Decided on December 17,1953



- (1.) BY G. O. Ms. No. 397, dated 28 January 1953, of the Development Department the Government of Madras, in exercise of the powers con ferred by Section 10 (1) (c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, referred for adjudication to the industrial tribunal having its place of sitting at Madras the industrial dispute between the workers and management of Messrs. Lakshmi Cafe, Madras, and this application is for a writ of certiorari to quash that order on the ground that at the time the reference was made there was no industrial dispute existing and that therefore the reference was without jurisdiction. The annexure to this Government order contains the several matters in dispute of which item 6 was not in existence when the conciliation took place. The six matters in dispute referred to in the annexure are the following: (1) Fixation of scales of wages for different categories of employees. (2) Fixation of the quantum of dearness allowance in the place of boarding and lodging. (3) Fixation of number of days for sick, leave with wages in a year. (4) Fixation of the quantum of bonus for the years 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951. (5) Fixation of the quantum of gratuity. (6) Whether the closure of the hotel in July 1952 and the discharge of workers are justified and if not, to what relief the discharged workmen are entitled?
(2.) IN order to appreciate the points of view put forward on either side one has to refer to the antecedent history of the whole affair. On behalf of the workers employed by the cafe, the Madras City Hotel Workers' Union of which most, if not all, of the workers were members, put up a number of demands and since the union could not come to a settlement by direct negotiation the labour officer of Madras was approached for conciliation proceedings and he undertook the task of conciliation on 21 March 1952 after issuing notice to the parties. During the conciliation proceedings, the demands were discussed and the conciliation officer made certain recommendations. It is not necessary for the purpose of this case to refer in detail to these recommendations which are contained in the letter of the conciliation officer, dated 29 May 1952, sent to the Secretary to the Government, Development Department, through the Commissioner of Labour, Madras. The conciliation officer tendered advice to both the management of the cafe as well as to the Madras City Hotel Workers' Union to dispassionately consider his recommendations and to come to a decision. It is seen from his letter that the union representatives were willing to accept the recommendations provided there was settlement on all the demands. The management expressed their inability by their letter, dated 14 April 1952, to accept the recommendations of the conciliation officer. Therefore, by his letter dated 29 May 1952, the aforesaid conciliation officer submitted to the Government that conciliation has failed in the dispute. A copy of this letter was submitted to the Commissioner of Labour and copies were sent to the proprietor of the Lakshmi Cafe and to the Secretary of the Madras City Hotel Workers' Union. In the normal course of things the letter to the Government, dated 29 May 1952, sent through the Commissioner of Labour must have reached the Government within a week at the most and one of the important questions for decision before me is the exact point of time at which this letter was received by the Government, because that is a crucial point which will have to be considered in the interpretation of Section 20, Clause (b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, about this more will be said later.
(3.) AFTER the management had expressed their inability to accept the recommendations made by the conciliation officer by their letter, dated 14 April 1952, on 2 May 1952 the proprietor of the cafe wrote a letter to the labour officer, Madras, who was the conciliation officer, asking for permission to close the cafe. In that letter the proprietor says that owing to slump in the business and the high cost of foodstuffs they have been incurring heavy loss in the business. Moreover they were also experiencing considerable trouble such as gross disobedience, disloyalty, non-co-operation, indifference, etc. , among the workers which resulted in further heavy loss. On account of this, the management stated that they have decided to close down the coffee section only of the business from 8 May 1952 and permission was sought for that purpose. To this letter the labour officer does not seem to have sent any reply. Therefore, on 15 June 1952 a notice was is sued by the proprietor of the cafe to 26 workers whose names are mentioned in the notice informing them that it was proposed to close the restaurant section of the cafe as and from 1 July 1952. The workmen named there under and who were working in that section were informed that their services will be terminated from that day and they were requested to contact the proprietor and get their accounts finally settled by that time. This notice has been served on the 26 workmen whose names are given in the notice. Thereafter, on 29 June 1952 the management issued another notice informing the workmen that the restaurant section of the institution would be closed with effect from 1 July 1952 and the workers were asked to receive their salary for the month of June 1952 and fifteen days' wages in lieu of leave according to the Factories Act for the year ending 30 June 1952, in full settlement of their accounts on 1 July 1952. They were also requested to leave the premises of the restaurant peacefully after they received their wages with their belongings. The workers were warned that if they resorted to any kind of unlawful behaviour the management would be compelled to take action against them as the situation required.;

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