Decided on February 24,1970

The Workmen Of The Jawahar Mills, Salem Represented By The Secretary, The Salem District Mills Workers Union, Jawahar Mills Appellant
The Management Of The Jawahar Mills Ltd. And Anr. Respondents


A.Alagiriswami, J. - (1.) THE petitioners are the workmen of the Jawahar Mills, Salem. 'One Babu Chettiar, who was working as a spinning master, had his services terminated by the management from 1st January, 1966. At the instance of the petitioners the dispute regarding the termination of his services was referred to the Labour Court, Coimbatore for adjudication, and the Labour Court has held that there is no industrial dispute in this case, as the Union is not entitled to agitate the question regarding the termination of services of Babu Chettiar. I think the decision of the Labour Court is correct. One need hardly take the trouble of examining the provision explaining the scope of the Industrial Disputes Act. It would be enough to refer to the relevant portions of the Supreme Court's judgment in Assam Chah Karmachari Sangha v. Dimakuchi Tea Estate : (1958) ILLJ 500 SC , because in the present case Babu Chettiar was admittedly not a workman as defined in Section 2 (s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, though he was a member of the petitioners' Union as in the case before the Supreme Court. The relevant portions in the Supreme Court's judgment are: ....while we agree that the expression ' any person' cannot be completely equated within ' any workmen' as defined in the Act, we think that the limitation formulated by the learned Counsel for the appellants is much too widely stated and is not quite correct. "We recognise that if the expression ' any person ' means ' any workmen' within the meaning of the Act, then it is difficulty to understand why the Legislature instead of using, the expression * any workmen ' used the such wider expression 'any person ' in the third part of the* definition clause. The very circumstances that in the second part of the definition clause the expression used is' between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen,' while in the third part the expression used is ' any person ' indicates that the expression ' any person ' cannot be completely equated with any workman.' The reason for the use of the expression ' any person ' in the definition clause is, however not for to seek. The word ' workmen ' as defined in the Act (before the amendments of 1956) included, for the purpose of any proceedings under the Act in relation to an industrial dispute, a workman discharged during the dispute. If the expression 'any person' in the third part of the definition clause were to be strictly equated with any workman,' then there could be no industrial dispute, prior to 1956, with regard to a workman who had been discharged earlier than the dispute, even though the discharge itself had led to the dispute. That seems to be the reasons why the Legislature used the expression 'any person' in the third part of the definition clause so as to put it beyond any doubt that the non -employment of such a dismissed workmen was also within the ambit of an industrial dispute. There was wide gap between a ' workman ' and ' employee' under the definition of the work workman ' in Section 2 (s) as it stood prior to 1956, all existing workman were no doubt employees; but all employees were not workmen. The supervisory staff did not come within the definition. The gap has been reduced to some extent by the amendments of 1956; part of the supervisory staff (who draw wages not exceeding five hundred rupees per mensem) and those who were otherwise workman but were discharged or dismissed earlier have also come within the definition. If an when the gap is completely bridged, ' workman ' will be synonymous with employees whether engaged in any skilled or unskilled manual, supervisory, technical or clerical work, etc. But till the gap is completely obliterated there is a distinction between workmen and non -workmen and that distinction has an important bearing on the question before us. Limitation (3) as formulated by learned Counsel for the appellants ignores the distinction altogether and equates ' any person ' with' any employee' - -past present or future; this, we do not think, is quite correct or consistent with the other provisions of the Act. "The Act avowedly gives a restricted meaning to the word ' workmen ' and almost all the provisions of the Act are intended to confer benefits on that class of persons who generally answer to the description of workmen. The expression' any person' in the definition clause means, in our opinion, a person in whose employment, or non -employment, or terms of employment or conditions of labour the workmen as a class have a direct or substantial interest -with whom they have under the scheme of the Act a community of interest. Our reason for so holding is not merely that the Act makes a distinction between workmen and non -workmen, but because a dispute to be a real must be one in which the parties to the dispute have a direct or substantial interest. Can it be said that workmen as a class are directly or substantially interested in employment, non -employment, terms of employment, or conditions of labour or persons who belong to the supervisory staff and are, under provisions of the Act, non -workmen or whom the Act has conferred no benefit, who cannot by themselves be parties to an industrial dispute and for whose representation the Act makes no particular provision? We venture to think that the answer must be in the negative. Earlier at page 507 their Lordships give an example and observed: Take for example, another case where the workmen raise an objection to the salary or remuneration paid to a manager or chief medical officer by the employer but without claiming any benefit for themselves, and let us assume that a dispute or difference arises between the workmen on one side and the employer on the other over such an objection. If such a dispute comes within the definition clause and is referred to an industrial tribunal for adjudication, the parties to the dispute will be the employer on one side and his workmen on the other. The manager or the chief Medical Officer cannot obviously be a party to the dispute, because he is not a ' workman' within the meaning of the Act and there is no dispute between him and his employer. That being the position, the award, if any, given by the tribunal will be binding under Clause (a) of Section 18, on the parties to the dispute and not on the manager or the chief Medical Officer. It is extremely doubtful if in the circumstances stated that tribunal can summon the manager or the chief Medical Officer as a party to the dispute, because there is no dispute between the manager or chief Medical Officer on one side and his employer on the other. Furthermore, Section 36 of the Act does not provide for representation of a person who is not a party to the dispute. If, therefore, an award is made by the tribunal in the case which we have taken by way of illustration, that award, though binding on the employer, will not be binding on the manager or chief Medical Officer. It should be obvious that the Act could not have contemplated an eventuality of this kind, which does not promote any of the objects of the Act, but rather goes against them.
(2.) THE last portion of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the earlier extract is clinching as far as this question is concerned. On behalf of the petitioners it was sought to be argued that what is important is the community of interest between the workmen on the one hand and the employment or non -employment of any person (though not a workman) in which they are interested on the other and that the workers are interested in having a good spinning master, and that is the community of interest between the spinning master and the workers in the mills. Reference is made to be minority judgment in the Supreme Court case, where Sarker, J. observed at page 524: If this is sufficient interest to constitute an industrial dispute, I fail to seen why the workmen have no sufficient interest in a dispute in which they claim that a foreman who is particularly rude and brutal in his behaviour should be removed and should have a more human foreman. This is surely a matter in which the workmen raising the dispute have a personal and immediate interest and not, as in the last case, an interest in the prevention of something happening in future, which conceivably may never happen at all. Such an interest is plainly nearer to the ordinary kinds of interest, than the interest in solidarity of labour or in the prevention of future harm which in the preceding paragraphs have been found to be sufficient to sustain in industrial dispute. The dispute last imagined would undoubtedly be an industrial dispute if the foreman was a workman, for then it would be entirely within the definition of an industrial dispute. Now suppose the foreman was not a workman, can it be said that then the dispute would not be an industrial dispute? Would the interest of the workmen in the dispute be any the less or in any way different because the foreman whose dismissal was demanded was not a workmen? I conceive it impossible to say so. Therefore, if interest is the test, the dispute that I have imagined would have to be held to be an industrial dispute whether or not the foreman concerned was a workman. Now, assume that the dispute did not arise out of demand for the dismissal of a foreman. But against his dismissal on the ground that he was a particularly kind and sympathetic man and the workmen were happy under him. In such a case the interest of the workmen in the dispute would be the same as their interest in the dispute demanding the foreman's dismissal. They would be demanding his reinstatement in their own interest; they would be demanding it to make sure that their work would be easy and smooth and that they would be happy in the discharge of it. Such a dispute therefore also has to be held to be an industrial dispute and, as in the last case, it would make no difference for this purpose that the foreman concerned was not a workman. If this is right, as I think it is, then similarly the dispute concerning the dismissal of Dr. Banerjee would be an industrial dispute for the workmen have sufficient personal and immediate interest in seeing that they have a doctor of their liking to look after them. It is indeed the case of the workmen that by his devotion to duty and good behaviour Dr. Banerjee became very popular with the workmen. Whether the contention of the workmen is justified or not and whether it would be upheld by the Tribunal or not, are wholly different matters and do not affect the question whether in an industrial dispute the workmen must be interested. It is enough to say that I find no reason to think that the appellant has interest in the dispute concerned the dismissal of Dr. Banerjee. Therefore, I would hold that even if it is necessary to constitute an industrial dispute that workmen must have in interest in it, the dispute before us is one in which the appellant have a direct and substantial interest and it is an industrial dispute. But this goes quite contrary to the view of the majority and cannot be taken to lay down the law correctly. I may also refer to a decision of a Bench of this Court in Vijayakumar Mills Ltd. v. V.M. National Worker's Union : AIR 1964 Mad 395 , where the dispute was with regard to the non -employment of a person, who was admittedly a workman. Even there the Bench took the view that the question whether the other workers have a direct or substantial interest in the non -employment of the person will depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case, and on the circumstances of that case they came to the conclusion that his services in the matter of time -keeping are so intimately connected with the work of the industrial workers that one can easily say that the workers as a class are directly and substantially interested in the non -employment or employment of that person. Thus, it is obvious that even where the dispute relates to the employment or non -employment of a workman, he and the other workmen raising the dispute must have a community of interest. It follows with even greater force that even if there is a community of interest between workman and a person, who is not a workman, the question of non -employment of the latter cannot form the subject -matter of an industrial dispute. The Industrial Disputes Act is intended to deal with, the problems and welfare of workmen and defined in the Act and not with the welfare or the employment or the non -employment of persons who are not workmen. It would be wholly contrary to the purpose of the Act and its spirit to hold that such a dispute can form and industrial dispute and can be referred for adjudication by the Labour Court. It is totally outside the scope of the Act. The writ petition is therefore dismissed. No costs.;

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