(1.)This is an appeal with the special leave of this Court against a decision dated January 17, 1955, of the Labour Appellate Tribunal (hereinafter called the Appellate Tribunal) by which it reversed a decision of the Industrial Court, Bombay dated January 20, 1954, in a matter referred to the Industrial Court under S. 73 of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946, by the Government of Bombay. The appellant is the Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh, representing the employees of the Cotton Textile Mills in the city of Greater Bombay. The respondents are the Apollo Mills, Ltd., and other Companies owning Cotton Textile Mills specified in the annexure to the Special Leave Petition and the Mill Owners' Association,. Bombay, representing the Cotton Textile Mill Industry. The dispute relates to the compensation which the workers claimed for loss of wages and dearness allowances due to the short working or closure of the Textile Mills on certain days during the period between November 1, 1951 and July 13, 1952.
(2.)The facts of the case are as follows: In the year 1951 monsoon failed, and caused scarcity of water in catchment area of the Tata Hydro-Electric System, from which the Mills obtained their supply of power. It was, therefore, found necessary to reduce the consumption of electricity, and Government, after consulting the various Mills and also the appellant Sangh, decided that the Mills should work, instead of 48 hours, for 40 hours per week during a period of 30 weeks from November 1, 1951. It was also agreed that if the Mills could reduce their consumption of electricity to 5./6th of their normal consumption, then they could work for 48 hours per week as before. Some of the Mills installed their own generators, but many others were compelled to reduce the working time to 40 hours in a week, working at 8 hours per day. As a result, the working of some of the Mills was reduced by one day in the week, and the Mills lost a maximum number of 38 days, some more and some less. One of the Mills (the Raghuvanshi Mills) remained closed only on one day. The order of the Bombay Government was made under S. 6A (1) of the Bombay Electricity (Special Powers) Act, 1946. While this short working continued, the workers claimed their wages and dearness allowances or compensation in lieu thereof. Negotiations followed, but when they did not result in anything to the advantage of the workers, the matter was referred for arbitration to the Industrial Court by the Bombay Government on October 30, 1952, under S. 73 of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946.
(3.)The Mills raised the objection that the matter was covered by Standing Orders 16 and 17, and inasmuch as the partial closure of the Mills was due to force majeure, they were not liable. They contended that the Industrial Court had thus no jurisdiction, as these Standing Orders were determinative of the relations between the workmen and their employers under S. 40 (1) of the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946. They also submitted that the orders of the Government issued under the Bombay Electricity (Special Powers) Act, 1946, had to be obeyed and therefore no compensation was payable. They pointed out that the employees were receiving fair wages, and that the Mills were not in a position to bear an additional burden, in view of the fact that they had lost their profits due to short working. They relied upon the decision of the Bombay High Court in Digambar Ramachandra v. Khandesh Spinning and Weaving Mills Co., Ltd., 52 Bom LR 46: (AIR 1950 Bom 174), where it was held that though an arbitrator or whom a dispute falling under S. 49A of the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act, 1938, was referred had jurisdiction to decide the disputes within the terms of the Standing Orders framed under S. 26 of that Act, he had no jurisdiction to determine the liability of the employers on grounds outside the Standing Orders.