CALTEX INDIA LIMITED Vs. THEIR WORKMEN
LAWS(SC)-1960-2-6
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: MADRAS)
Decided on February 11,1960

CALTEX INDIA LIMITED Appellant
VERSUS
IR WORKMEN Respondents





Cited Judgements :-

SUPERINTENDENCE COMPANY OF INDIA P LTD VS. STATE OF WEST BENGAL [LAWS(CAL)-1968-5-19] [REFERRED TO]
PHOENIX PLYWOOD VS. INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL [LAWS(KER)-1978-9-23] [REFERRED TO]
INDIAN OIL CORPORATION LTD VS. PRESIDING OFFIICER CENTRAL GOVERNMENT INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL [LAWS(GAU)-2003-1-38] [REFERRED TO,]
EICHER GOODEARTH LTD VS. PRESIDING OFFICER LABOUR COURT [LAWS(RAJ)-1998-11-19] [REFERRED TO]


JUDGEMENT

- (1.)This appeal by special leave arises from an application made by M/s. Caltex (India) Ltd., (hereinafter called the appellant) under S. 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 (hereinafter called the Act) against its 23 workmen represented by the Madras Kerosene Oil Workers' Union (hereinafter called the respondent) for permission to dismiss them from their service. It would be convenient to set out very briefly the material facts leading to this application. It appears that the Govt. of Madras had referred a dispute concerning workmen and managements of the three Oil Companies, viz., The Burmah-Shell Oil Storage and Distribution Co. Ltd., the Standard Vacuum Oil Co. Ltd., and the appellant, operating in that area.
The issue which was thus referred for adjudication related to the payment of bonus for the years 1951-52. The workmen had applied for interim relief and interim relief was awarded by the tribunal to the workmen of the first two companies but not to the respondent. However, on the intervention of the Labour Commissioner, and as a result of representations made by the respondent, the appellant agreed to a full and final settlement of the 1951 bonus by the payment of an additional bonus of three months' basic wages over and above one month's basic wage already paid in that behalf. The agreed amount was in fact disbursed to the workmen on March 25, 1954. On April 9, 1954 the appellant's workmen demanded that they should be paid an advance of Rs. 5 to Rs. 7 for the ensuing Tamil New Year day Festival which fell on April 13, 1954. Having regard to the fact that the appellant had already paid additional bonus to its workmen and their pay for March had been disbursed on April 6, 1954, the demand for the advance made by the workmen was rejected by the appellant, and that led to trouble between the parties. On Monday, April 12, 1954, the workmen came to the installation as usual but suddenly staged a stay-in-strike and refused and obey the reasonable orders of the management of the appellant either to resume work or to leave the premises in the interest of the safety to the installation which carries on business in the storage and distribution of inflammable products. This conduct on the part of the workers amounted to wilful insubordination and disobedience which is punishable with dismissal under the standing order of the appellant. Though repeated demands were made by the appellant's management either to leave the premises or begin their work they were not heeded by the workmen and they continued to stay inside the premises till the end of the day. As a result the management declared a lockout in the afternoon of April 12, 1954, and it was made clear that the workmen would be locked-out until they gave an assurance that they would work peacefully and resort only to constitutional methods for the redress of their grievance. As a result of the insubordinate conduct of its workmen the appellant framed charge-sheets against 23 workmen who were guilty of specific acts of insubordination and other misconduct. A regular and fullfledged enquiry into the charges thus framed against the 23 workmen was held by Mr. Wallace the newly appointed Terminal Superintendent at Tondiarpet, and, as a result of the findings recorded in the said enquiry, of the 23 workmen charge-sheeted two were exonerated and taken back to work while another who was found guilty of minor offences was also reinstated but the appellant wanted to suspend him for four days under Order 24 of the appellant's standing orders, Thus, by the application made under S. 33 the appellant applied for permission to suspend one workmen for four days and dismiss 21. One of the workmen had died in the meanwhile. That in brief is the nature of the proceedings from which the present appeal arises.

(2.)The Industrial Tribunal found that the strike was illegal and that the lock-out declared by the appellant was legal and justified. It, however, refused permission to the appellant to dismiss 19 workmen and suspend one. The appellant's application to dismiss one workman was, however, allowed on the ground that he had committed overt acts of misdemeanour during the period of the strike. On appeal the Labour Appellate Tribunal confirmed the findings and conclusion of the original tribunal. The appellate tribunal has held that the strike was illegal, the lock-out was legal but that the punishment sought to be meted out to the workmen was unduly severe and so no permission should be granted to the appellant as asked for by it. It is on these findings that the dismissal of the appeal preferred by the appellant is based. In the present appeal the appellant challenges the correctness and the propriety of the final order passed by the tribunals below.
(3.)It is true that the conduct of the appellant in refusing to give the usual advance of Rs. 5 to Rs. 7 to its workmen on the Tamil New Year's Day was tactless and showed a lack of human and sympathetic approach; but even so, the tribunals have held and rightly that the strike was illegal and that the refusal of the respondents to obey the reasonable and legal orders issued by the appellant's officers amounted to insubordination and misconduct under the appellant's standing orders have been duly certified and they are binding between the parties so long as they stand. It is also found that a proper enquiry was held and charges framed against the respondents have been duly proved in the opinion of the enquiring officer. No mala fide is suggested nor is victimisation alleged. It is on these facts that the learned Attorney-General has relied in support of his argument that the tribunals below have acted illegally and without jurisdiction in refusing to grant permission to the appellant. In our opinion this contention is well-founded and must be upheld.
;


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