Decided on March 06,1953



- (1.) THIS is an appeal by the Minakshi Mills, Ltd. , Madurai, under Clause 15 of the Letters Patent against the, judgment of Subba Rao, J. , dismissing an application made by the appellant for the issue of a writ of certiorarai to call for the records and proceedings relating to appeal No. 119 of 1951 before the Labour Appellate Tribunal, Bombay, and to quash its decision in the said appeal, dated 6 September 1951.
(2.) THE facts and events which led up to that application are as follows; On 7 December 1949 the Government of Madras by its order Ms. No. 5793, referred the industrial dispute which had arisen between the workers and the managements of the Minakshi Mills, Ltd. , Madurai, in respect of matters mentioned in the annexure to that order for adjudication to the industrial tribunal having its place of sitting at Madurai. The matters mentioned in the annexure included the payment of full wages for the third Shift from 1 April 1949, introduction of the system of three eight-hour shifts with half an hour rest interval with no out in wages, revision of basic wage, dearness allowance and time-scale and others, in August 1947, the Government had appointed a standardisation committee and a wage board to determine the standard of workload and the wage structure for different categories of workers in the textile mills in the Province. On 31 December 1947 the standardisation committee made its report and on 18 April 1949 the wage board made its report. On 29 January 1950 the Inspector of Factories, Madurai, addressed a letter to the manager of the Minakshi Mills, Ltd. , inviting their attention to the report of the wage board and requested them that the recommendations of the board may be given effect to in their mills and the fact reported to the office of the Inspector of Factories at an early date. On 2 February 1950 the mills were again reminded of this. On 9 February 1950 the factory manager of the mills wrote to the Labour Officer pointing-out I that an implementation of the report of the wage board could not be done in isolation and that the report of the Standardisation Committee had to be implemented before implementing that of the wage board. On 23 February 1950 the manager of the mills notified that from and after 10 March 1950 the workloads as prescribed and defined by the Standardisation Committee's report and the report of the wage board based upon it would be brought into force and consequent retrenchment of labour would also be made. A list of workers who had to be retrenched was notified separately. The number of such workers was 539. On 24 February 1950 the factory manager of the mills wrote to the Inspector of Factories that they had issued a notice to the workers of their intention to implement the report of the wage board. Immediately the Commissioner of Labour wrote to the managing director of the mills on 25 February 1950 inviting their attention to Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act. He pointed out: If as a result of this change workloads are increased it will amount to a change in conditions of service. He therefore suggested that the mills should not make any change in the conditions of service without the express permission of the tribunal with whom the reference regarding wages etc. , payable to the workers was pending adjudication. The mills replied to him that no permission of the tribunal was necessary for implementing the recommendations approved by the Government and asked by it to be implemented. On 10 March 1950 when the first shift of workers came in, the retrenched workers were excluded. The workers who were admitted were allotted work on the new basis of the interim workloads recommended by the standardisation committee. Apparently in the ringframe department, the factory manager of the mills issued therefore the following notice: Whereas the workers of the entire ring-frame department acting on concert and without due notice have struck work from 8-45 a. m. today by staying inside the department and not attending to the prescribed number of spindles in accorance with the recommendations of the Government which have been implemented at their instance and such strike being illegal it has become necessary for the management to declare a lockout of the entire ringframe department. What evidently happened was, the workers refused to attend to the extra work which they had to do according to the new work-load. This notice was succeeded by another notice to the following effect: As the ringframe department has been locked out owing to illegal strike from 8-45 a m. today the management has been obliged to close down the other departments on loss of pay as they cannot be worked till the resumption of work in the ringframa department. On 21 March 1950 Government referred to the industrial tribunal, Madurai, for adjudication the dispute between the workers and the management of the mills in respect of the following issue, namely : "whether the workers kept out of employment on and from 10 March 1950 as a result of the notice dated 23 Februaryl950 put up by the management are entitled to compensation, and if so, to what extent. On 25 March 1950, the mills issued another notice intimating that in order to afford another opportunity to the workers to work on the basis of the Standardisation and Wage Board reports the mills would resume work from 29 March 1950 It is common ground that on 29 March 1950 work was offered again to the workers on the basis of the new workloads, but they refused to accept the offer. The mills therefore continued to remain closed. A prosecution was launched against the mills for contravention of the provisions of Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act. As the stalemate continued the Central Government, in order to resolve the deadlock, convened a conference at Delhi. The representatives of the management and of the workers and the representatives of the Central Government and the Madras Government met at Delhi and discussed the matters on 19 an 20 May 1950. After discussion on the various points of dispute, the following agreed conclusions were arrived at: (1) The mills should reopen as soon as possible and in any case not later than 28 May 1950, (2) The management of the Sri Minakshi Mills would reopen the mills on the same terms and conditions as prevailed before 10 March 1950 with regard to workloads, complement of labour, personnel, etc. (3) Simultaneously, all matters at present under dispute between the management and labour which are under reference pending adjudication before the industrial tribunal at Madurai would be either transferred or referred to another special tribunal to can3i3t of a person of the status of a High Court Judge, or, in case a High Court Judge is not available, any other person acceptable to both parties. (4) The question of workload and wage structure with regard to the Sri Minakshi Mills should in addition, be expressly referred to the Special Tribunal so constituted. (5) The intimation of the reopening of the mills will be sent by telegram to the Secretary to the Government of Madras, Development Department, who agrees to get the orders issued with the greatest possible expedition. (6) The civil suit filed and notice of suit issued by the management covering the questions to be adjudicated by the Special Tribunal will be withdrawn. (7) The prosecutions pending against the management will be stayed and when the management implements the award passed by the Special Tribunal, the Government would consider the question of withdrawal of the prosecutions. " Presumably, in accordance with the said agreement the Government, passed an order (G. O. Ms. No. 2718, Development, dated 11 July 1950) purporting to be in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 7 (1) and (2) read with Section 10 (1) (c) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, in supersession of the orders issued in their prior notifications, dated 7 December 1949 and 26 April 1950, constituting a Special Industrial Tribunal consisting of one person, namely, the Honourable Sri Justice P. Rajagopalan, I. C. S. , Judge, High Court of Judicature, Madras and referred to the said tribunal the following among other matters in dispute between the workers and the management of Sri Mtnakshi Mills, Ltd. , Madurai : 7. Whether all the workers thrown out of employment on or after 10 March 1950 by the management of the mills are entitiled to compensation and if so, to what extent?" and * * * 9. Fixation of workloads and wage structure. Rajagopalan, J. , after a full enquiry, made his award. He annexed to his award his findings on the several issues framed by him as arising at the enquiry. In respect of the two items of dispute above mentioned, his award was as follows; Dispute No. 7 : My award is the denial of employment to 539 workers on 10 March 1950 amounted to a retrenchment which the management was entitled to effect. It did not constitute an illegal lockout, and none of the 539 workers is entitled to any compensation. The stoppage of work which affected the other worker's between 10 March and 28 May 1950 amounted to a lockout, but that lookout followed and was the direct result of an illegal strike by the workers. Therefore the lockout was not illegal. None of the workers is entitled to any compensation for that stoppage of work. Dispute No. 9: 'my award is that the Government should take early and adequate steps to fix the workload and wage structure for the Sri Minakshi Mills along with the other textile mills on a regional-cum-industry basis. Pending the action to be takon by the Government to give effect to my award referred to in the previous paragraph. I have decided to grant interim relief under this head to the management. As an interim measure pending action to be taken by the Government I direct that the management should be permitted to introduce in the several departments of the Sri Minakshi Mills, Ltd. , Madurai, the interim workloads recommended by the Standardisation Committee when the Commissioner of Labour certifies that the power supplied to the mills is normal. The workers preferred an appeal against the award to the Labour Appellate Tribunal at Bombay. The appeal was confined to two points only. But of the two we are concerned with one point, namely; Whether all the workers thrown out of employment on or after 10 March 1950 by the management of the mills are entitled to compensation and if so, to what extent. On this point the Appellate Tribunal disagreed with the Special Tribunal and allowed the appeal and ordered that the workmen shall be paid wages including dearness allowance for thirty days as compensation for their being kept out of work till 28 May 1950. The Appellate Tribunal overruled at the outset a preliminary objection taken by the respondent mills that no appeal was maintainable under Section 7 (a) and (b) of the Indus, trial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, 1950. They held that the management had clearly contravened the provisions of Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act by adding to the workload when an industrial dispute was pending before the industrial tribunal, Madurai. They further held that the strike by the workers in the ringframe department was fully justified, that the lockout as ordered by the management was illegal and that the strike which followed that was not illegal as Section 24, Clause 3, of the Industrial Disputes Act lays down that a strike declared in consequence of an illegal lockout shall not be deemed to be illegal. The Appellate Tribunal came to the conclusion that all the workers were entitled to compensation, which they fixed at wages including dearness allowance for thirty days. It is this order of the Appellate Tribunal which the mills wanted to be quashed by a writ of certiorari.
(3.) BEFORE Subba Rao, J. , the management again urged that the appeal to the Appellate Tribunal was not maintainable. But the learned Judge overruled that objection and said that he would not go into the question whether the Appellate Tribunal had erred on a question of law or on a mixed question of fact and law. There was no error on law on the face of the record ; hence he dismissed the application. The appeal before us is against this order of dismissal passed by Subba Rao. J.;

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