M K RANGANATHAN Vs. MADRAS ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS 1904 LTD
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
MADRAS ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS (1904) LTD.
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Subba Rao, J. -
(1.) This is an application for issuing a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India at Bombay. The petitioners who are 46 in number were workmen employed by the Madras Electric Tramways Ltd. On the 17th of February 1950 some of the workers met the Agent of the Company and discussed with him their disputes relating to bonus for the year 1949, reinstatement of 13 discharged men and the cancellation of fine on the motormen. After some discussion they dispersed. On the afternoon of 20th February, a large number of workers gathered near the entrance and passages leading to the Agent's room. The management contended that the adjourned meeting was fixed to take place on the 18th whereas the labourers stated that it was adjourned to 20th. On the 20th, the Agent refused to receive their representatives unless the five representatives who met him on the 18th came again. The labourers insisted upon two of their leaders, Ranganathan and Subramaniam to be members of the deputation. The Agent refused to meet them as they belonged to an Association banned by the Government. In the evening the Agent asked them to disperse and even threatened to bring in police help if they did not go outside the office building. Though the labourers left the office building they spent the night in the open space nearby. Next morning some other workers joined them. The strikers were estimated to be about 200 strong. On the 22nd instead of giving to the workers the time-sheets the management gave them certain memoranda wherein it was stated that time-sheets would not be given until the explanation called for was submitted and accepted by the management. At about 9-30 or 10 a.m. the Deputy Commissioner of Police came to the spot and persuaded the Agent to receive the deputation. The workers met the Agent but the meeting did not yield any successful result. The Agent explained to them the difficulties of the management to meet out their demands but the labourers were dissatisfied and they did not leave the premises. The management wrote to the Commissioner of Police requesting him to take necessary steps to remove the strikers. At 6 p.m. on the 22nd the police arrived on the scene and arrested 51 men who were sitting in the maidan. During this period the workers were shouting slogans "Down with the Agent", "Down with the Labour Officer", and "Down with the Traffic Manager" and were also creating noise which must have disturbed the office working. But there was no violence and no untoward event happened. The strike involving about 100 illiterate labourers, whether their grievances were true or only imaginary went off peacefully. The arrested persons were produced before the Presidency M.K. Ranganathan and Ors. vs. The Madras Electric Tramways (1904) Ltd. and Anr. (... Page 2 of 14 Magistrate. The Magistrate found all the 51 persons guilty under Sections 71(16) and 75 of the City Police Act and sentenced them to one month's rigorous imprisonment under each count with the direction that the sentences should run concurrently. The Magistrate held that they behaved in a disorderly manner in the office of the Madras Electric Tramways Ltd. Section 71(16) relates to the affixing or causing to be affixed of a bill, document or paper upon any building without the consent of its owner or in any manner defacing or disfiguring the building. Section 75 of the Act relates to violent, disorderly or indecent behaviour in any Court, office or station. The Magistrate held that the workers pasted or caused to be pasted on the company's walls notices bearing their slogans and demands without the consent of the Madras Electric Tramways Ltd. the owner of the building. In revision the High Court set aside the convictions on the ground that no reasonable opportunity was given to the accused persons to defend themselves and that they had no fair trial. The petitioners were acquitted. On the 13th of March 1950 the workers approached the management and requested to reinstate them on the ground that the High Court had acquitted them of all the charges. The management gave them extension of time for submitting their explanation. A form of charges framed also appears to have been handed over to them. On the 14th of March 1950 all the workers replied stating that the charges were vague. After some correspondence the labourers reiterated their objections to the charges framed and also communicated their request to adjourn the enquiry till the disposal of the criminal revision case in the High Court. The Agent passed an order on the 10th of April dismissing the workers on the ground that they are guilty under the company's Standing Order No. 24(3). Subsequently the enquiry was reopened. Fresh enquiries were started with fresh charges. Finally they were dismissed on the 22nd of May 1950. On the 20th of September 1950 the Government of Madras in their G. O. Ms. No. 3730, Development, referred the dispute between the workers and the management in respect of the reinstatement of the workers to the Second Industrial Tribunal, Madras. Sri T. D. Ramaiya held an elaborate enquiry and gave his award which was notified by the Government on the 18th of December 1950. The Tribunal did not find that there was any violation of the principles of natural justice in the course of the enquiry or that the management had been guilty of victimization or unfair practice or that it had been moved by ulterior motive in coming to its decision. The Tribunal found that the workers should not have been asked to answer the charge of wilful neglect of duty under Standing Order No. 24(3) though ho held that the charge of insubordination was made out. He pointed out that there was no evidence against any of the workers that they in any manner interfered with the loyal workers of the company. He found that they were guilty of disobedience of the Agent's order directing them to leave the company's premises. He could not find any excuse for their shouting of slogans, drawing of caricature of the Agent and defacing the walls by writing slogans and demands and the annoyance and disturbance caused. He took notice of the circumstance that there were no assaults or acts of intimidation or picketing or interference with non-strikers. M.K. Ranganathan and Ors. vs. The Madras Electric Tramways (1904) Ltd. and Anr. (... Page 3 of 14 He also pointed out that the management had conceded that there was no damage or injury to person or property of the company. Looking at the entire picture of events from the 17th of February 1950 to the events of the 22nd of February he was of the opinion that though the workers indulged in an illegal strike for which the management could have taken reasonable and appropriate action, there was no ground whatever to visit them with the punishment of dismissal. On that finding he directed that the petitioners be reinstated but declined to grant them any back pay or allowances. The management preferred an appeal to the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India at Bombay. The Appellate Tribunal allowed the appeal in respect of the present petitioners. The workers filed an application for issuing a writ of certiorari to the Bombay High Court. Shah J. quashed the order of the appellate Tribunal but a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court allowed the appeal against the order of Shah J. holding that the High Court of Bombay had no jurisdiction to entertain a writ as the subject matter was outside Bombay High Court. The present petition has, therefore been filed in this Court for quashing the order of the Labour Appellate Tribunal of India.
(2.) The learned counsel appearing for the management raised before me two preliminary points. He contended that the petitioners have other adequate remedies and, therefore, following the usual practice this Court should not issue a writ of certiorari. He also raised the plea that the High Court of Madras had no jurisdiction to entertain this application as the Tribunal whose order is sought to be quashed is not situated within the territorial jurisdiction of this Court. The first contention is based upon the provisions of Article 136 of the Constitution of India which read as follows:
"Notwithstanding anything in this chapter (Chapter IV) the Supreme Court may in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any Court or Tribunal in the territory of India." It is contended that the petitioners could have preferred an appeal against the Judgment of the Appellate Tribunal to the Supreme Court and they having failed to do so would not be entitled for the issue of a writ of certiorari. It is true that the writ of certiorari will not be issued if a party has other effective remedies but under Article 136 of the Constitution of India the Supreme Court's residuary power to grant special leave, in my view cannot be an effective remedy which the petitioners could have resorted to, for, apart from the fact that there is no right of appeal to the petitioners and the granting of special leave is within the discretion of the Supreme Court, it is not likely that the Supreme Court will grant special leave unless there are extraordinary circumstances, I cannot, therefore, accept the first contention. Nor am I satisfied that there are any merits in the second contention either. It is indeed curious that such a contention should have been raised by the party who objected to the jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court to entertain the writ petition on the ground that the proper Court is the Madras High Court and M.K. Ranganathan and Ors. vs. The Madras Electric Tramways (1904) Ltd. and Anr. (... Page 4 of 14 having succeeded on that point should now question the jurisdiction of this Court. The argument was based upon the provisions of Article 226 of the Constitution of India which reads:
"Notwithstanding anything in Article 32 every High Court shall have power, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction to issue to any person or authority including in appropriate cases any Government within those territories, directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of 'habeas corpus', mandamus, prohibition, 'quo warranto' and certiorari, or any of them for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose." It is said that the Tribunal is not within the territory in relation to which the High Court exercised jurisdiction. Before I consider this argument some relevant facts may be stated:
(3.) The Appellate Labour Tribunal though it has its head office in Bombay is itinerant and holds its sittings in different parts of the country. It also held a sitting within the jurisdiction of this Court in connection with an appeal filed by the first respondent and also disposed of some interlocutory applications in connection with that appeal. Further the dispute arose in the territory within the jurisdiction of this Court and all the parties to the dispute reside within such a territory. In 'RYOTS OF GARABHANDO v. ZAMINDAR OF PARLA- KIMEDI,' ILR (1944) Mad 457, the Judicial Committee had elaborately considered the question whether the Madras High Court could issue a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Revenue Board fixing fair and equitable rent in respect of lands in three villages belonging to the Zamindar of Parlakimedi in Ganjam district. At page 497 their Lordships observed:
"The question is whether the principle of that case can be applied in the present case to the settlement of rent for land in Ganjam merely upon the basis of the location of the Board of Revenue as a body which is ordinarily resident or located within the town of Madras or on the basis that the order complained of was made within the town. If so, it would seem to follow that the jurisdiction of the High Court would be avoided by the removal of the Board of Revenue beyond the outskirts of the town and that it would never attach but for the circumstances that an appeal is brought to or proceedings in revision taken by the Board of Revenue. Their Lordships think that the question of jurisdiction must be regarded as one of substance and that it would not have been within the competence of the Supreme Court to claim jurisdiction over such a matter as the present by issuing certiorari to the Board of Revenue on the strength of its location in the town. Such a view would give jurisdiction to the Supreme Court in the matter of the settlement of rents for ryoti holdings in Ganjam between the parties not otherwise subject to its jurisdiction which it would not have had over the Revenue Officer who M.K. Ranganathan and Ors. vs. The Madras Electric Tramways (1904) Ltd. and Anr. (... Page 5 of 14 dealt with the matter at first instance." The above passage indicates that the jurisdiction to issue a writ does not depend upon the mere location of a tribunal but depends upon the subjectmatter and the parties to the dispute in regard to which such a tribunal purports to exercise jurisdiction. To put in other words though the tribunal is situated outside the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court if it purports to exercise jurisdiction in regard to the parties or the subject-matter which are within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court the, tribunal must be deemed to have functioned within the jurisdiction of the High Court. But it is said that the Judicial Committee wore not considering a case where the subject-matter and the parties are within the jurisdiction of the High Court but the tribunal whose order is sought to be quashed is situate outside its jurisdiction. But the principle laid down in that decision, namely, that the question of jurisdiction must be regarded as one of substance if applied would support the aforesaid view. The jurisdiction conferred by Article 226 of the Constitution is to protect the fundamental and other rights of parties within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court. The Article does not expressly say that the authority or tribunal interfering with such rights should reside physically within the territorial jurisdiction. It a tribunal or authority exercises jurisdiction within the territories affecting such rights it may reasonably be construed that the authority or the tribunal functioned within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court and therefore, is amenable to its jurisdiction. Further in this case it is not necessary to invoke any fiction as the appellete tribunal though it has its headquarters at Bombay is an itinerant body functioning in different parts of the country and indeed in this case it functioned during some part of the enquiry at any rate within the territorial jurisdiction of this Court. I, therefore, hold that this Court has jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari against the order of the Labour Appellate Tribunal.;
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