advised that he will
not be offered any employment on that day.
(ii) For each day he is employed by the bank,
he will be paid a consolidated daily wage of Rs. 3 and will not be entitled to
any allowance or other remuneration.
(iii) His hours of duty, if employed, on any
day would, for the present, be from 9.30 A.M. to 5.15 P.M.
which hours of duty are liable to be altered
848 (iv) In case he does not present himself
for employment on five consequtive working days without first having obtained
prior permission his appointment will be liable to be terminated without any
(v) His appointment is subject to his being
found medically fit for service in the bank by the bank's medical officer.
(vi) He will be required to comply with and
obey all orders and directions which may from time to time be given to him by
any person or persons under whose jurisdiction, superintendence or control he
may for the time being be placed.
(vii) He should maintain the strictest
secrecy regarding the bank's affairs and serve the bank honestly and loyally.
(viii) He should produce at the time of
reporting for duty satisfactory evidence of having obtained a proper release
from his present appointment, if any.
(ix) He should produce at the time of
reporting for duty a letter of introduction from a respectable person.
(x) He should produce at the time of
reporting for duty sufficient proof of his age and educational qualifications
and also bring with him the original certificates. Copies of which were
attached to his application.
(xi) The appointment will be subject to his
furnishing such information as the bank may require from time to time and
subject to his service being acceptable in the light of the information
(xii) If any declaration, statement or
information given by him is at any time found to be false or incorrect or if
any material particular is omitted, his appointment will be liable to be
terminated forthwith without any notice.
(xiii) The present appointment will not
confer on him any right for a temporary post or permanent post in the bank's
2. If he is agreeable to opt for casual
appointment on daily wages on the above terms and conditions, he should report
to the Manager's Section on or before the 4th May, 1974.
Sd/- B.N. Rohatgi P. Manager.
A mere reading of this Memorandum shows how
rigorous and one-sided the conditions are for a job that fetches a 'handsome'
sum of Rs. 3 per day. It is useful to note that this Memorandum does not
contain any terms that a Tikka Mazdoor will be struck off the rolls once he passed
the matriculate examination.
6. During the course of the submissions made
by the appellant's Counsel, he referred to a confidential communication issued
by the Bank to its officers to deal with Tikka Mazdoor. We think to it
appropriate to extract the relevant portion therefrom, so that the facts of the
case can be understood in the proper setting.
RESERVE BANK OF INDIA CENTRAL OFFICE
Department of Administration & Personnel Bombay - 400 001.
Ref. No. 4953/23H/75-76. 26th June, 1976.
The Manager, Reserve Bank of India,
Gauhati/Hyderabad/Jaipur/Kanpur/ Madras/Nagpur/New Delhi/Patna.
Dear Sir, Recruitment-Class IV-Mazdoors and
850 "5. As regards Tikka Mazdoors other
than those referred to in paragraph 4 above, born on the lapsed list i.e. those
who have not worked at all or who have worked for a lesser period than 240 days
during the preceeding 12 calender months, the non-matriculates among them only
may be considered for inclusion in List II allowing them appropriate relaxation
in age having regard to the period of service, if any, rendered by them and
their past record, if their number is not considered adequate to meet the requirements
of your office, additional fresh candidates may be wait-listed in the usual
manner. In order to keep the candidates so wait-listed outside the scope of
Section 2(oo) of the Industrial Disputes Act, they should not hereafter be
engaged continuously but should, as far as possible, be offered work on a
rotation basis. The latest position regarding their qualification and when any
of them is found to have passed the matriculation or equivalent examination,
his name should be struck off the list.
6. Please let us know in due course the
action taken by you in the matter along with particulars of Tikka Mazdoors
wait- listed in Lists I and II."
7. It is clear from the pleadings and from
the documents noted above how the respondent-bank managed to get rid of the
appellant. The disclosures made in the confidential circular make our task easy
in holding that the Bank was determined to adopt methods to terminate the
services of the employees like the appellant. The appellant was not told that
he would be struck off the rolls if he passed the matriculation. He was not
given any order in writing either refusing work or informing him that his name
would be struck off the rolls. The case of the bank is that he was orally
informed that his name has been struck off. Striking off the name of a workman
from the rolls by the employer amounts to 'termination of service and such
termination is retrenchment within the meaning of Section 2(oo) of the Act if
effected in violation of the mandatory provision contained in Section 25-F, and
is invalid. In this case the facts need only to be stated to hold that the
petitioner's name had been struck off the list contrary to the mandate
contained in Section 25-F. This Court has held in Delhi Cloth & General
Mills Ltd. v. Shambhu Nath Mukherjee & Ors.  1 S.C.R. 591, that
striking off the name from the rolls by the management is retrenchment within
the meaning of Section 2(oo) of the Act. While reading Section 25-F, 25-B and
Section 2(oo), Krishna Iyer, J. in State Bank of India v. Shri N. Sundara
Money,  3 S.C.R. 160, has observed that the words 'for any reason
whatsoever' occurring in 851 Section 2(oo) are very wide and almost admitting
of no exception. It was made clear that a comprehensive definition has to be
effectuated to protect the weak against the strong in construing the ambit of
the words contained in Section 2(oo). Pithily he observed that 'without further
ado, we reach the conclusion that if the workman swims into the harbour of
Section 25-F, he cannot be retrenched without payment, at the time of
retrenchment, compensation computed as prescribed therein read with Sec.
8. That takes us to the question whether the
appellant had qualified himself to sustain his claim to the benefits of Section
25-F. The appellant, as we will presently see, has given the number of days on
which he worked, in his claim statement. The first respondent-bank arranged
posting Tikka Mazdoors, like the appellant, in such a manner that they were
denied the benefits of the Industrial Disputes Act.
Since the first respondent-bank disputed the
fact that the appellant had worked for sufficient number of days to entitle him
to claim remedies under the Act, we think it necessary to refer to the facts as
disclosed in the records.
The Advocate who appeared for the appellant
before the Tribunal, Shri R.N. Srivastava, has failed an affidavit in this Court
stating that he had filed written arguments before the Tribunal explaining the
mistake committed by the Bank in the computation made by it of the number of
working days of the appellant. From this affidavit, it is seen that the first
respondent-bank put forward a case that the attendance register for the month
of July, 1976 had been destroyed and that Sundays and other holidays were not
taken into account in computing the number of days that the appellant worked.
We have also a supplementary affidavit filed by the appellant himself which
throws further light about the number of days that he worked. In this
affidavit, it is seen that he worked for 4 days in 1974, 154 days from January
1975 to December 1975 and 105 days from January 1976 to July 1976. The appellant
was denied work from July 1976.
His affidavit shows that he had worked for
202 days from July 1975 to July 1976. According to him, if we add 52 Sundays
and 17 holidays, the total number of days on which he worked comes to 271 days.
The appellant charged the Bank with having tampered with the records. To
contradict the appellant's case, the first respondent bank did not produce its
records. The appellant wanted the relevant records to be filed but they were
not produced. Grounds 18 to 20 of the special leave petition make mention of
this plea of the appellant. These grounds are met by the first respondent bank
in their counter affidavit filed in this Court by 852 stating that "when
the matter was before the Industrial Tribunal, the registers in question were
filed in another case before the Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court and
produced in that Court. However, I submit that now the attendance register has
been destroyed but the payment registers are available with the respondent-bank
as proof of the number of days on which the appellant worked." In the
absence of any evidence to the contrary, we have necessarily to draw the
inference that the appellant's case that he had worked for more than 240 days
from July, 1975 to July, 1976, is true.
Striking off the name of the appellant under
these circumstances is clearly termination of his service and the dispute in
this case therefore squarely comes within Section 2-A of the Industrial Disputes
Act. The Tribunal grossly erred in upholding the preliminary objection raised
by the bank that the dispute did not come within Section 2-A.
9. Not being satisfied with the pleas noted
above the respondent-bank had also a case that the appellant was only a badli
workman who could be deemed to have worked only on days when the permanent
workman or probationer was not employed. The bank did not make available before
the Tribunal any documentary evidence to show as to how the appellant could be
treated as a badli worker and as to whose place he occupied during the days he
The confidential circular directing the
officers that workmen like the appellant should not be engaged continuously but
should as far as possible, be offered work on rotation basis and the case that
the appellant is a badli worker, have to be characterised as unfair labour
The 5th Schedule to the Industrial Disputes
Act contains a list of unfair labour practices as defined in Section 2(ra).
Item 10 reads as follows:
"To employ workmen as 'badlis', casuals
or temporaries and to continue them as such for years, with the object of
depriving them of the status and privileges of permanent workmen." We have
no option but to observe that the bank, in this case, has indulged in methods
amounting to unfair labour practice. The plea that the appellant was a badli
worker also has to fail.
10. We thought it necessary to refer to the
factual details in the case only to show our concern at the manner in which the
853 employer in this case, the Reserve Bank of India, who should set a model
for other employers being a prestigious institution, behaved towards its
employees. It must have been his helpless condition and abject poverty that
forced the appellant to accept a job on Rs. 3 per day. Still see how he has
been treated. We will not be far from truth if we say that the Bank has
deliberately indulged in unhealthy labour practice by rotating employees like
the appellant to deny them benefits under the Industrial Law. It has disturbed
us to find that the appellant was denied job because he had become better
qualified. Perhaps the Reserve Bank of India and its officers are not aware of
the grave unemployment problem facing the youth of this country and also not
aware of the fact that graduates, both boys and girls, sweep our roads and
post-graduates in hundreds, if not in thousands, apply for the posts of peons.
It has been our sad experience to find employers trying to stifle the efforts
of employees in their legitimate claims seeking benefits under the Industrial
Law by tiring them out in adjudication proceedings raising technical and hyper
technical pleas. Industrial adjudication in bona fide claims have been dragged
on by employers for years together on such pleas. It would always be desirable
for employers to meet the case of the employees squarely on merits and get them
adjudicated quickly. This would help industrial peace. It is too late in the
day for this Court to alert the employers that their attempt should be to
evolve a contented labour.
We do not forget at the same time the fact
that it is necessary for the labour also to reciprocate to prevent industrial
unrest. In this case, for example, the Bank should have treated the appellant
as a regular hand in List II. Instead, the Bank has, by adopting dubious
methods invited from us, remarks which we would have normally avoided.
11. We hold that the appellant is entitled to
succeed. We set aside the order of the Industrial Tribunal and hold that the
striking off the name of the appellant from List II amounted to retrenchment
under Section 2(oo) of the Act and was in violation of Section 25-F. We direct
the first respondent-bank to enlist the appellant as a regular employee, as
Tikka Mazdoor, to reinstate him and pay him his back wages up-to-date. The
appeal is allowed with costs quantified at Rs. 3,000.
N.V.K. Appeal allowed.