Decided on April 07,1958

The All India Tea And Trading Co. Ltd. Appellant
R.N. Hazarika And Ors. Respondents


G. Mehrotra, J. - (1.)THIS Rule was issued by this Court on an application under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, praying for quashing of the proceedings under the Industrial Disputes Act and for setting aside an award dated 30 -1 -1957, made by the Judge, Industrial Tribunal, Assam in Reference No. 11 of 1956.
(2.)THE opposite party No. 3 - Shri R.C. Saikia was a Supervising Jamadar at Rupithal outgarden of the All India Tea and Trading Co. Ltd. The General Manager of the company by his letter dated 2 -1 -50 framed certain charges against him and no explanation being preferred by him, by his letter dated 7 -1 -50 Sri Saikia was asked to vacate the quarters.
He however, did not comply with the orders of the General Manager. Certain allegations were made thereafter by him against the General Manager before the proper authorities. On 10 -3 -1950, Sri Saikia was discharged by the Managing Director from service with compassionate pay of a month in lieu of notice.

Thereafter, on or about 9 -12 -50, the Labour Officer, Mangaldai started conciliation proceedings and on 25 -1 -50, the company was advised by the Labour Commissioner that the matter should be referred to the Tribunal for adjudication. On 23 -5 -52, at the instance of the Zonal Officer, conciliation proceedings were initiated anew and the Petitioner was advised by the Labour Commissioner that the dismissal of Sri Saikia will be heard by the Appellate Board.

On or about 4 -12 -57, the Labour Officer, Tezpur informed the Petitioner that fresh conciliation proceedings in connection with the dismissal of Sri Saikia were to be held on 20 -12 -54 and the proceedings were actually held on 30 -6 -54. The Labour Officer directed that if no settlement was arrived at by the 20th August, 1955, the matter would be referred to the Tribunal for adjudication.

On 7 -11 -55, certain terms of settlement were asked for by the Labour Officer, Tezpur: but nothing came out of these conciliation proceedings. Thereafter at the instance of the Assam Cha Karmachari Sangha, Dibrugarh, notice was published in the Assam Gazette on 14 -2 -56 to the effect that the alleged Industrial Dispute was referred to the Tribunal for adjudication.

A number of objections were taken by the Petitioner before the Tribunal inter alia that Sri Saikia was not a workman and in view of the acceptance of one month's pay in lieu of notice, no dispute could be raised regarding the termination of his service. It was also contended that the dispute was neither of the nature which affected a large number of workmen nor was taken up by the workmen of the Union to which the Petitioner belongs or the Union of workers of the similar industries.

The dispute was essentially of an individual nature and the Assam Cha Karmachari Sangha, Dibrugarh had no right to represent Sri Saikia and that the reference was illegal as there was no industrial dispute. It was also pleaded that there could not be multiple proceedings with regard to the same dispute and the earlier conciliation proceedings having failed, no conciliation proceedings could start afresh. The proceedings thus commencing from 20 -12 -54 were ultra vires and the reference thereafter was also illegal.

According to the Petitioner, the post of Jamadar was abolished since 1952 and the opposite party had taken service elsewhere. The Tribunal held that the management of Singrimari Tea Estate were not justified in dismissing Sri Saikia. According to the Tribunal - Sri Saikia was not given sufficient opportunity to defend himself and there was thus failure of the principles of natural justice in ordering his discharge without giving him any opportunity. The Tribunal directed his re -instatement. Sri Saikia was dismissed in March, 1950 and the reference was reported in the Gazette of 1956. The Tribunal, under the circumstances of the case, directed the company to pay Sri Saikia his back wages and Rs. 55/ - for one year only and the amount of Rs. 92/2/ - which was already sent by money order to him was not directed to be refunded. It is this award which has been challenged by means of this petition.

(3.)TWO points have been mainly urged before us. Firstly it is contended that multiplicity of proceedings are not contemplated under the Industrial Disputes Act. As will appear from the facts stated above, there have been several conciliation proceedings in respect of the present dispute and that the reference to the Tribunal for adjudication arose out of the last conciliation proceeding commenced in the year 1954.
There is no bar under the Act to several proceedings for conciliation. It is admitted that none of the proceedings resulted into any settlement. In fact, the first two conciliation proceedings had not materialised at all and in the last one the terms of settlement were not acceptable to the parties. It cannot therefore be said that there was any conciliation proceeding such as to operate as a bar for any adjudication proceeding.

Moreover, it cannot be said that the proceedings before the Tribunal were illegal as there had been earlier conciliation proceedings. The conciliation proceedings, by themselves, are no bar to a proceeding for adjudication. Under the Industrial Disputes Act, Industrial Courts may be constituted and the matter may be referred to a Conciliation Officer for conciliation and in event, whatever may be the result of the conciliation proceedings, the matter can be referred to the Tribunal for adjudication.

In the result therefore, we do not think that there is any substance in the contention of the Petitioner that the award should be set aside as being without jurisdiction inasmuch as it arose out of the last reference when the earlier conciliation proceedings had failed in respect of the same dispute.

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