K. S. SIDHU, J. -
(1.)THIS writ petition is directed against the award, dated, March 23, 1983, by the Industrial Tribunal, Jaipur, declaring that the' retrenchment of 138 workmen of the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (hereinafter called the Corporation) by the Corporation is illegal and invalid and directing the General Manager of the Corporation to reinstate all of them in service with back wages.
(2.)THE facts, material for our purpose, may be shortly stated here. THE Corporation was established and constituted under the Rajasthan Road Transport Corporation Act, 1950, for the purpose of providing adequate and efficient transport services in the State of Rajasthan. In order to provide some amenities to the travelling public, the Corporation found it necessary to construct passenger sheds, bus stands and other buildings. To start with, the Corporation sanctioned the posts of one over-seer, two draft men, two mistries, one upper division clerk and one lower division typist. In due course, as the work expanded, the Corporation borrowed the services of some officers of the rank of Executive Engineer and Assistant Engineer from the State Government to serve with it on deputation. Some workmen were appointed on "work-charged" basis. THEy were employed on regular basis in 1978, when, it is said, the building activity, and the work of repairs and maintenance had touched the peak.
In 1980, the Corporation appointed a Committee to study ways and means of increasing its income and reducing its expenditure. This had become necessary because the Corporation was running into losses year after year. The Committee found that, among others, the Civil Engineering Department of the Corporation had grown flabby and that as many as 165 workmen were surplus. In its meeting held on April 27, 1982, the Corporation resolved that barring a few persons holding the nuclear posts, all the remaining workmen be retrenched. In compliance with the said resolution the Works Manager (Civil) / Executive Engineer (Civil retrenched '38 workmen out of a total of 169. belonging to the Civil Engineering Department with effect from June 1. 1982. The trade-union of the workmen raised an industrial dispute about this order of retrenchment. The State Government referred the dispute to the Industrial Tribunal, Jaipur for adjudication in accordance with the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter to be referred to as the Act ). The reference was made in these terms : Whether the retrenchment of 139 (sic) workmen by the General Manager of the Corporation is legally proper and valid ? If not, what relief the workmen are entitled to ?
After hearing both sides and recording their evidence, the Tribunal made the award in favour of workmen, directing the Corporation to reinstate them in service with back wages. The Tribunal recorded its finding as under : (a) The Works Manager (Civil) who passed the impugned order of retrenchment on June 1, 1982, was not the appointing authority in respect of the workmen concerned at the material time, and as such he was not competent to pass the impugned order. (b) The Corporation did not comply with the condition precedent to retrenchment as contained in clauses (a) and (b) of section 25-F of the Act, inasmuch wages in lieu of notice and retrenchment compensation had not been paid at or before the time of retrenchment.
The Corporation has fifed this writ petition challenging the validity of the award made by the Tribunal on the ground that both the findings of the Tribunal, mentioned above, are completely baseless and perverse. Regarding the finding at (a), Mr. Ranga Rajan, learned counsel for the Corporation referred to the resolution (Annexure 1-A) dated. April 27, 1982. which had been produced before the Tribunal, and he argued that had the Tribunal considered this important piece of evidence, it would lave definitely come to the conclusion that the impugned order of retrenchment had been passed by the Works Manager (Civil) in compliance with the decision of the Corporation arrived at the apex level in its meeting held on April 27, 1982. He submitted in this context that even assuming that the appointing authority in the case of the workmen concerned was the Executive Engineer (Civil) and that the Works Manager (Civil) who passed the impugned order was not competent to exercise the powers of the Executive Engineer (Civil), and further assuming that the latter was not a subordinate authority under the former, the resolution. Annexure 1-A, would clearly show that the order of retrenchment, dated, June 1, 1982 was nothing but an action by way of implementation of the decision taken by the Corporation, vide resolution Annexure 1-A. Counsel cited Divisional Personnel Officer, Southern Railway vs. K. Subramoniam (1 ). a Division Bench Judgment of the Kerala High Court which seems to support his contention.
I need not however express any opinion on the merits of the aforementioned argument of Mr. Rangrajan, for I am firmly of the view that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to engage itself in the enquiry as to who had retrenched the workmen concerned, and whether he was competent to do so or not. The order of reference made by the Government does not leave any scope for construction of the terms of reference by the Tribunal. The terms are stated in clear and unambiguous language. It will be recalled that the only point of dispute which was referred by the State Government to the Tribunal for adjudication is whether the retrenchment of the workmen by the General Manager of the Corporation is legal and valid. It is thus not open to the Tribunal to construe this order and say that the Government has impliedly called upon him to adjudicate as to whether the Works Manager (Civil) had retrenched the workmen and if so whether he was competent to do it. It is now well settled (see. for example, Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. Vs. Calcutta Electric Supply Workers Union (2) that in construing the terms of reference and in determining the scope and nature of the points referred to the Tribunal, the Court must look at the order of reference itself; because it is the subject matter, as contained in the order, with which the Tribunal can deal, and not with anything else. Section 10. sub-section 4 of the Act lays down inter alia that where the order of reference has specified the point or points of dispute for adjudication the tribunal shall confine its adjudication to those points and matters incidental thereto.
(3.)THE order of reference implies that, during the course of conciliation proceedings the workmen did not question the fact that they had been retrenched by the General Manager and that he had the requisite power and authority to do so. In any case, the Tribunal gets its jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the point or points of dispute referred to it, and in that sense, the parameters of its jurisdiction are defined in the order of reference and it must confine itself within those parameters. THE Tribunal is not free to enlarge the scope of the France by reading into it matters which are not incidental to the point or points referred. In Delhi Cloth and General Mills Co. Ltd. V. THEir Workmen (3) the Supreme Court explained the meaning of the words "matters incidental there to" occurring in section 10 (4) of the Act, stating that the dispute referred is the fundamental thing and matters incidental thereto are adjunct to it and that "something incidental therefore cannot cut at the root of the main thing to which it is an adjunct" Now, if the Tribunal were to be allowed to engage itself in the enquiry as to whether the Works Manager, had retrenched the workmen concerned and if so whether he was competent to do so, this would not be an enquiry and adjudication as to matters incidental to the dispute as referred, but it would clearly amount to cutting at the very root of the order of reference which, on the face of it, proceeds on the footing that the order of retrenchment had been made by the General Manager.
The matter may also be looked at from another angle. Retrenchment as defined in section 2 (00) of the Act, means "termination by the employer of the service of a workman for any reason whatever " The words "termination by the employer' "in this definition are important. If the termination of the service of a workman is brought about by a person other than the employer or authorised by the employer, the workman may be entitled to relief by way of a declaration that there is no legal and valid termination and that be still continues in service, but he cannot predicate of such termination as retrenchment and challenge it as invalid on the ground that it contravenes the mandatory provisions of section 25-F The contradiction in the latter course is evident on the face of it. How can a person say in the same breath that he has not been retrenched and also that his retrenchment is invalid and inoperative because provisions of section 25f have not been complied with?
For all these reasons, I hold that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the point involved in finding (a) reproduced above. The said finding is quashed for want of jurisdiction in the Tribunal to record it.