B N ELIAS AND CO PRIVATE LTD Vs. FIFTH INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL OF WEST BENGAL
LAWS(CAL)-1960-7-10
HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA
Decided on July 15,1960

B.N. ELIAS AND CO. PRIVATE LTD. Appellant
VERSUS
FIFTH INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL OF WEST BENGAL Respondents

JUDGEMENT

D.N.Sinha, J. - (1.) The facts in this case are as follows: The petitioner company acts as the Managing Agent of various companies, including the Oriental Electric and Engineering Company (hereinafter referred to as the 'company'). It is stated in the petition that the business of the company at all material times consisted mostly of selling various types of imported goods, in respect of which, in the past, the petitioner used to receive import licences. It is also stated that the company had a large business in selling Venetian blinds which are made up from imported materials. It is further stated that in a small way the company also trades in locally purchased stock or articles locally manufactured. It is claimed that by reason of drastic curtailment of the number and/or value of import licences granted by the Government since 1956, as well as other factors, the business has, since that year, greatly diminished. As a result of such diminution in business it is claimed that a large number of employees in the said business became surplus to its requirements and consequently in June 1958, 16 such employees were retrenched after payment of one month's salary in lieu of notice and retrenchment compensation under Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Thereupon, the Government of West Bengal made an order of refer-ence under Section 10 or the Industrial Disputes Act, referring a dispute between Messrs. Oriental Electric and Engineering Company and their workmen represented by B. N. Elias and Co. Ltd. Employees' Union, to the Fifth Industrial Tribunal. The issue that was referred was whether the retrenchment of 16 workmen mentioned therein was justified and to what relief they were entitled. In the written statement filed by the company, it was inter alia stated that the company's business consisted mostly of selling various types of imported goods in respect of which, in the past, it used to receive import licences. A further element in its business consisted of selling venetian blinds which was made up from imported materials. It was stated that by reason of drastic curtailment of the number and/or value of import licences granted by the Government of India to the company since 1958 the business of the company, since that year, has greatly diminished. To show the extent of the diminution, a statement has been annexed to the written statement of import licences received by the company between "the period January-June 1956 to April-September 1958. The statement shows that while during January-June 1956 the total value came up to Rs 3,17,239 the total value in April-September 1958 came up only to Rs. 37,391/-. The written statement proceeds to state that as a result of such diminution in business, a large number of employees of the company became surplus to its requirement, both at its head office and at its godown, and con-sequently, in June 1958 the company retrenched 16 such employees, being one Satyanarayan Khettry and the respondents Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 8 to 19 in this application. The workmen, through their Union, filed a written statement and have denied all these state-ments. It has been stated therein that the company is in a highly prosperous condition. It is stated that the business of the company consists of both imported goods and local products and their own manufactured products. Indeed, it has been stated that imported goods form only a fraction of the total volume of the goods in which the company deals. It is stated that the products manufactured by the company, including Venetian blinds, in which they had a huge business, as also the local trade, were quite sufficient to keep the business of the company running in full swing and that the company was not affected by any import restrictions. It is even stated that import restriction has helped the business of the company giving an incentive to Indian manufactured products. The next point taken in the petition is that the company's record will show that in the place of the retrenched workmen, the company has employed others, thereby implying that there was no necassity whatsoever to effect such retrenchment. Actually, a list has been annexed to the written statement, showing the staff who are now doing the work of the retrenched workmen, some of whom are much junior to the retrenched staff.
(2.) On or about 26th October, 1959 the second respondent, on behalf of the workmen, made an application for inspection of various documents alleged to be in the petitioner's possession or power. The petitioner objected that no inspection could be claimed until an application had been made for filing an affidavit of documents by the petitioner, and such an order was then made and the affidavit has been filed. On or about 10th December, 1959 an affidavit of documents was filed, a copy whereof is annexed to the petition and marked with the letter "D". In the affidavit of documents, it is stated that the company had in its possession or power the documents set forth in the first and second parts of the first schedule. The company objected to produce the documents set forth in the second part of the first schedule, on the ground that in so far as they do relate to the matters in issue in this adjudication, they relate solely to the company's case and not to the workmen's case, and they form part of the evidence in support of the company's case and do not support or tend to support the workmen's case and contain nothing impeaching the company's case. So far as the first schedule is concerned, it consists of letters, receipts and copies of a charge-sheet addressed to U. C. Bannerji. Part II of the first schedule consists of the following documents : "1. License Register No. 3 from January 1955 onwards. 2. Store Indent Register Book No. 8. 3. Bill copy Books April to June 1958 and July to September 1958. 4. Sales Day Books Nos. 2 and 3 for 1957-58 and 1958-59. 5. Bundle of relevant stock cards. 6. Godown Attendance Register. 7. Pay Book. 8. Statements prepared by U. C. Banerjee."
(3.) On or about 18th December, 1959 the second respondent on behalf of the workmen made an application for inspection of the documents set forth in the second part of the first schedule set out above. The company opposed the application. On the 19th January, 1960 the first respondent made an order directing the petitioner to give inspection to the second respondent of the said documents. A copy of the order dated 19th January, 1960 is annexed to the petition and marked with the letter "F". It is this order that has been challenged in this application. In this application a prayer has been made asking the first respondent to forbear from, entertaining the pretended Order. 1 have, however, not heard any arguments in that behalf. The arguments have been directed towards the other reliefs claimed, namely not to give effect to the order dated 19th January 1960 or enforcing the same. It is argued that as a matter of law the first respondent is not entitled at this stage to order inspection of documents which have, been claimed by the company in its affidavit of documents, as documents which relate solely to the company's case and which do not support or tend to support the workmen's case. It is said that at this stage this statement in the affidavit is conclusive. The law on the subject has thus been summarised by Mulla in his comments in the Code of Civil Procedure 12th Edn. page 67 2: "A party is not bound to produce for the inspection of his opponent, documents which 'of themselves evidence exclusively' the party's own case of title. Documents constituting evidence of the party's case or title are not protected unless they are solely or exclusively evidence of it. Where a document is or may be evidence for the adversary as well as the party, the party cannot withhold inspection of it from the adversary, although his own evidence may be thus disclosed. It is not enough for a man to say such and such documents are the title deeds of his property; it is no ground for refusing their production, if they are necessary to support the adversary's case ..... Assertions of a party on oath that documents required to be produced relate only to his own title cannot be disregarded, if the Court is satisfied that they are true and that the party asserting has not misconceived the nature and effect of those documents.";


Click here to view full judgement.
Copyright © Regent Computronics Pvt.Ltd.