Gajendragadkar, J. -
(1.)This appeal by special leave raises a short question about the construction and effect of the provisions of S. 22(1) (d) of the Industrial Disputes Act 14 of 1947 (hereinafter called the Act.). The appellant, Ramnagar Cane and Sugar Company Limited, Calcutta, is a company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act and carries on the business of manufacturing sugar which is an essential commodity in its factory at Palsy in the District of Nadia. The appellant was declared a public utility concern or service by a notification duly issued in that behalf on October 8, 1953. The appellant employs in its business about 545 permanent men and 703 seasonal men excluding casual labourers. A majority of the workmen employed by the appellant belong to the Ramnagar Cane and Sugar Company Employees' Union (hereinafter called the Employees' Union (hereinafter called of Employees' Union), whereas a minority of workmen belong to the rival Union called Ramnagar Sugar Mill Workers' Union (hereinafter called the Workers' Union). It appears that on December 9, 1953, the Workers' Union presented a charter of demands to the appellant. This was followed by a similar charter of demands by the Employees' Union on January 20, 1954. On the same day the Worker's Union served a notice of strike on the appellant. On February 1, 1954, a meeting was held before the conciliation officer which was attended by the Employees' Union and the appellant. A notice of the said meeting had been served on the Workers' Union as well. On February 2, 1954, the appellant suggested to the conciliation officer that it should discuss the matter separately with the representatives of the two Unions but to this suggestion the Workers' Union took an objection. Thereupon the said Union informed the Conciliation officer that it assumed that the conciliation had failed. Consequently on February 3, 1954, the conciliation officer sent his report under S. 12, sub-s. (4) of the Act about the failure of conciliation with the Workers' union only. On February 25, 1954, the appellant and the Employees' union arrived at a settlement, and it was recorded in the form of a memo of settlement which was duly signed by both the parties. Meanwhile, on February 13, 1954, the Workers' Union commenced a strike. As a result of this strike a criminal complaint was filed against the eleven respondents under S. 11 of the West Bengal Security Act XIX of 1950 and a charge was subsequently framed against them.
(2.)The case as formulated in the charge against the said respondents was that on or about February 13, 1954, at Plassey each one of them did commit subversive acts which were intended or likely to impede, delay or restrict the work of Ramnagar Cane and Sugar Company Limited, which was a public utility concern for production of sugar, an essential commodity. The respondents pleaded not guilty to the charge substantially on the ground that the strike in question was not illegal. It was not denied that they had gone on strike on February 13, 1954; it was, however, urged that since the strike was lawful the offence charged could not be said to be proved. The learned Magistrate upheld the respondents plea and acquitted the respondents. The appellant challenged the correctness of the said order of acquittal by preferring a revisional application before the Calcutta High Court. Its revisional application, however, failed since the High Court held that the strike was not illegal and agreed with the conclusion of the trial Magistrate. The appellant then applied for a certificate before the said High Court but its application was dismissed. Then the appellant applied for and obtained special leave from this Court; and the only point which is raised on its behalf before us is that in coming to the conclusion that the strike in question was not illegal the Courts below have misconstrued the provisions of S. 22 (1) (d) of the Act.
(3.)Before we consider this point it is relevant to refer to the relevant provisions of the West Bengal Security Act. Section 11 of this Act provides that if any person commits any subversive act he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine or with both. Section 2 (9) (e) defines a subversive act as meaning any act which is intended or is likely to impede, delay or restrict - (i) any work or operation, or (ii) any means of transport or locomotion, - necessary for the production, procurement, supply or distribution of any essential commodity, except in furtherance of an Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Explanation (ii) to this definition provides that an illegal strike or an illegal lockout as defined in S. 24 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, shall not be deemed to be an act in furtherance of an industrial dispute for the purposes of sub-cl. (e). It is thus clear that if the impugned strike is held to be illegal it would constitute a subversive act as defined by S. 2 (9) (e) of the West Bengal Security Act. This position has been accepted in the courts below. That is why the only question which arises for our decision is whether the strike in question is an illegal strike under S. 24 of the Act.