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M/s. Schneider electric IT Business India Pvt. Ltd., Represented by K.N. Prasad, General Manager-Human Resources v/s M/s. American Power Conversion (INDIA) Pvt. Ltd. Employees' Union, Represented by its General Secretary, Rohithashwa & Another

    Writ Petition No. 36405 of 2017 (L-RES)

    Decided On, 15 December 2017

    At, High Court of Karnataka

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE RAGHVENDRA S. CHAUHAN

    For the Petitioner: S.N. Murthy, Senior Advocate, for S. Santhosh Narayan, Advocate. For the Respondents: Sriyuths R1, T.S. Anantharam, Advocate, R2, R.B. Sathyanarayana Singh, AGA.



Judgment Text

(Prayer: This Writ Petition is filed under Articles 226 & 227 of the Constitution of India praying to quash the impugned order Dated 01.08.2017 in application at Annexure-E passed by Respondent No.2.)

1. Aggrieved by the Recovery Certificate, dated 01-08-2017, issued by the Deputy Labour Commissioner to the Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru, under Section 33-C (1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, ('the Act', for short), the petitioner, M/s Schneider Electric IT Business India Pvt. Ltd., has approached this Court.

2. Briefly the facts of the case are that the petitioner-Company is engaged in the assembly of various kinds of electronic and computer components, inputs, hardware, UPS, surge protection products etc. It has eight manufacturing units located in Bengaluru. It employs about 475 workmen. A section of the workmen formed a trade union, known as M/s American power Conversion (India) Pvt. Ltd. Employees' Union, the respondent No.1 before this Court. According to the petitioner-Company, since the year 2007, wage revisions and other conditions of service of the workmen are being regulated through individual settlements. However, the respondent No. 1 submitted a charter of demands for increasing the wages, and for other benefits for the workmen. The charter of demands was filed for seeking increase of wages for the period 01-04-2015 to 01-04-2016. Further, according to the petitioner-Company, while 296 workmen have individually signed a settlement for increase in wages, about 179 workmen have refused to sign the individual settlements. These 179 workmen are represented by the respondent No. 1.

3. Since the petitioner-Company refused to accept the charter of demands raised by the respondent No. 1, the dispute was placed before the Conciliation Officer. After the conciliation proceedings failed, a reference of the industrial dispute was made to the Additional Industrial Tribunal. The reference was with regard to "whether the second party management of M/s Schneider Electric IT Business India Pvt. Limited is justified in not acceding to the various demands of the workmen or not?" The respondent No.1 filed the claim statement; the petitioner-Company filed its objection. During the pendency of the reference, the respondent No.1 filed an application for interim relief, wherein it prayed that each workman should be paid Rs.8000/- per month, during the pendency of the proceeding. By order dated 23-08-2016, the learned Industrial Tribunal partly granted the interim relief in favour of the respondent No. 1. It directed that the workmen should be paid Rs.5000/- per month from 01-04-2015. Since the petitioner-Company was aggrieved by the said order, it filed a writ petition before this court, namely, W.P. No. 53001/2016. However, by order dated 15-11-2016, this court has dismissed the said writ petition. Consequently, the petitioner-Company has filed a writ appeal, namely Writ Appeal No. 5101/2016, before a learned Division Bench of this Court. The same is pending before this Court.

4. Meanwhile, the respondent No.1 filed an application under Section 33-C (1) of the Act before the Deputy Labour Commissioner for issuance of Recovery Certificate against the petitioner-Company. On 01.08.2017, the learned Labour Commissioner has issued the Recovery Certificate. The learned Labour Commissioner has directed the Deputy Commissioner Bengaluru to recover an amount of Rs.2,44,75,000/- from the petitioner-Company. Hence, this petition before this Court.

5. Mr. S. N. Murthy, the learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner-Company, has raised the following contentions before this Court:-

Firstly, Section 2 (b) of the Act defines the word "Award", as meaning "an interim or a final determination of any industrial dispute or of any question relating thereto by a Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or a National Industrial Tribunal". Moreover, Section 33-C of the Act, speaks of "recovery of money due from an employer". According to sub-section (1) where any money is due to an workman from an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of Chapter V A, or Chapter V B, the workman himself or other person authorised by him, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery make an application to any Government for the recovery of the money due to him. In case the Government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate of that amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrears of land revenue. According to the learned Senior Counsel, the word "award" used in Section 33-C (1) of the Act would have to be taken as defined in Section 2 (b) of the Act.

Secondly, relying on the case of The Management of Hotel Imperial, New Delhi and Others v. Hotel Workers' Union [ AIR 1959 SC 1342] the learned Senior Counsel has pleaded that a distinction has to be made between an "interim award" and an "interim relief". According to the learned Senior Counsel, it is open to the Tribunal to make an award in some of the matter referred to it while some other matters remain to be decided. Such determination would tantamount to "an interim award". On the other hand, interim relief is granted under the powers conferred on the Tribunal under Section 10 (4) of the Act with respect to "matters incidental to the points of dispute referred for adjudication". Therefore, while the former are covered under the word "award", the latter are not covered under the word "award".

Thirdly, the respondent No.1 had filed an application for seeking "an interim relief" from the learned Industrial Tribunal. Therefore, by order dated 23.08.2016, the learned Tribunal had merely granted "an interim relief" to the respondent No.1. It had not granted any "interim award". For, it had not determined any issue incidental to the main reference made by the Government. The main reference dealt with the charter of demands which was not accepted by the petitioner-Company.Lastly, by order dated 23.08.2016, the learned Industrial Tribunal had granted "an interim relief", but not an "interim award". Since "an interim relief" is not covered by the word "award" used in Section 33-C (1) of the Act, therefore, an application under the said section was not even maintainable. Hence, the learned Deputy Labour Commissioner was not justified in issuing the Recovery Certificate under Section 33-C (1) of the Act.

6. On the other hand, Mr. T. S. Anantharam, the learned counsel for the respondent No.1, has raised the following counter-contentions:-

Firstly, relying on the case of Transport Corporation of India v. Employees' State Insurance Corporation [(2000) 1 SCC 332] and on the case of Seaford Court Estates Ltd. v. Asher [(1949) 2 All E. R. 155] the learned counsel has pleaded that a beneficial piece of legislation should be interpreted as widely as possible in order to enforce the legislative intention underlying the enactment. Therefore, Section 33-C (1) of the Act should be interpreted as liberally as possible.

Secondly, relying on the case of IVP Limited v. IVP Limited Workers Union [(2010) LLJ (3) 219 (Bom)], the learned counsel has pleaded that even "an order" would have to be included in the word "award" contained in Section 33-C (1) of the Act. Therefore, even "an interim relief" order would fall within the word "award" contained in Section 33-C (1) of the Act. Hence, the learned Deputy Labour Commissioner was entitled to pass the impugned order.

Thirdly, a distinction has to be made between Sections 33-C (1) and 33-C (2) of the Act. The former deals with a case where "the amount is due". The latter deals with a case where "any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any money". According to the learned counsel while the former deals with a case where the money is already quantified and is known, the latter refers to a case where the amount of money is yet to be determined.

Fourthly, the interim order dated 23.08.2016, passed by the learned Industrial Tribunal was based on the Settlement reached between the petitioner-Company and other workmen. Thus, the order dated 23.08.2016, is based on "a Settlement". Moreover, it quantified the amount due to the workmen when it directed that the petitioner-Company shall pay Rs.5,000/- per month to the workmen whose cause the respondent No.1 was espousing. Therefore, the money has "become due" to the workmen. Hence, the case clearly falls within the ambit of Section 33-C (1) of the Act.

7. Heard the learned counsel for the parties, and perused the impugned order.

8. It is, indeed, trite to state that literal rule of interpretation is the 'Golden Rule of Interpretation'. In case there is no ambiguity in the language employed by the Legislature, then the plain and grammatical meaning of the words need to be given effect to in order to apply the intention of the Legislature. Even if the legislation is a social beneficial piece of legislation, even then the language of the legislation cannot be violate in the garb of giving a "liberal interpretation" to such a legislation. Although the learned counsel for the respondent No.1 has relied on the case of Transport Corporation of India (supra), but in the said case, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has opined that when two views are possible on the applicability of a Law to a given set of employees, then the view which furthers the legislative intention should be preferred to the one which would frustrate it. There can be no quarrel with the principle established by the Apex Court. However, the issue would be whether the language of the enactment is so ambiguous as to give rise to two possible interpretations or not? But in case the language is plain and simple, which does not warrant two possible interpretations, then the plain and grammatical meaning would necessarily have to be given effect to. In such a scenario there is no possibility of giving a "liberal interpretation" to a social beneficial piece of legislation.

9. Section 33-C (1) of the Act is as under:-

Where any money is due to a workman from an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of Chapter VA or Chapter VB the workman himself or any other person authorised by him in writing in this behalf, or, in case of the death of the workman, his assignee or heirs may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, make an application to the appropriate Government for the recovery of the money due to him, and if the appropriate Government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue certificate for that amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue.

10. A bare perusal of the section clearly reveals that there is no ambiguity in the language of the provision. Thus, the Section would have to be applied in the terms of the Section itself without giving it a liberal interpretation.

11. Section 2 (b) of the Act defines the word "award" as under:-

"award" means an interim or final determination of any industrial dispute or of any question relating thereto by any Labour Court. Industrial Tribunal or National Industrial Tribunal and includes an arbitration award made under section 10A.

Thus, an award can be either an interim one or a final one.

12. In the case of Management of Hotel Imperial (supra) the Hon'ble Supreme Court has distinguished between an "interim award" and "interim relief". The Apex Court has held as under:

"the next question is as to how the tribunal should proceed in the matter if it decides to grant interim relief. The definition of the word "award" shows that it can be either an interim or final determination either of the whole of the dispute referred to the tribunal or of any question relating thereto. Thus it is open to the tribunal to give an award about the entire dispute at the end of all proceedings. This will be final determination of the industrial dispute referred to it. It is also open to the tribunal to make an award about some of the matters referred to it whilst some others still remain to be decided. This will be an interim determination of any question relating thereto. In either case it will have to be published as required by S.17. Such awards are however not in the nature of interim relief for they decide the industrial dispute or some question relating thereto. Interim relief, on the other hand, is granted under the power conferred on the tribunal under S. 10 (4) with respect to matters incidental to the points of dispute for adjudication".

This distinction between "an interim award", and "an interim relief" has to be kept in mind, while interpreting the scope and ambit of Section 33-C(1) of the Act.

13. Since Section 2 (b) of the Act defines the word "award", since Section 33-C (1) of the Act uses the word "award", obviously the word "award" used in Section 33-C (1) of the Act would include either an "interim award", or a "final award". But, by no stretch of imagination the word "award" includes an" interim relief order". Therefore, the contention raised by the learned counsel for respondent No.1 that the word "award", in Section 33-C(1) of the Act should be so interpreted so as to include the word "order" is unacceptable. After all, the Judiciary does not have the power to legislate. Hence, the word "award" cannot be stretched to the extent of including any "order" passed by the Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal, or National Industrial Tribunal.

14. A bare perusal of the record clearly reveals that the respondent No.1 had filed an application for "an interim relief". Moreover, the order dated 23.08.2016 itself notes the fact that an interim application has been filed for "an interim relief". After appreciating the arguments and the counter arguments of the parties, the learned Industrial Tribunal has granted "an interim relief" to the workmen. Thus, the learned Industrial Tribunal has not passed an "interim award", but has merely passed "an interim relief order". Therefore, obviously, such an order is not covered by the word "award" used in Section 33-C (1) of the Act.

15. The learned counsel for the respondent No.1 is equally unjustified in claiming that since "the interim order" is based on the settlement, "the interim order" does fall within Section 33-C (1) of the Act, as the said provision uses the words "money is due to the workman under a settlement". However, the settlement referred to in the order dated 23.08.2016 was not a settlement entered by the petitioner with the respondent No.1. In fact, the petitioner had entered into settlement individually with the workmen and not collectively. Furthermore, even the reference was not with regard to the applicability of the "settlement" to the members of the respondent No.1, the trade union. In fact, the reference was limited to the issue "whether the petitioner-Company is justified in not exceeding to the charter of demands raised by the respondent No.1 or not?" Admittedly, the charter of demands went beyond the individual settlement reached between the petitioner- Company and some of its workmen. Therefore, "the interim order" does not arise from "a settlement". Hence, again the "interim order" cannot be brought within the scope and ambit of Section 33-C (1) of the Act.

16. The learned counsel for the respondent No.1 is certainly justified in pleading that a distinction has to be drawn between Section 33-C (1) and Section 33-C (2) of the Act. However, Section 33-C (1) of the Act is limited to any money which is due under "a settlement or an award or under the provisions of Chapter VA or Chapter VB" of the Act. But Section 33-C (1) of the Act does not deal with any money which is due which is beyond a settlement, or an award, or the provisions of Chapter VA or Chapter VB. For recovering such an amount due, the workman would have to file an application under Section 33-C (2) of the Act. For, Section 33-C (2) uses a wider expression "where any workman is entitled to receive any money from an employer". Hence, if a workman is entitled to receive any money on the basis of "interim order" passed by a Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal, or a National Industrial Tribunal, perforce, the workman will have to file a application under Se

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ction 33-C (2) of the Act, and not under Section 33-C (1) of the Act. 17. The learned counsel for respondent No.1 is also unjustified in claiming that since the amount payable to the workmen is quantified by the Industrial Tribunal, no application under Section 33-C (2) of the Act could be entertained. The said argument ignores the fact the power under Section 33-C(1) of the Act is confined to the four circumstances, namely when the amount is due under a settlement, or award, or under the provisions of Chapter VA, or VB. Secondly, since a wider phrase has been used in Section 33-C (2) of the Act, even if the amount has been quantified, even then, an application for recovery of the amount would lie under Section 33-C (2) of the Act. For, Section 33-C deals with "recovery of money from an employer". Thus, in case any money has to be recovered from an employer, the options are only two, namely if the money is due under a settlement, or award, or under the provisions of Chapter VA, or VB, then an application lies under Section 33-C(1) of the Act; in case, the money is recoverable from an employer under any other circumstances, the application would lie under Section 33-C (2) of the Act. 18. The upshot of the entire discussion is that since an interim order is not include in the word "award", since the money is not due under an award, the respondent No.1 could not have filed the application under Section 33-C (1) of the Act. Hence, the learned Labour Commissioner could not legally issue a Recovery Certificate under the said provision. Hence, the impugned Recovery Certificate is legally unsustainable. 19. For the reasons stated above, the impugned Recovery Certificate dated 01.08.2017 is quashed and set aside. The writ petition is hereby allowed. No order as to costs.
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