(1.) This appeal under Clause-15 of the Letters Patent is at the instance of the respondents of a Special Civil Application and is directed against the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge of this Court dated 12th September 2012 in Special Civil Application No.7800/2013 by which His Lordship partly allowed the petition filed by the respondent-Union directing the appellants to treat the members of the respondent Union at par with the employees working at the Head Office of the Appellant Corporation on the basis of their pay scales.
(2.) The facts giving rise to this appeal may be summarized as under :
2.1 The Gujarat State Textile Limited Officers and Technicians Union, respondent no.1 herein filed a writ application with regard to extending the benefits of the 3rd and 4th Central Pay Commissions Scales of Pay, Dearness Allowance etc. to the employees of Technical & Officers Cadre working in the Textile Mills run by the appellant Corporation.
2.2 The case of the Union before the learned Single Judge was that the Government of Gujarat enacted the Gujarat Closed Textile Undertakings (Nationalization) Act, 1986 and the Company namely, the Gujarat State Textile Corporation Limited (for short, "the GSTC") was incorporated with a view to re-organize and reconstruct the eleven textile mills which were transferred and vested in the GSTC. On transfer of the eleven textile mills, all the employees of the eleven textile mills became the employees of the GSTC. The head office of the GSTC was set up at Ahmedabad. The Government of Gujarat accepted the recommendations of the 3rd and 4th Pay Commissions and extended its benefits to all the employees employed in Government Corporations and accordingly, the revised pay scales were given to all the employees of such Government Corporations working in different units in different parts of the State. The recommendations of 3rd and 4th Pay Commissions accepted and adopted by the Government for the employees of Government Corporations were also adopted by GSTC. However, the benefits of the 3rd and the 4th Pay commissions were given to only those employees who were working in the Head Office of the Corporation. The benefits of 3rd and 4th Pay Commissions were not extended to the employees such as technicians and other officers working in the mill units of the Corporation who are the members of the Gujarat State Textile Corporation Officers & Technicians Union.
2.3 Being aggrieved by such discriminatory treatment met out to the employees working in the mill units, the Union approached this Court by way of a Special Civil Application No.7800 of 1993 and prayed for the following reliefs:
"21. The petitioners therefore pray that this Hon'ble Court may be pleased:-
(A) To issue writ or writs in the nature of Mandamus and/or Prohibition and/or any other appropriate writ or writs or directions or orders.
(B) To direct the respondents by writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ or writs or directions to apply the service rules with effect from the date of making thereof to all the technicians and officers cadres mentioned above in the employment of the 1st respondent Corporation and working in the eleven textile mills of the respondents without any distinction whatsoever.
(C) To direct the respondents to treat all the employees equally and to give benefits of scales of pay and dearness allowances etc as per 3rd and 4th Central Pay Commission recommendations to the technicians and officers cadres mentioned above working in the eleven textile mills run by the respondents as given to the employees working in the Head Office of the 1st respondent Corporation and as given by the National Textile Corporation (Gujarat) Limited to its technicians and officers working in textile units.
(D) To grant to the 2nd petitioner and the technicians and officers cadres working in the eleven textile mills who are members of our Union such other relief as justice may require.
(E) To allow this petition with cost.
(F) To direct the respondent including the newly added respondent, the Official Liquidator to pay to all the officers/employees who were working in the specified Mills under the Gujarat State Textile Corporation the arrears of the difference of salary which such employees would be entitled to under the 3rd and 4th pay commissions and be further pleased to direct the said respondents to pay to such employees the difference of compensation which is paid under VRS scheme after calculating the same as per the pay scales which the concerned employee may be entitled to under the 5th pay commission."
2.4 Thus, the issue which fell for the consideration of the learned Single Judge was whether the members of the Union were entitled to receive the pay scales and other consequential benefits of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Pay Commission as was paid to the other employees of the Corporation working at the Head Office.
2.5 The defence of the appellants before the learned Single Judge was that the service conditions of the staff was governed under the various agreements entered into between the Ahmedabad Textile Mills Association and Representative Union i.e. the Textile Labour Association (TLA). The demand raised in the petition was with regard to revision in pay scale of the Technical Staff Award as well as Non- award staff. Therefore, so far as the Award staff was concerned, the TLA being the representative union under the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, had no locus standi to file such a petition raising demands in respect of terms and conditions of the services for the Award-staff.
2.6 It was also the case of the appellants before the learned Single Judge that so far as the non-award staff was concerned, it comprised of the Officers of the constituent mills who were not governed by the Awards between the Ahmedabad Textile Association and the Textile Labour Association. It was also the case of the Appellant Corporation that it was not in a position to provide any revision to its technical as well as non-award staff. The Corporation had already accumulated losses to the tune of Rs.312.17 Crore as on 31st March 1993 and was incurring losses to the tune of Rs.4.00 Crore per mensem. It was also brought to the notice of the learned Single Judge that the Corporation had been declared a sick Industrial Undertaking by the BIFR vide its order dated 2nd July 1993. It was also submitted before the learned Single Judge that if such revision of the pay scale was allowed in terms of the demand, then there would be an additional financial burden between Rs.1.6 Crore and 2 Crore per annum.
2.7 It was also submitted before the learned Single Judge that it was not possible and legally permissible to claim parity between the Staff working at the Central Office and the Staff working at the mill's Unit for the simple reason that the nature of work carried out at the Central Office and nature of work carried out by Officers at the Mill's Units were altogether different.
(3.) The learned Single Judge partly allowed the petition by making the following observations :
"16. This court is cautious of the fact that equal pay can only be given for equal work of equal value. The principle of "equal pay for equal work" has no mechanical application in every case and it requires consideration of various dimensions of a given job. The accuracy required and the dexterity that the job may entail may differ from job to job and it cannot be judged by the mere volume of work. Normally, the applicability of this principle is left to be evaluated and determined by an expert body and these are not matters where a Writ Court can lightly interfere. But, Courts also cannot keep a blind eye in a case where the staff / sub-staff working in the Mills have received a step-motherly treatment.
17. It is a settled proposition of law that burden is on the workman to prove and establish, by leading cogent and reliable evidence, that job requirements, nature and responsibilities of the posts are identical, if the principle of "equal pay for equal work" is to be invoked. In the present case, admittedly the petitioner/ respondent-Union has not produced cogent and reliable evidence to prove that the nature and responsibilities of the posts at the Head Office and in the Mills are identical. While the counterparts of the employees of the Mills working in the Head Office have been getting pay revisions in normal course, as and when it is allowed to other employees of the appellant-Corporation, the staff working in the Mills have been deprived of the said benefits.
18. It is submitted on behalf of the petitioner-Union that during the last two decades while the cost of living has gone up several times, the salary and allowances of the workers working in the mills have remained stagnant. This Court can understand the situation of the members of the petitioner- Union. However, on account of the fact that no evidence has been produced on record by the petitioner-Union to establish that both the posts are identical, the claim of the petitioner- Union, based on the principle of "equal pay for equal work", is not tenable. When the work is not equal, the question of equal pay does not arise. But, at the same time, this Court cannot ignore the fact that the staff/sub-staff working in the mills have received a step-motherly treatment at the hands of the respondent-Corporation. They have not had a pay revision for years.
19. A strong plea has been raised by the respondent- Corporation that since the employees of the Mills are not 'Corporation employees", they have absolutely no legal right to claim that the respondent-Corporation should pay them salary or that additional expenditure incurred on account of revision of pay-scales should be met by the respondent-Corporation, particularly, when it has already been wound-up. However, in my opinion, winding-up of a Company is not a sufficient ground to deny relief to the staff/sub-staff working in the Mills.
20. This Court is conscious about the principle laid down by the Apex Court in decisions relied upon by learned counsel Ms. Davawala where the Government Company has gone into liquidation. In the present case also, he respondent- Corporation has been wound-up by the orders of this Court. Before we proceed further, it may be noted that during the course of arguments, learned counsel Dr.Sinha had made a categorical statement that the members of the petitioner-Union may be granted the benefits so claimed, only after all the outstanding dues of the respondent-Corporation are paid-up from the sale proceeds of the respondent-Corporation and if, thereafter, the balance funds so available are insufficient to meet with the claims of the members of the petitioner-Union, then the petitioner-Union undertakes that its members shall not claim a single Rupee from the respondent-Corporation or shall not raise any claim against the State.
21. It has also been contended on behalf of the respondent- Corporation that the members of the petitioner-Union have no right whatsoever to challenge the respondent's action of denial of equal treatment, after having accepted the Voluntary Retirement Scheme and in support thereof, reliance has been placed on the Scheme dated 31.08.1996. However, it appears from the record that pursuant to the introduction of the above Scheme dated 31.08.1996, the respondent-Corporation had circulated a Notice on 04.09.1996 whereby, the non-award staff was directed to resign or to face retrenchment. The non-award staffs, who were members of the petitioner-Union, were forced to submit their resignation but, they all did so by reserving their rights under the petition. Thus, the members had submitted the VRS Forms, by displaying their 'objection', on the body of the said Forms. Therefore, it was not that the members of the petitioner-Union had accepted the Voluntary Retirement Scheme wholeheartedly but, they had signed it under protest. Hence, the submission advanced on behalf of the respondent-Corporation is baseless and devoid of merits.
22. The staff working in the eleven specified textile Mills of the respondent-Corporation are also the staff of the parent body. If the respondent-Corporation had been incurring losses over a period of time,. Then the impact has to be on everyone connected with the Corporation, in whatever capacity. The respondent-Corporation cannot have double standards. It cannot give certain benefits to the employees of the Head Office and deny the same to the employees of the Mills, particularly, when they both belong to the parent body. When the respondent-Corporation had granted benefits of Third, Fourth and Fifth Pay Commissions to the employees of Head Office, was there no financial burden ? It may be that the petitioner-Union has failed to establish that the nature of duties of the staff in the two categories is not on par and therefore, parity in pay-scales may not be possible. Yet, there can be no case for total denial of revision of pay to the staff/sub-staff working in the eleven specified textile Mills. In my opinion, a case for relief to the staff/sub-staff working in the Mills is definitely made out and the workers deserve some relief though not parity of pay-scales with the employees at the Head Office of the respondent-Corporation but, certainly on account of revision of pay scales/increase of DA or emoluments from time to time as and when fell due during the period of nearly three decades since when, no revision of their pay scale has been made.
23. In view of the above discussion and considering the principle rendered by the Apex Court in Chairman-cum- Managing Director, National Textile Corporation Ltd.'s case, I am of the view that the members of the petitioner- Union are required to be treated on par with the employees at the Head Office of the respondent-Corporation and hence, the petition deserves to be partly allowed.
24. For the foregoing reasons, the petition is partly allowed;
(i) The respondent-Corporation is directed to treat the members of the petitioner-Union, who were the employees of the eleven specified textile Mills, at par with the employees working at the Head Office of the respondent-Corporation on the basis of their Pay-scales.
(ii) It is made clear that this Court has not directed to award similar pay-scales to the members of the petitioner-Union by invoking the principle of "equal pay for equal work" but, has directed to treat the members of the petitioner-Union at par with the employees working at the Head Office of the respondent-Corporation.
(iii) As recorded earlier, during the course of arguments, learned counsel Dr.Sinha had made a categorical statement that the members of the petitioner-Union may be given the benefits so claimed from the sale proceeds of the respondent-Corporation, only after the outstanding dues of all the creditors of the erstwhile Corporation are met, since the petitioner-Union is of the firm belief that substantial funds from the sale proceeds shall still be available from which payments can be made to the members of the petitioner-Union. In view of the said statement, the benefits flowing from this judgment shall be released from the sale proceeds of the respondent-Corporation, after all the dues of the respondent-Corporation are paid up; and if the funds derived from the sale proceeds are insufficient to make payment to the members of the petitioner-Union, then no payment shall be made and the members of the petitioner-Union will not be entitled to claim any benefits from the State in view of their undertaking.
(iv) Payments may be adjusted against the claims of the employees and also proportionately on the basis of the funds available, within a period of SIX MONTHS from today.
(v) The petition stands disposed of accordingly. Rule is made absolute to the above extent with no order as to costs. The civil application stands disposed of in view of the disposal of the main matter.";