Decided on January 29,1976



- (1.)IN this application for appropriate writs under Art. 226 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner-company is challenging an order of reference issued by the Government of West bengal on 20 February 1970, in exercise of powers conferred by S. 10 of the Industrial disputes Act, 1947 (hereinafter referred to as the said Act), and the order of the Tribunal, dated 28 July 1971, whereby the preliminary objection of the petitioner-company regarding the validity of the said order of reference and the maintainability of the same was rejected by the Tribunal.
(2.)THE facts of this case, so far as relevant for the purpose of the decision herein, are as follows:
(3.)THE petitioner-company carries on, amongst others, the business of manufacture and sale of steel products and for that purpose have steel plants in different parts in India. At all material times respondent 4 was employed as a skilled worker, grade I, attached to section mill (despatch) of the petitioner-company. There were certain incidents which took place on 20, 30 and 31 December 1967, respectively in which respondent 4 is alleged to have been involved. Accordingly on 4 January 1968, a charge sheet was issued against respondent 4 containing charges under cls. 29 (ii) and 29 (vi) of the standing orders. Respondent 4 replied to the charge sheet and thereafter an enquiry was held by an enquiry committee. Pursuant to that enquiry on 20 July 1968, an order of punishment was passed whereby there was stoppage of the increment of respondent 4 for three years with effect from 1 January 1969, with cumulative effect. Thereafter it appears that by a letter, dated 26 July 1968, this matter was taken up by the employees' union, being respondent 3 herein, before the Deputy Labour commissioner, Government of West Bengal. Pursuant thereto a conciliation proceeding took place over the purported dispute raised by the respondent-union as aforesaid. The admitted position is that the petitioner-company, through its representative, appeared before the Conciliation Officer and participated therein but did not agree to reconsider their decision regarding respondeat 4. It is claimed by respondents 3 and 4 that thereafter a letter was written by the respondent-union on 25 August 1968, to the petitioner, challenging the action of the petitioner. This is exhibit A before the Tribunal. I should point out that the genuineness of this letter was very much disputed by the petitioner-company before the tribunal and before me. Be that as it may, it appears that under these circumstances the order of reference was passed on 20 February 1970, whereby the Government of West bengal referred the dispute to the Ninth industrial Tribunal for adjudication. The issue referred to was whether the stoppage of increment of respondent 4 for three years with cumulative effect was justified and what relief, if any, he was entitled to. The company and the union filed their respective written statements before the Tribunal. Thereafter the petitioner-company filed a petition for hearing on the preliminary issue. The Tribunal took up this petition for hearing on the preliminary question and heard the evidence of the parties both oral and documentary. The only contention which was raised before the Tribunal as and by way of preliminary objection was to the effect that neither the workmen concerned nor the union on record or anybody else on behalf of him, did make any demand of justice at the bipartite level and, therefore, the subject-matter of the said reference could not be an industrial dispute under the said Act. The tribunal, after considering the evidence on this point came to the conclusion that such demand was made to the petitioner-company by the workmen of the petitioner-company before the order of reference was made, which was rejected by the management. Accordingly, by an order, dated 10 July 1970, the Tribunal rejected the preliminary objection of the petitioner-company and fixed 9 August 1971, for hearing of the case on merits. Being aggrieved by the said order of reference, dated 20 February 1970, and the decision of the Tribunal, dated 20 July 1970, this writ petition was moved whereupon a rule nisi was issued by this Court on 18 November 1971. This Court also stayed all further proceedings pending the disposal of the. rule,

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