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[ In the High Court of Calcutta, APO No. 266 of 2014 with WP No. 1204 of 2013. ] 01/12/2016
Advocate(s) : A.D. Roy, S. Mishra. Sabyasachi Choudhury, Rajarshi Dutta.
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    The Court :In this appeal the appellants challenge the judgment and order dated 4th March 2014 passed by an Hon’ble Single Bench in WP 1204 of 2013. The challenge in the writ petition in which the present appellants were the writ petitioners was to the exclusion of the appellants from negotiation and other matters with the management of the respondents-Bank namely UCO Bank connected to the implementation of its Industrial Relation Policy for Workmen (for short IRPW). The Hon’ble Single Bench inter alia held as follows:-“The majority union is representing a large number of workforce and it shall be presumed that such union would act fairly and for the benefit of the workmen at large irrespective of their affiliation. It is the allegiance of the large number of  workmen to a particular union which gives it the character as a majority union. That the majority would not act in interest of the workmen in absence of any mala fide cannot be accepted. It is not being alleged by the petitioner that the majority union would act against the interest of the petitioners or its members. In any event as has been observed in Chairman SBI & Anr. Vs. All Orissa State Bank Officers’ Association and others reported in 2002 (5) SCC 669 the procedure to consult the majority union would help in maintaining industrial peace and smooth function of the establishment. Moreover in service jurisprudence there cannot be any service rule which would satisfy each and every employee (Reserve Bank of India Vs. C.N. Sahasranaman & Ors.; AIR 1986 SC 1830).The selection of percentage for consultation/negotiation at different levels and stages as indicated in the policy cannot be said to be arbitrary and discriminatory. It is absurd to suggest that all and sundry is required to be heard in all matters including policy matters. If such argument is accepted then the bank would not be able to function at all. The decision of the bank to exclude all the unions except the majority union for negotiation at the apex level on policy matters appears to be well-conceived inasmuch as such policies are periodically reviewed. The policy has also taken due care of individual workman and it provides a mechanism for redressal of his/her grievance.The other argument based on collective bargaining by reference to Chapter III-A West Bengal Amendment regarding recognition of trade unions as sole bargaining agent appears to be misconceived. In the first place the petitioner has not applied for recognition as a sole bargaining agent. Secondly the said amended provisions are not applicable in the instant case. The petitioner has failed to disclose any document to show that the petitioner has been recognized as a bargaining agent.”Sri A.D. Roy Ld. Counsel appearing for the appellants argues that it is not an inflexible rule that in all cases a majority union can be recognised to be the sole arbiter of all industrial disputes in respect of all the workmen. Noninclusion of even a minority union in the process of negotiation shall amount to discrimination and it is possible that the Industrial Policy arrived at after such negotiation may not be acceptable to each and every workman. According to the appellants the principle of collective bargaining inherently recognises the fact that every individual workman has the right to ventilate his grievances even through a union having a minority membership.Ld. Counsel for the appellants therefore argues that the judgment of the Hon’ble Single Bench dated 4th March 2014 ignoring the right of representation of the appellants on the ground that the appellants merely represent 1.63% of the total strength of workmen in the employment of the Bank and also relying upon the judgment of the said Hon’ble Single Bench in another writ petition No. WP 464 of 2013 also dated 4th March 2014 is based on an incorrect perception of Industrial Relation/Policy Management in a Bank.Arguing for the respondents-bank Sri Sabyasachi Choudhury Ld. Counsel relies upon the judicial pronouncement of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Review Petitions (C) Nos. 1111-12 of 2002 in CAs Nos. 3337-38 of 2002 in the matter of Chairman State Bank of India & Anr. vs. All Orissa State Bank Officers Association & Anr. reported in 2003 (11) SCC 607. Sri Choudhury relies upon the following paragraphs:-“7. A reference to the counter affidavit in the Civil Appeals filed by the General Secretary of State Bank of India Officers Association brings home the fact that as a matter of long practice and usage bipartite relations had been maintained only with the majority/recognised associations but issues relating to individual grievances had to be processed through the grievance redressal procedure as they were not discussed with the majority/recognised associations. The said affidavit places on record the grievance procedure with regard to redressal of individual grievances. A perusal of the said grievance procedure (Annexure A2) clearly shows that there is a three-tier system of dealing with individual grievances. First an individual grievance is to be made to an Initial Authority in respect of the department or section or branch in which the official is working directly. If there is failure to render satisfaction or give decision within the prescribed time an appeal may be made to the Appellate Authority. If no decision is given by the Appellate Authority within the prescribed time frame then the complaint may be referred to a Grievance Committee consisting of two representatives of the bank and two representatives of the supervising staff nominated by the Supervising Staff Association. The decision of the majority of members of the said committee shall prevail. This grievance procedure brings out the fact that the privilege of discussing individual grievances of the officers has not been given even to the trade unions representing the majority of the officers.8. In all proceedings under the grievance procedure the officer concerned may appear himself or in addition have his case represented by a colleague. It is of significance that no union representative as such is allowed.9. The existing grievance procedure has been functioning smoothly for the  last several decades. The rejoinder affidavit filed by the Petitioner bank also places on record several circulars by which the grievance procedure has been brought into place. It also indicates the nature of grievances to be addressed under the grievance procedure the manner of disposal of grievances appeals and consideration of the grievance by the Grievance Committee. The grievance procedure circulars clearly indicate that any disciplinary action taken in accordance with the terms and conditions governing the official service shall not constitute a grievance to be processed under the said procedure. It is made clear that any action taken against individuals for disciplinary purposes would not and could not form the subject matter of an individual grievance to be ventilated under the grievance procedure machinery. It is also made clear that the union recognised by the employer which represents more than 90 percent of the officers employed in the concerned circle had also not been conferred this privilege of representing its members in grievance proceedings. As far as representation in such proceedings is concerned it is confined to a co- employee or co-officer irrespective of the trade union affiliation of the delinquent employee/officers.11. In our view the contention urged by the Counsel for the Review Petitioner has merit and needs acceptance. There is no Common Law right of a trade union to represent its members whether for purposes of collective bargaining or individual grievances of members. This is an inroad made into the Common Law by special statutes. Either the special statute operates proprio vigore or it does not. In the situation before us it is undisputed that Rule 24(a) on which the Respondent association and the High Court placed reliance has no application. This is accepted even in the judgment under review. Nonetheless on general principles of equity justice and fair play the judgment under review holds that the minority trade union should also be afforded an opportunity of ventilating individual grievances of its members. It appears to us that in doing so the attention of this Court was not adverted to the elaborate grievance procedure machinery which is in existence and the details of which are placed on record.12. Having considered the matter in its entire perspective we are inclined to agree with the submissions of the Review Petitioner. We do not think that denying such a right of representation to the minority union when such a right is not conceded even to the majority union amounts to discrimination requiring redressal at the hands of the High Court. It is also not possible for the High Court to exercise its powers under article 226 to direct an employer to bring into existence such a system of representation in grievance procedure. In the absence of arbitrariness or discrimination in our judgment there was no scope at all for interference in exercise of writ jurisdiction. It is urged by Shri Salve for the Review Petitioner that the application of such a principle in one zone might create serious repercussions all over since the bank has branches throughout the country. We also noticed that the appropriate government in respect of the State Bank of India is the Central Government and the rules made by the State Government cannot be enforced against it. Considering all aspects of the matter it appears to us that the review petitions must be allowed as these crucial issues were not considered in the judgment under review.”Therefore Sri Choudhury submits that the appellants do not have a vested right to claim collective bargaining and the grievance-redressal procedure of the Bank permits ventilation of all workmen related grievances before the management.Having heard the parties and considering the facts as well as the law placed this Court is of the considered view that having regard to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court as reported in 2003 (11) SCC 607 (supra) the judgment and order under appeal dated 4th March 2014 does not call for any interference.The appeal and the connected applications stand accordingly dismissed.There will be however no orders as to costs.Urgent certified photocopies of this judgement if applied for be given to the learned advocates for the parties upon compliance of all formalities.