Chatterjee & Ors Vs. Texmaco Limited & Ors  INSC 664 (15 December
BALAKRISHNAN The petitioners claimed that they had been working in the first
respondent-company since last several years as 'Budli' workers and that they
were entitled to be regularised. This dispute between the petitioners and the
management of the first respondent-company was referred to the Industrial
Tribunal by the appropriate Government for adjudication. The dispute referred
to the Industrial Tribunal read thus:
the demand of the Badli workmen as shown in the annexure for regularisation of
their services in the permanent roll of the company is justified? What reliefs,
if any, are they entitled?" The Industrial Tribunal, by its award dated
29.1.1999, held that out of the 100 workmen, 92 workmen were entitled to be regularised
and to have all benefits and status like regular employees. They were further
held to be entitled to have other statutory benefits also from the date of
their respective initial engagement.
award of the Tribunal was challenged before the High Court on the ground that
the Industrial Tribunal had committed an error of jurisdiction as it allowed
the scope of the Reference to be enlarged. But, this plea was not accepted by
the learned Single Judge and the writ petition was dismissed. An application
filed by the petitioners herein under Section 17-B of the Industrial Disputes
Act, 1947 was allowed and it was directed that the 92 workmen should be paid
every month an amount of Rs.3, 919.46 until conclusion of the proceedings or
grant of 'permanent workman' status, whichever was earlier. The arrears of
wages were also directed to be cleared within a stipulated period. The decision
of the learned Single Judge was challenged before the Division Bench of the
Division Bench held that the Tribunal had enlarged the scope of the Reference
and thereby committed an error of jurisdiction. It was held that the main issue
was whether 'Budli' workmen should be regularised, and for arriving at a just
conclusion, it was permissible for the Tribunal to consider as to how the
workmen had been treated and as to whether they had been subjected to unfair labour
practice or not. However, while doing so, the Tribunal, evidently, did not put
the management of the first respondent-company on notice. The Division Bench of
the High Court was of the opinion that had the management of the first
respondent-company been put on notice, it could have brought on record the
relevant material therefor. In that context, reliance was placed by the High
Court on the decision reported in Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. of India Pvt.
Workmen 1981 (II) LLJ 218 and ultimately the Division Bench held that the
Industrial Tribunal should consider the matter afresh in accordance with law
and for that purpose, the award passed by the Industrial Tribunal was set
also directed that the decision should be taken within a period of three months
from the date of communication of the order. The direction of the learned
Single Judge to extend the benefits under Section 17-B of the Industrial
Disputes Act to the petitioners was also vacated.
heard the learned counsel on either side at some length. Having regard to the
entire facts and circumstances of the case, we do not find any reason to
interfere with the impugned judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court.
the Reference be considered by the Industrial Tribunal afresh in accordance
with law. We express no opinion on merits.
Special Leave Petition is disposed of accordingly.