Shivaraj V. Patil, J. -
(1.)The judgment and order dated 15-6-1998 of the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court passed in Writ Appeal Nos. 8826/96 and 265/97 are under challenge in these appeals. In the written submissions filed on behalf of the petitioners, it is stated that Mr. T. Pionnagiri left the service of the petitioner-company and hence the SLP and the reliefs may be confined to Mr. Prabhakar H. Manjare. Hence the special leave petition is confined to him only. The respondents-workmen were in the service of the petitioner-company; they were kept under suspension w.e.f. 4-5-1984; since an industrial dispute was already pending, the company moved an application seeking approval of the order of dismissal dated 21-1-1986 of the respondents under Section 32(2)(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (for short the Act). The National Industrial Tribunal by two separate orders, both dated 1-9-1987 held that the orders of dismissal were invalid for non-compliance of the provisions of Section 33(2)(b) of the Act in that wages for one month were not paid; these orders of the Tribunal remained unchallenged and reached finality. The petitioners, treating the non-compliance of Section 33(2)(b) as mere technical breach, passed orders of dismissal for the second time on 9-10-1987 without any further/fresh inquiry and without paying wages to the respondents for the period from the date of first dismissal order, i.e., 21-1-1986 to 9-10-1987, i.e., date of second dismissal order; the company again moved applications seeking approval of the orders of dismissal before the National Industrial Tribunal; this time the Tribunal granted approval on 2-3-1989 relying on the judgment of this Court in M/s. Punjab Beverages Pvt. Ltd., Chandigarh vs. Suresh Chand and Anr., (1978) 2 SCC 144. In the writ petition filed by the respondents, the learned single Judge of the High Court upheld the order of the Tribunal; the respondents filed writ appeals challenging the order of the Tribunal as affirmed by the learned single Judge; the Division Bench of the High Court by the impugned order allowed the appeals and set aside the order of the learned single Judge affirming the order of the Tribunal and held that the respondents shall be deemed in continuous service of the petitioners and were entitled to all consequential benefits. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioners have filed special leave petitions in this Court raising the questions similar to the questions raised in Civil Appeal Nos. 87-88 of 1986 (Jaipur Zila Sahakari Bhoomi Vikas Bank Ltd. vs. Ram Gopal Sharma and Others, (2002) 2 SCC 244 and those appeals were referred to the Constitution Bench. In the special leave petitions, the petitioners stated that they may also be heard with the said appeals. This Court on 9-8-2001 ordered that the special leave petitions filed by the company be also heard along with Civil Appeal Nos. 87-88 of 1986. The Constitution Bench decided the case of Jaipur Zila Sahakari Bhoomi Vikas Bank Ltd. (supra) holding Punjab Beverages vs. Suresh Chand, (1978) 2 SCC 144 is no more a good law and approved the judgment in Straw Board Manufacturing Co. vs. Govind, (1962) 3 Suppl. SCR 618 and Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. vs. S. N.Modak, (1965) 3 SCR 411. The questions raised in the special leave petitions filed by the petitioners are covered by the Constitution Bench judgment delivered on 17-1-2002 in Jaipur Sahakari Bhoomi Vikas Bank Ltd. (supra). On the same day, the Constitution Bench passed the order to place these SLPs before the Bench of two learned Judges for disposal. Thus, these SLPs came up for hearing before this Bench.
(2.)Mr. K. N. Rawal, learned Addl. Solicitor General, being conscious of the fact that the questions raised in SLPs, are covered against the petitioners by the Constitution Bench judgment aforementioned, urged that the Company was not precluded from passing a second order of dismissal after payment of one months wages to the respondents complying with the requirements of the proviso to Section 33(2)(b) of the Act and seeking approval for the same by the Tribunal. According to him, the Tribunal was right in granting approval to the second order of dismissal which the learned single Judge of the High Court affirmed; the Division Bench of the High Court committed an error in taking a contrary view in the impugned judgment. In support of his submission, he strongly relied on Tata Iron and Steel Co. (supra) drawing our attention to the observation in the said judgment that if the approval is not accorded by the Tribunal, the employer would be bound to treat the respondent as its employee and pay his full backwages for the period even though the appellant may subsequently proceed to terminate the respondents services.
(3.)On the other hand, learned Counsel for the respondent made submissions supporting the impugned judgment and reiterated the submissions that were made before the Divison Bench of the High Court. The learned Counsel added that the case of Tata Iron and Steel Co. (supra) does not help the petitioners on facts of the present case.