w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n

P.S. Muraleedharan & Another v/s Registrar of Trade Unions & Others

Company & Directors' Information:- I TRADE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U67120TN1999PLC043813

Company & Directors' Information:- TRADE INDIA LTD [Active] CIN = U51909PB1982PLC004822

Company & Directors' Information:- R P TRADE PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51909AS1999PTC005646

Company & Directors' Information:- A R TRADE IN PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51909AS1999PTC005710

Company & Directors' Information:- S 3 M TRADE PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900WB2013PTC193812

Company & Directors' Information:- C TRADE (INDIA) PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900KA2008PTC045372

Company & Directors' Information:- I-W TRADE PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U93030MH2012PTC233832

Company & Directors' Information:- U M TRADE PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U67190MH2011PTC224523

    WP(C).No.2025 of 2014 (C)

    Decided On, 30 August 2019

    At, High Court of Kerala


    For the Petitioner: M. Sasindran, S. Shyam Kumar, Advocates. For the Respondents: C.P. Peethambaran, Advocate, R1-R2, Anandakrishnan TK, Sr GP.

Judgment Text

1. Petitioners are former employees of the Tata Oil Mills Company Limited and in that capacity, were members of the second respondent Union. The Tata Oil Mills Company was established in the year 1919 and the second respondent Union was registered in the year 1939, in accordance with the provisions of the Trade Unions Act, 1926. At the time of its registration, the Union had about 2000 members and with their contribution, had purchased 16 cents of land in Cochin. Subsequently, a building was also constructed in the property, portion of which was let out for rent. In 1993, the Tata Oil Mills Company merged with Hindustan Lever Limited. Following the merger, more than 900 employees opted to retire under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme and thereafter, no further appointment was made by the Company. Resultantly, the number of employees in the Company reduced drastically, which resulted in reduction in the number of members in the second respondent Union also. Faced with such a situation, the existing members of the Union decided to sell the landed property and the building thereon.2. The petitioners and the other retired employees of the Company have registered an association by name the Tata Oil Mills Retired Employees Association (for short "the Association"). The Association raised objection against the attempt to sell the property, on the ground that the property was purchased utilising the contributions of the then existing employees of the Company, who are members of the Association. It was contended that even after retirement, the employees continued to be the members of the Union, since there is no provision in the bye-laws of the Union regarding cessation of membership on retirement. Alleging that the objections of the Association was not being considered, the petitioners and certain other retired employees approached this Court by filing W.P.(C) No.9849 of 2013, which was disposed under per Ext.P6 judgment, directing the objection filed before the Registrar of Trade Unions to be considered and disposed of within two months. Accordingly, the first respondent considered the objection and rejected the same as per Ext.P7 order.3. The writ petition is filed seeking to set aside Ext.P7 order and for a declaration that the Trade Union is not competent to dispose of its properties, except for the purpose of the Union or on its dissolution, and for the issue of a writ of mandamus directing the first respondent to restrain the second respondent union from alienating its landed property.4. The learned counsel for the petitioners rely on the decision of the Honourable Supreme Court in Bokajan Cement Corporation Employees Union v. Cement Corporation of India Ltd. [(2004) 1 SCC 142] in support of his contention that the membership of a trade union is a valuable right which can be taken away only within the clear parameters of the Trade Union Act and the constitution of the trade union and that, in the absence of any provision providing for cessation of membership as a result for cessation of employment, there is nothing in the Act which militates against it. The learned counsel assailed the findings of the first respondent in Ext.P7 and contended that the first respondent had rendered the order on a mistaken impression that the Registrar of Trade Unions is conferred with power to intervene in the sale of immovable properties of a trade union only on dissolution of the trade union. It is contended that since the petitioners continue to be the members of the Union, any decision to sell the properties of the union can be taken only with their consent.5. The second respondent has filed a detailed counter affidavit alleging that the petitioners are guilty of suppression of material facts. It is submitted that the petitioners being active members of the Association of retired employees, were fully aware of the fact that the Association had filed a suit seeking identical reliefs as in the instant writ petition. A copy of the plaint in O.S.No.589 of 2011 filed before the Munsiff's Court, Ernakulam is produced as Ext. R2(a). Ext.R2(b) is the order by which the Munsiff's Court dismissed the interlocutory application for injunction filed by the Association. Ext.R2(c) evidences dismissal of the Civil Miscellaneous Appeal filed against Ext.R2(b) order. Though Exts.R2(b) and (c) were challenged before this Court, as per Ext.R2(d) judgment this Court directed the trial court to dispose of the suit untrammelled by any observation contained in the orders passed by the trial court or lower appellate court in the application for temporary injunction. It is contended in the counter affidavit that subsequent to Ext.R2(d), the suit was listed for trial, but the plaintiff Association was consistently absent and finally the suit was dismissed for default on 7.12.2012. Ext.R2(e) is the application for restoration filed by the plaintiff and Ext.R2(g) is the judgment by which the trial court dismissed the suit on merits, after restoration. It is contended that suppression of the fact regarding filing of the suit and its dismissal, by itself is sufficient to dismiss the writ petition. It is further submitted that the contention of the petitioners that the bye-laws of the Union does not contain a provision for sale of its properties is wrong. Ext.R2(f) is an amendment brought about to the byelaws of the union and registered by the first respondent in accordance with Regulation 17 of the Kerala Trade Union Regulations, 1958. It is contended that as per the bye-laws of the Union, on retirement from the Company, the employee would cease to be a member of the Union. The learned counsel for the second respondent submitted that a portion of the Unions property has already been sold, in order to acquire better ingress and egress to the property. It is submitted that at present, there are only 152 members in the Union and that, within a few years, even those members would retire from the Company. It was in the above factual background that a decision was taken to sell the property and to deposit the corpus in a Trust to be formed by the existing members.6. I find substance in the contention of the learned counsel for the second respondent Union that failure to reveal the fact regarding filing of O.S.No.589 of 2011 for a similar relief amounts to material suppression. The specific case of the petitioners in the writ petition is that the Association was formed in order to protect the interest of the retired hands of the Company as well as the smooth functioning of the Company and for succouring the trade union. It is stated in the writ petition that the Association, where the petitioners act as officer bearers, came to know about the fact that the existing members of the trade union are trying to dispose of the property belonging to the trade union. Ext.P1 is an objection against the proposed sale of the property submitted by the Association before the first respondent. Ext.P2 is the reply to Ext.P1 received by the General Secretary of the Association. The reliefs sought in O.S.No.589 of 2011, as revealed from Ext.R2(a) plaint, are as follows:-"(a). Pass a decree declaring that the plaint schedule property was purchased with the funds of the erstwhile members of the defendant union who are the members of the plaintiff Association and the defendant union has no right or authority to alienate or encumber the plaint schedule property and the building or to do anything detrimental to the right of the members of the plaintiff Association over the plaint schedule property;(b) Pass a decree for mandatory injunction, directing the Secretary of the defendant Union to amalgamate the same with the plaintiff Association within such time as may be fixed by this Honourable Court, failing which amalgamate the defendant union with the plaintiff Association through the process of this Honourable Court; (c) Pass a decree for permanent prohibitory injunction, restraining the defendant and its office bearers from alienating or otherwise encumbering the plaint schedule property, or taking any decision affecting the right of the members of the plaintiff Association over the plaint schedule property."By the time the petitioners filed this writ petition, the suit was dismissed for default. It is hence evident that the writ petition was filed at a time when the suit stood dismissed. Hence, filing of the writ petition, without mentioning anything about the suit, amounts to suppression of material fact and the writ petition is liable to be dismissed on that ground alone.7. As far as the contention of the petitioners that there is no provision in the bye-laws of the Union empowering the union to sell its immovable properties, the answer is contained in Ext.R2(f). As per Ext.R2(f) amendment, the Union is authorised to acquire movable and immovable properties and also to sell its properties, as a whole

Please Login To View The Full Judgment!

or in parcels, and also to encumber the properties, if required. The amendment has been registered by the Registrar of Unions in accordance with the procedure prescribed under Regulation 17 of the Kerala Trade Union Regulations. A perusal of Ext.R2(g) judgment of the Munsiff's Court shows that the learned Munsiff had found that Clause 17 of the bye-laws of the Union, as amended on 8.10.1992, provided for cessation of membership on retirement from the Company. The failure of the plaintiff to challenge Clause 17 was one of the reasons for dismissal of the suit. In the aforesaid circumstances, I find no reason to decide upon the legality or otherwise of Ext.P7 order inasmuch as the specific grounds on which the petitioners had assailed Ext.P7 are found to be unsustainable in the light of the amendments brought about to the bye-laws of the second respondent Union. For the reasons mentioned above, the writ petition is dismissed. The parties are to suffer their respective costs.