Pattanaik, J. -
(1.)These appeals are directed against the judgment of the Division Bench of Gujarat High Court in Latters Patent Appeals filed against a common judgment of a learned single Judge dated 22nd September, 1990. The workmen of Ahmebabad Munucipal Corpation challenged the orders of dismissal/ removal from service, by filing a Civil Suit. The City Civil Court framed four issues, one of which is whether the suit is bad for want of jurisdiction to entertain and try the suit, accordingly the suit was dismissed. Identical suits filed by different employees against the order of termination having been dismissed by the City Civil Court, individual appeals had been preferred and all those appeals, six in number, stood disposed of by a common judgment of the learned single Judge of Gujarat High Court. The single Judge came to the conclusion that the Civil Court will have the jurisdiction to go into the question, as to whether the orders of termination of services were null and void, having been passed by an authority who had no competence to pass the same, but it had no jurisdiction to examine the alleged lacuna in the procedural part of disciplinary inquiry which is governed by Standing orders and the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to enter into such question must be held to be impleidly barred. With this conclusion the learned single Judge having set aside the judgment of the City Civil Court and having remitted the matter for adjudication, as to whether the order of termination could be interfered with on the ground of want of competence on the part of the authority, who had passed the order, the plaintiff/workman assailed the same by filing Letters Patent Appeal contending inter alia that the City Civil Court will have no jurisdiction to go into the procedural irregularities because the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act and implied ouster of jurisdiction of Civil Court is not correct. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation filed cross-objection in the Letters Patent Appeals challenging that part of the judgment and decree of the learned single Judge whereunder the single Judge had quashed the decree of the City Civil Court and remanded the matter to City Civil Court for deciding as to whether declaration prayed for by each of the workman can be granted on the ground of want of competence on the part of the authority who had passed the order of dismissal/removal. All these Letters Patent Appeals as well as the cross-objections were disposed of by a common judgment, which is the subject-matter of consideration in these appeals. The Division Bench of the High Court was of the opinion that the City Civil Court was right in holding that it has no jurisdiction to hear the suits instituted by the employees/plaintiffs and the learned single Judge was not right in holding that the question of competence of the authority, who had passed order of dismissal or who had passed the order to initiate disciplinary proceedings could be decided by the Civil Court. According to the Division Bench even that question about the competence of the authority who passed the order can be gone into by the Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal, and therefore, Civil Court's jurisdiction to entertain a suit has to be held to have been impliedly barred. The Letters Patent Appeals having been dismissed and cross-objections filed by the Corporation having been allowed, the present appeals have been preferred. When these appeals were listed before a Bench of this Court, by order dated 13th October, 1993, Bench referred the cases to a Constitution Bench of 5 Hon'ble Judges. When the appeals were listed before a Constitution Bench it was represented by the counsel that the matter has been resolved by a judgment of this Court in Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation and another vs. Krishna Kant and others, (1995) 5 SCC 75 and, therefore, the Constitution Bench thought it fit to direct that the Civil Appeals should be placed before a Bench of three learned Judges, and that is why these appeals came before us.
(2.)Mr. Ahmadi, learned counsel appearing for the appellants contended, that under Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure the Civil Courts have the jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. In view of language of Section 9, the counsel urged that there should be presumption in favour of the jurisdiction of a Civil Court and exclusion of the jurisdiction should not be readily inferred unless such exclusion is either explicitly expressed or clearly implied. According to Mr. Ahmadi, a law ousting the jurisdiction of a Civil Court should be strictly construed and the onus lies on the party who seeks to oust the jurisdiction of the Civil Court, to establish the same. According to the learned counsel a litigant having a grievance of a civil nature has, independently of any statute, a right to institute a suit in a Civil Court and that right cannot be taken away unless the same is either expressly barred or impliedly inferred. According to the learned counsel the suits filed in the case in hand and the relief sought for, being civil in nature the jurisdiction of the Civil Court ought not to be held to be impliedly barred merely because the Industrial Tribunal or Labour Court can entertain the dispute and grant the relief in question. It is also urged that the Industrial Disputes Act does not contain any provision barring the jurisdiction of a Civil Court. That being the position, the High Court committed error in holding that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court must be impliedly held to have been barred. According to Mr. Ahmadi, if the right claimed is not purely a creature of the Industrial Disputes Act, but is a common law right and the Industrial Disputes Act entrusts to a special Tribunal for adjudication of such right and at the same time does not expressly oust the jurisdiction of the Civil Court, the intention of the Legislature must be held to be that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is not barred and in such a case it would be open to the party concerned to elect one of the forum for the remedies, which he is seeking for. The learned counsel for the respondent Mr. Anand, on the other hand contended, that the Parliament having enacted the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act for speedy, inexpensive and efficacious remedies in relation to a dispute between the employer and the employee, it must be held that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is barred if the relief sought for could be properly given by a forum under the Industrial Law. According to Mr. Anand the very purpose of the enactment would be frustrated if it is held that the Civil Court still retains the jurisdiction over a dispute which could be otherwise adjudicated upon by a forum under the Industrial Disputes Act.
(3.)In view of the rival submissions at the bar, the question that arises for consideration is whether the relief sought for by the plaintiffs in these suits can come within the ambit of an industrial dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, and if the answer is in affirmative then whether the conclusion of the High Court that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is barred is correct or not