Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. & ANR Vs. The Amalgamated Electricity
Co. Ltd. & Ors  INSC 665 (15 December 2000)
Appeal (civil) 1810 2000
K.G. BALAKRISHNAN, J.
of the Karnataka High Court is challenged in these appeals. The first
respondent, the Amalgamated Electricity Company Ltd., was engaged in supply of
electricity in Belgaum city. In the year 1971, there arose
some labour dispute. According to the workmen the Company declared a lockout,
whereas the management of the first respondent Company contended that some of
the workers had resorted to strike and refused to come for work. By the end
December, 1971, the management of the first respondent-Company started the
business with about 65 workmen and the other workers were not allowed to join
first respondent-Company contended that these workers were offered employment,
but they refused to join duty.
relating to these issues were referred to the Industrial Tribunal and in I.D.
No. 11/71, the Industrial Tribunal, Bangalore, passed an award on 17.2.1978 and it was held that there was no lockout
declared by the first respondent-Company. Meanwhile, on 18.12.1974, pursuant to
the Karnataka Electricity Undertaking (Acquisition) Act, 1974, the management
of the first respondent, Amalgamated Electricity Company Ltd., was taken over
by the Karnataka Electricity Board whereby all the assets and liabilities of
the Amalagamated Electricity Company Ltd. vested with the Karnataka Electricity
Board. According to the workmen, 29 employees offered themselves to work with
the Karnataka Electricity Board, but they were not allowed to work. The
appellant, Karnataka Electricity Board, contended that these workers could not
be allowed to join duty in view of the then pending Industrial Dispute. After
the passing of the award in I.D. No. 11/71, the workmen again made a demand
that they must be permitted to join duty in the Karnataka Electricity Board.
However, the workmen were not allowed to join duty and in view of the demand
made by the workers, a fresh Reference was made as to whether the management of
M/s Amalgamated Electricity Company Ltd., Belgaum and the Karnataka Electricity
Board, were justified in refusing employment to the 29 workmen named therein,
with effect from 25.3.1971. The Industrial Tribunal at Hubli passed its award
on 6.3.1991. It held that except one worker, K.S.
who was in gainful employment elsewhere, all other workers were entitled to
reinstatement and 50% of the back wages from 7.10.1978 till their
award of the Industrial Tribunal was challenged before the High Court and the
learned Single Judge refused to interfere with the award. In an appeal filed
against the judgment of the learned Single Judge, the Division Bench also
refused to interfere with the award passed by the Tribunal. Hence these
heard the learned counsel for the appellant, Karnataka Electrcity Board and
also the counsel for the first respondent-Company. Learned counsel for the
appellant contended that in view of the earlier Reference, namely, I.D. 11/71,
the second Reference was wholly unnecessary and as it was on the same subject
matter, the general principles of res judicata would apply. Therefore, he
contended that the award passed in I.D. 32/86 is not enforceable in law.
workers were admittedly the workers of the Amalgamated Electricity Company
Ltd., which was engaged in the supply of electricity in Belgaum. The counsel for the appellant
contended that there was an illegal strike and despite the offer made by the
appellant, the workers refused to join duty. The learned counsel for the
workmen, on the other hand, contended that there was an illegal lockout and in
spite of the fact that these workers were willing to work, they were denied
employment from 25.3.1971 onwards.
Reference under I.D. No. 11/71, the dispute was whether there was a lockout or
not by the first respondent-Company and it was held that there was no lock-out
as alleged by the workmen. It may be noted that the workmen were not allowed to
work right from 25.3.1971.
of the workers were transferred and some of them are alleged to have been
dismissed from service. Therefore, the dispute continued, and in the Second
Reference, i.e. in I.D. 32/86, the question for consideration was whether the
Amalgamated Electricity Company or its successor-in-interest, Karnataka
Electricity Board, was justified in refusing employment to the workmen.
not think that the subsequent Reference under I.D. 32/86 had anything to do
with the earlier Reference made as I.D. 11/71. The second Reference was
warranted in view of the stand taken by the Amalgamated Electricity Company and
the Karnataka Electricity Board that these workmen were not entitled to join
duty. Therefore, we do not think that the principles of res judicata have got
any application in the instant case.
further contended that there was a delay of several years in raising the
dispute and, therefore, the Tribunal should not have directed reinstatement of
all these workers. It was also contended that at the time of acquisition and
taking over of the management of the Amalgamated Electricity Company, these
workmen were not the workers of the Amalgamated Electricity Company and,
therefore, the Karnataka Electricity Board has no legal obligation to reinstate
them in service.
true that these workmen were not working in the Amalgamated Company at the time
when the management of the Company was taken over on 18.12.1974 as they were
illegally denied employment. Nevertheless, the Company was legally bound to
reinstate these workers as early as from 25.3.1971.
award of the Tribunal shows that they were illegally denied employment with
effect from 25.3.1971. When the Karnataka Electricity Board took-over the
management of the Amalgamated Electricity Company, these workers made
themselves available for work, but they were not allowed to join duty by the
Karnataka Electricity Board. The entire assets and liabilities of the
Amalgamated Electricity Company were taken over by the Karnataka Electricity
as per Section 25 FF of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, where the ownership
or management of an undertaking is transferrred, whether by agreement or by
operation of law, from the employer in relation to that undertaking to a new
employer, every workman who has been in continuous service for not less than
one year in that undertaking immediately before such transfer shall be entitled
to notice and compensation in accordance with the proivisions of Section 25 F
thereof. These workers were not paid any such compensation as per Section 25 F.
Their services should be deemed to have been not interrupted by such transfer.
Had the Amalgamated Electricity Company Ltd. been functioning in Belgaum, the said Company would have been
legally bound to engage these workers as their workmen by virtue of the award
passed by the Tribunal. The Karnataka Electricity Board being the
successor-in-interest is bound to reinstate these workers as per the award
passed by the Tribunal.
instant case, the workmen sought reference of the dispute long after it arose
between the parties.
the appellant Karnataka Electricity Board contended that the workers should not
be allowed back-wages.
also pointed out that this Court in similar cases had even awarded back wages
only upto 25%. In the instant case, the back wages have been directed to be
paid from 7.10.1978 till the date of reinstatement. Many of the employees have
now crossed the age of superannuation and only few remain to be reinstated.
Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, payment of 40% of
back wages would meet the ends of justice. We are told that out of 29 workers,
8 persons have died. One K.S. Shinde, S. No. 28 in the Statement showing the
service particulars of the respondent-workmen, was in gainful employment and
held not entitled to get the back wages.
regard to these facts, we direct the appellant, Karnataka Electricity Board to
reinstate M.Y. Lohar (S.No.
P.P. Karadi (S.No. 10); K.S. Khade (S.No. 14);
(S.No. 18); Prakash J. Naik (S.No. 19);
(S. NO. 20); B.S. Tamhankar (S.No. 21) and Pratap P. Jamadar (S.No. 22) in
service within a period of one month. In the case of P. F. Gawali (S.No. 23 )
the claim for reinstatement is not pressed. The appellant, Karnataka
Electricity Board is also directed to give back wages to these employes at the
rate of 40% from 7.10.1978 till their reinstatement.
the 29 workers have either retired or died. We direct that legal
representatives of the deceased workers are entitled to get back wages till the
respective dates of death of the deceased workers. The workmen who have reitred
shall be entitled to get back wages from 7.10.1978 till the notional date of
appeals are dismissed accordingly with no order as to costs.