1. Heard Mr. Somik Deb, learned Sr. Counsel and Mr. T.D. Majumder, learned Sr. Counsel assisted by Mr. Raju Datta, learned counsel and Ms. S. Chism, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner as well as Mr. P. Roy Barman, learned Sr. Counsel assisted by Mr. S. Bhattacharjee, learned counsel appearing for the private-respondents and Mr. P. Saha, learned counsel appearing for the State-respondents.
2. This bunch of writ petitions has been taken up and heard together because common questions of law and facts are involved.
3. At the very outset, Mr. Somik Deb, learned Sr. Counsel has raised the question of maintainability of the proceedings initiated by the respondents before the learned Labour Court. Learned Sr. Counsel has submitted that the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to proceed under Section 2-A(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act since the said provision had been repealed by the Gazette Notification dated 9th May, 2016 whereby, the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 had been amended and Section 2-A(2) had been expressly repealed. Due to such repeal of the provision, the findings and awards passed by the Labour Court cannot have any force in the eye of the law.
4. Mr. P. Roy Barman, learned Sr. Counsel appearing for the private-respondents has fairly conceded to this submission of the learned Sr. Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner.
5. On plain reading of the relevant provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947(for short, I.D. Act), it comes to fore that before amendment of I.D. Act by the Amendment Act of 24 of 2010, which is called as Industrial Disputes(Amendment) Act, 2010, Section 10 statutorily obligated a workman who approached the appropriate Government for his opinion in case of any dispute between the employer and the workman and if the appropriate Government was of the opinion that any industrial dispute existed or was apprehended, then, it would refer the matter to the Boards, Courts or Tribunals. By the Amendment Act of 24 of 2010 in the I.D. Act giving its effect from 15.09.2010, Sub-section(2) of Section 2-A empowered a workman to approach the Labour Court or Tribunal by way of making an application directly notwithstanding anything contained in Section 10 for adjudication of the disputes arising out of dismissal, discharge, retrenchment or otherwise after the expiry of 45(forty five) days from the date he makes the application to the Conciliation Officer of the appropriate Government for conciliation of the dispute and the Labour Court or Tribunal has been given powers to adjudicate such dispute. It would be useful to extract Section 2-A(2) of the I.D. Act, which is as under:
“(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 10, any such workman as is specified in sub-section (1) may, make an application direct to the Labour Court or Tribunal for adjudication of the dispute referred to therein after the expiry of forty-five days from the date he has made the application to the Conciliation Officer of the appropriate Government for conciliation of the dispute, and in receipt of such application the Labour Court or Tribunal shall have powers and jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute, as if it were a dispute referred to it by the appropriate Government in accordance with the provisions of this Act and all the provisions of this Act shall apply in relation to such adjudication as they apply in relation to an industrial dispute referred to it by the appropriate Government.”
However, the legislature in its own wisdom had repealed the said provision under the Repealing and Amendment Act, 2016 w.e.f. 9th May, 2016, wherein the Amendment Act of 2010 in whole became redundant and thereby repealed. The respondents/workmen had filed their applications under Section 2-A(2) of the Amendment Act, 2010 before the Labour Court in the month of July, 2017 when the said Amendment Act itself was repealed by subsequent Amendment Act, 2016.
6. Repeal of statute means the abolition of the law, and once if any statute is abolished, then, it is considered void having no effects. As per Halsbury’s Laws of England, the term repeal stands for revoking and abolishing an act and all its effects, which cause it to cease to be a part of statues of books or body of law. According to the Black’s Law dictionary, the term repeal means a legislative act which abrogates or obliterates an existing statute. The primary object of this act is to bring necessary changes in the existing law for changing socio-economic conditions from time to time. Further, express repeal is an expression which means the abolition of the previously enacted statute by the newly enacted provisions of a statute through expressed words embedded under the new statute enacted. The statute which has been repealed is called repealed statute and the one which replaces the earlier statute is called the repealing statute. To constitute an express repeal, the first and foremost feature is that there must be a repealing statute; the earlier statute must be repealed by the new enacting or repealing statute; and the enacted statute must have clear intention showing the effect of the repeal. Further, in my considered view, there is no difference between the amendment and repeal since both the term connotes substitution or omission or addition.
7. It is a settled proposition of law that issue of jurisdiction, even if raised at a later state touches upon the validity of the order passed by any Court or Tribunal. It leaves me with the facet of the argument touching upon the validity of the order made by the Labour Court.
8. Courts or Tribunals having no jurisdiction cannot try or adjudicate any application or suit filed before it. Where a Court making an order/judgment/award, etc. lacks inherent jurisdiction, such order/judgment/award would be without jurisdiction, non est, and null and void ab initio as defect of jurisdiction of such Court/Tribunal goes to the root of the matter and strikes of its very authority to pass any judgment/order/award. Added to it, such defect cannot be cured in any manner whatsoever.
9. Now, reverting to the facts of the instant case, I find that the learned Labour Court(District Judge, West Tripura) had adjudicated the applications filed by the respondents-workmen when he lacked inherent jurisdiction to accept applications filed by the respondents before him and further tried, and ultimately passed judgments. Such adjudication ultimately touched upon the validity of the judgments passed by the learned Labour Court (District Judge) and shall have no force in the eye of law.
10. For the reasons discussed and analysed here-in-above on law and fa
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cts, I have no other alternative but to interfere with the judgments and awards passed by the learned Labour Court (District Judge, West Tripura, Agartala) in Case No. Labour 01/2017, Labour 02/2017, Labour 03/2017, Labour 04/2017 and Labour 05/2017. Accordingly, the common judgment dated 30.05.2020 passed in connection with the afore-mentioned cases is set aside. However, the respondents/workmen have been given liberty to approach the appropriate forum in accordance with Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and after receipt of such application, the appropriate authority shall proceed further in accordance with law. 11. With the aforesaid observations and directions, this bunch of writ petitions is allowed and disposed of.