Decided on July 21,1952



Subba Rao, J. - (1.) This is an application for issuing a Writ of Certiorari to call for the records and quash the notification of Government in G.O. No. 4605 (Development Department) dated 19-10-1951 or to issue an order in the nature of mandamus directing the Industrial Tribunal, Madurai, to forbear from proceeding with the reference made by the Government. The petitioner is the Dindigul Skin Merchants Association. That Association was formed to represent the employers of about nineteen tanneries. In regard to the employees working in those tanneries there are three associations, (1) the National Tanneries Workers Association Dindigul registered on 5-7-1948, (2) Tanneries Labour Union, Dindigul formed on 20-11-1950 and (3) the Tannery Workers Union, Dindigul, registered in the year 1942. It was banned by Government in September 1949. The ban was lifted in November 1950 and it began to function again from April 1951. The total number of members on the books in regard to the first union was 511 on 31st March 1951. The membership of the 3rd respondent was 194 on 31st March 1951. The fourth respondent had 420 members on 31st March 1947. There were disputes between the employees and the employers and an agreement was entered into between the petitioner and the National Tannery Workers Association, settling their disputes on 1-2-1951. It is not clear from the record the total membership of that union on 12-2-1951. It is either because that union did not represent majority pf the labourers or because that the other unions did not agree with them. There were subsequent disputes between the employers and the employees, and an attempt was made to get their disputes settled by a Conciliation officer. Respondents 3 and 4 made their demands and copies of them were sent to the petitioner. The Conciliation officer made an infructuous attempt to settle the disputes and finally recommended to the Government that the disputes might be referred for adjudication on the four issues relating to basic wages, clearness allowance, bonus and weekly holiday for all workers on Sundays in respect of eight tanneries about which he was able to gather particulars. The Commissioner of Labour also agreed with the Labour Officer and supported his recommendation and the Government after considering the reports referred the dispute in respect of the eight tanneries to the Industrial Tribunal. Madurai, for adjudication on the above four points by issuing G. O. No. 4605 (Development Department) dated 19-5-1951.
(2.) Mr. Narasaraju, the learned counsel for the petitioner raised before me the following points: -- 1. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 (Act XIV of 1947) is vitiated in so far as it affected the fundamental right of the petitioner to carry on his trade and to enter into agreements for effectively carrying on the trade. He says that the Act which allows the employers or the employees to ignore contracts affects his fundamental right. 2. It has not been established that there is an industrial dispute between the employers and the employees of every tannery.
(3.) There was no demand by the employees before the Conciliation proceedings started. 3. Learned counsel in support of his first contention relies upon Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India which reads; "All citizens shall have the right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business." Article 19(6) says: "Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so for as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause......" The question therefore is whether the provision of Act XIV of 1947 compelling the parties to an industrial dispute to get their disputes settled through the bodies mentioned therein is a reasonable restriction on the aforesaid right. Uninfluenced by the decisions cited before me, I have no hesitation to hold that in the present social set up it is impossible to hold that' the legislation, intended to bring about harmonious relationship between the employers and the employees in the interests of industrial peace is an unreasonable restriction upon the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(l)(g) of the Constitution. Indeed the Industrial Disputes Act by providing a machinery to smoothen out the disputes between the employers and employees enables the employer to carry out his trade or business more effectively than otherwise he could do. A Bench of this court consisting of Rajamannar C. J. and Satyanarayana Rao J. in 'Sree Meenaksni Mills Ltd. Madura v. State of Madras', has accepted the famous passage of Julian Huxley on the "Economic Man and Social Man" wherein the learned author says: "Many of our old ideas must be retranslated, so to speak, into a new language. The democratic idea of freedom, for instance, must lose its nineteenth century meaning of individual liberty in the economic sphere, and become adjusted to new conceptions of social duties and responsibilities. When a big employer talks about his democratic right to individual freedom, meaning thereby a claim to socially irresponsible control over a huge industrial concern and over the lives of tens of thousands of human beings whom it happens to employ, he is talking in a dying language." Though the learned Judges did not express a final opinion in that case, a perusal of the judgment indicates the inclination of their mind to support the restrictions imposed in that case in the interests of society. In another decision, the -- 'Indian Metal and Metallurgical Corporation v. Industrial Tribunal, Madras', 1952-1 Mad L J 481 the learned Chief Justice and Venkatarama Aiyar J. had an occasion to construe the scope of Article 19(1)(g) and the limitations on the right conferred by that Article. The question there was whether the Industrial Tribunal has got the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the question whether a particular lock-out was justified or not and whether it can decide the question whether an employer can close down a business temporarily for an indefinite period or permanently. In dealing with the question whether the Industrial Disputes Act is void as being inconsistent with the Constitution, the learned Judges made the following relevant observations: "We think it is equally clear that in the interests of a large section of the public, namely, industrial workers, Legislature may provide, whether directly or indirectly through administrative bodies for the fixing of reasonable and adequate wages and generally regulate the condition of service. The Industrial Disputes Act is evidently such a piece of legislation. We fail to see how the Act as such and in toto can be held to be void as being inconsistent with the Constitution. In the absence of a guarantee of the freedom of contract, we do not think it unreasonable to presume that the freedom of contract can, to a certain extent, be curtailed if such curtailment is reasonable and in the general interests of the general public. This may be necessary in regard to the relationship between the employer and employees in a large Industrial concern where it is clear that the contracting parties, namely, the employer and the employee do not stand on the same level." Apart from the fact that I am bound by this decision, I respectfully agree with the observations made. In this case also the attack on the constitutionality of the Act is based upon the sanctity of the contract. But, as the learned Judges point out, in the interests of general public, and particularly when the freedom of contract has not been guaranteed by the Constitution the provisions of the Act empowering the tribunals to decide a dispute between parties notwithstanding their prior agreement to the contrary cannot be hold to be an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on the trade.;

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