Decided on August 05,1974

A. Kunjukrishna Pillai And Others Respondents


K. Bhaskaran, J. - (1.) Whether an approval application under Section 33 (2) (b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, for short the Act, presented to the Arbitrator during the pendency of an arbitration proceedings under Section 10-A of the Act would survive the rendition of the award by the Arbitrator so as to be within his competence thereafter to hear and dispose of it, is the question of law that is posed for decision in this writ petition brought by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, for short the Corporation.
(2.) Facts are not in dispute. An industrial dispute having arisen between the management and the employees of the Corporation, it was referred to the first respondent, the Arbitrator, for adjudication under Section 10-A of the Act. The terms of the agreement were duly incorporated in Ext. P-l, the Gazette notification dated 26-4-1972, under sub-section (3) of Section 10-A of the Act. The two specific matters in dispute as per the agreement were: (1) revision of wages; and (2) measures to be taken for effecting productivity and to provide for the economy in he working of the Corporation. It was also specifically provided in the agreement embodied in Ext. P-l: "The Arbitrator shall make his Award within a period of six months or within such further time as is extended by mutual agreement between us in writing. In case the Award is not made within the period aforementioned, the reference to arbitration shall stand automatically cancelled and we shall be free to negotiate for fresh arbitration." The time within which the Arbitrator was to give his Award was finally extended up to 31-12-1972; and indeed the Arbitrator gave his award within the stipulated period. In the meanwhile, on 7-6-1972 the Corporation had filed applications under Section 33 (2) (b) of the Act for approval of the dismissal of respondents 2 to 9 from service. Ex. P-2 is the copy of such application made in respect of the 3rd respondent. This application, like the similar ones in respect of respondents 2 and 4 to 9, remained without being disposed of on 31-12-1972 on which date the period fixed for arbitration expired. Later on, on 30-1-1973 the first respondent Arbitrator issued Ext. P-3 notice which, inter alia, read : "The above case is posted for hearing at 11 A.M. on 8-2-1973 in the office of the State Arbitration Board, Kunnukuzhy, Trivandrum". The reference to "the above case" in Ext. P-3 is to the approval application. To this notice Ext. P-4 objection dated 8-2-1973 was filed by the Corporation. In Ext. P-4 it is stated: "..... the Arbitrator has ceased to be the Arbitrator as from 1-1-1973 and is no longer competent to adjudicate or consider any proceedings arising out of the main reference, including the Approval Application of the Management under Section 33 (2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as aforesaid." After hearing the counsel for the Corporation and the counsel for the contesting respondents, the 1st respondent Arbitrator passed Ext. P-5 order overruling the objections raised by the Corporation. It is the correctness's of this decision in Ext. P-5 that is being challenged in this writ petition.
(3.) The two decisions of the Supreme Court in Tata Iron & Steel Co v. Modak, (1965) 2 Lab LJ 128 : (AIR 1966 SC 380) and P. D. Sharma v. State Bank of India, (1969) 1 Lab LJ 513 : (1968 Lab IC 1223) (SC) have set at rest the doubts arising out of the question whether applications under Sections 33 (2) (b) and 33 (3) of the Act would survive the pronouncement of the Award on the main dispute by the Industrial Tribunal or the Labour Court. It has been held in the former case that the application under Section 33 (2) (b) survives the presentation of the Award, and in the latter case that an application under Section 33 (3) would come to an automatic end once the Tribunal or the Labour Court gives its Award and becomes functus officio.;

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