GODAVARI SUGAR MILLS LIMITED Vs. KOPARGAON TALUKA SAKHAR KAMGAR SABHA SAKARWADI
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
GODAVARI SUGAR MILLS LIMITED,BRIHAN MAHARASHTRA SUGAR SYNDICATE LIMITED
KOPARGAON TALUKA SAKHAR KAMGAR SABHA,SAKARWADI,KOPARGAON TALUKA SAKHAR KAMGAR SABHA, SAKARWADI
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Wanchoo, J. -
(1.)This is an appeal by special leave in an industrial matter. The appellant owns two sugar mills. There was a dispute between the appellant and its workmen with respect to the employment of contract labour in the two mills. Consequently, a notice of change under. S. 42(2) of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, No. XI of 1947, (hereinafter called the Act) was given to the appellant by the Union representing the workmen. Thereafter the Union, which is the respondent in the present appeal, made two references to the industrial court, one with respect to each mill, under S 73A of the Act, and the main demand in the references was that "the system of employing contractors labour should be abolished and the strength of the employees of the respective departments should be permanently increased sufficiently and accordingly". The appellant raised two main contentions before the industrial court, namely, (i) that the industrial court had no jurisdiction to decide the dispute as the matter was covered by item (6) of Sch. III of the Act, which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of a labour court; and (ii) that any award directing abolition of contract labour would contravene the fundamental right of the appellant to carry on business under Art. 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
(2.)The industrial court decided both the points against the appellant; on the question of jurisdiction it held that the matter was covered by item (2) of Sch, II of the Act and therefore the industrial court would have jurisdiction, and on the second point it held that there was no contravention of the fundamental right conferred on the appellant under Art. 19(1)(g). It may be mentioned that the second point arose on the stand taken by the appellant that the workmen of the contractors were not the workmen of the appellant. The industrial court then dealt with the merits of the case and passed certain orders, with which we are however not concerned in the present appeal.
(3.)It may be mentioned that there were cases relating to a number of other sugar mills raising the same points, which were decided at the same time by the industrial court. In consequence, there were a number of appeals to the Labour Appellate Tribunal by the mills and one by one of the unions (though not by the respondent-union). All these appeals were heard together by the appellate tribunal, where also the same two points relating to jurisdiction and contravention of the fundamental right guaranteed by Art. 19(1)(g) were raised. The appellate tribunal did not agree with the industrial court that the references were covered by item (2) of Sch. II to the Act. It, however, held that the word "employment" in item (6) of Sch. III to the Act had to be given a restricted meaning. It pointed out that the three Schedules did not exhaust the comprehensive provisions of S. 42(2) and the subject-matter of dispute, namely, the abolition of contract labour was a question of far-reaching and important change which could not have been intended to be dealt with in a summary way by a labour court, which is the lowest in the hierarchy of courts established under the Act. It, therefore, held that the industrial court had jurisdiction to decide the matter. On the question of contravention of the fundamental right, the appellate tribunal took the view that the question whether the restriction imposed was reasonable depended upon the facts of each case and, therefore, was a matter outside its power as a court of appeal. It then considered the merits of the matter and came to the conclusion that the approach of the industrial court to the questions raised before it was not correct and therefore it found it difficult to support the award. Eventually it set aside the award and remanded the matter for early hearing in the light of the observations made by it. Further, it decided that in the interest of justice the entire award should be set aside, even though there was no appeal before it by the unions in most of the cases. The appellant then came to this Court and was granted special leave; and that is how the matter has come up before us.
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