(1.) THESE three special civil application raise common questions. The three matters from which they arise were dealt with by the Judge of the labour court Ahmedabad, by one and the same judgment and we will and also dispose of all the three of them by this common judgment. The respective petitioner in each of these three special civil applications was working prior to 31 January 1951, as gardener at the residential quarters of the officers of the Imperial Tobacco Company of India, Ltd. , which has been joined as respondent 2 in each of these three special civil applications. According to these petitioners they had been employed by the company as gardeners and were entrusted their duties of working and looking after the gardens in the company's premises abutting on the residential quarters of the officers of the company. Till 31 January, 1951, their names appeared on the company's musters but thereafter, i. e. with effect from 1 February 1951, their names were removed from the muster-rolls of the company but the company continued to pay them as before on the same terms by means of vouchers. These three petitioners continued to perform their duties as before under the control and direction of the company. From 1 March 1957, instead of paying them by vouchers the company adopted a different system, viz. , paying the amount exactly equal to the salary of the petitioners to the officers and officers in their turn passing on the same amount to the petitioners. The three gardeners were paid at the same rates of pay throughout the period from January 1951 onwards. According to them, they were entitled to be paid basic wages and dearness allowance in accordance with a settlement arrived at between the company and its workmen at its Ahmedabad depot on 29 March 1954. They had not been paid at these rates and they, therefore, applied to the labour court at Ahmedabad by three different application in the month of December 1959, approaching the Court under S. 33c (2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), praying that the Court may compute the amounts payable to them from 1 April 1954 to 12 November 1959, and issue certificates for the recovery of the amounts.
(2.) IN each of these three applications before the labour court, the company filed written statements and later on supplementary written statements were also filed. By their written statements the company contended, firstly, that there was no relationship of employer and employee between the gardeners, and the company. According to the company, these applicants before the labour court had always worked as domestic servants under the direction and control of the different occupants of the bungalows in which its officers were residing. The company had never directed or controlled their work and the company, therefore, contended that the labour court had no jurisdiction to entertain these applications under S. 33 of the Act. The company further contended that the applicants before the labour court in these three applications were in the private employment of the occupants of the bungalows in question since 1 February 1951, and that these gardeners were not covered by the settlement, dated 29 March 1954, and hence the terms of the settlement between the company and its workmen at the Ahmedabad depot were not applicable to them. According to the company these three applicants had acquiesced in the arrangement under which their services with the company were terminated from 1 February 1951 on which date they had become domestic servants of the occupants of the bungalows. According to the company it was not until the union made a demand by its letter, dated 2 March, 1959, asking for the benefits under the settlement, dated 29 March 1954, and for the gardeners being treated as company's employees that the company became aware of any dispute as regards this arrangement. According to the company, after their acquiescence in the aforesaid arrangement for more than eight years, no relationship of employer and employee could be created between the company and the gardeners. The company also contended that the Court had no jurisdiction to take action under S. 33c of the Act as the claims of the applicants were disputed by the company. The company contended that it was not open to the Court to examine the merits of the claims set out by the three applicants before the labour court, which were being disputed in their entirety by the company. The company further contended that the provisions of S. 33c (2) were also not applicable as the claim of the respective applicant was not in respect of a benefit capable of being computed in terms of money but was in fact a monetary claim. In any event, according to the company, the applicants' claims were liable to be rejected on the ground of inordinate delay and laches. The company's contention was that the companies well as the union had never intended that the terms of the settlement of 29 March 1954 were to apply to the gardeners. Throughout the period from 1 February 1951 till the presentation of the applications before the labour court, the respective applicant had been entirely under the control and direction of the persons by whom he had been respectively employed. The company contended that the settlement, dated 29 March 1954, related only to the clerical staff, salesmen, general workers (office sweepers and godown employees), chowkidars, office peons, case-makers, drivers station sircars and canvassers. The category of mali was not mentioned in this settlement; and the applicants before the labour court were, therefore, not entitled to wages and dearness allowance as claimed by them.
(3.) BEFORE the labour court, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the company contended that the applications were not legally tenable under S. 33c of the Act and technical objections were raised as to the maintainability of the applications. The learned judge heard these technical objections as preliminary issues without going into the merits of the case.;