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Perfect Paper And Steel Converters Pvt, Ltd. v/s Bombay National General Workers' Union

Company & Directors' Information:- PERFECT CORPORATION LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74900PN2012PLC143769

Company & Directors' Information:- U. K. PAPER CONVERTERS PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U21095DL2014PTC264369

Company & Directors' Information:- K-PAPER CONVERTERS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U21093TN2011PTC082217

Company & Directors' Information:- PERFECT CONVERTERS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74900PN2012PTC142231

Company & Directors' Information:- NATIONAL STEEL CORPORATION LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U27100WB1942PLC020862

Company & Directors' Information:- PERFECT PAPER AND STEEL CONVERTERS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U21020MH1972PTC016065

Company & Directors' Information:- BOMBAY STEEL PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U27107MH2007PTC175379

Company & Directors' Information:- G B PAPER CONVERTERS PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U21012WB1991PTC050600

Company & Directors' Information:- PAPER CONVERTERS PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U54999PN1965PTC013168

Company & Directors' Information:- BOMBAY NATIONAL COMPANY LIMITED [Dissolved] CIN = U99999MH1930PTC001662

    L.P.A. No. 118 of 1983

    Decided On, 27 February 1989

    At, High Court of Judicature at Bombay


    For the Appearing Parties: M.N. Bhatkal, P.N. Shastri, P.V. Patankar, S.J. Deshmukh, S.S. Pakale, Advocates.

Judgment Text


(1) THIS appeal raises a question of law which is of general importance, namely, whether in proceedings before the Industrial court under the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), a party has a right to be represented by a person of his choice notwithstanding the fact that he does not fall in any of the categories mentioned in Regulation 11 of the Industrial Court Regulations, 1975 (hereinafter referred to as the Regulations) made by the Industrial Court pursuant to the power conferred upon it under Section 33 of the Act.

(2) THE facts leading to the present appeal are as follows: the 1st Respondent-Union of Workmen had filed a complaint against petitioner No. 1-Employer under Section 28 of the Act alleging unfair labour practices mentioned in items 1 (a) and 4 (f) of Schedule II of the act. Petitioner No. 1-Employer appeared in the complaint through petitioner No. 2 who was described as its labour adviser. While the said complaint was pending, a Full Bench of the Industrial Court in another complaint took the view that the said Regulation 11 being exhaustive of the classes of persons who could appear before it in any proceeding under the Act, no individual other than the one mentioned in the Regulation can appear before the Court, and since the labour adviser appearing in the case before it was not a person mentioned in the Regulation, he had no right to appear in the matter. In view of this decision delivered on January 14, 1983, the Industrial Court before which the present complaint was pending passed a suo motu order in the complaint on February 21, 1983, that Petitioner No. 2 who was the labour adviser of Petitioner No. 1 "cannot appear before the Court. " After the said order was passed, one h. I. Khan appearing for the Complainant-Union, i. e. Respondent No. 1 to the present petition, applied for a date to withdraw the complaint. That application was granted and the matter was fixed for withdrawal on march 28, 1983. It appears that thereafter the matter appeared before the Industrial Court on November 7, 1983, and the Industrial Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that there was no appearance on behalf of either side. As we will point out a little later, it appears that neither of the parties was aware that the complaint was dismissed.

(3) THE decision of the Full Bench of the Industrial Court was challenged in two writ petitions, one filed on the Original Side being original Side Writ Petition No. 357 of 1983 and another on the Appellate side being Writ Petition No. 1011 of 1983 The Original Side writ petition was filed by the Labour Adviser one L. C. Joshi who was a party to the matter decided by the Full Bench. The Appellate Side writ petition was filed by the present petitioners and it is from this petition that the present letters Patent Appeal arises. Both the said writ petitions were heard by a learned Single Judge on the Appellate Side, and by his judgment of august 9, 1983, the learned Judge while dismissing the petitions, held that firstly it was not shown that any of the categories who were entitled to represent the employer or the employee as of right were not provided for, and that by the said regulation an unqualified right was conferred upon the parties to he represented by the class of persons mentioned therein. According to the learned Judge in that sense it was exhaustive but it was not exhaustive of the power of the Court to grant permission to some other person in a given case. The persons authorised to represent the parties except an Advocate were in one way or other connected with or were interested in the process of collective bargaining or settlement of industrial disputes. Secondly, the controversy whether the said regulation (viz. Regulation 11) was exhaustive or illustrative was not germane for deciding the controversy involved in the writ petitions. The learned Judge then referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Harishankar Rastogi v. Girdhari Sharma and another. , AIR 1978 SC 1019, and held that the Full bench of the Industrial Court was right in not recognising an omnibus and blanket right of the Legal Advisers to practise the profession of law, under the Act. With respect to the learned Judge, we may point out that the only conclusion to which the Full Bench of the Industrial Court had arrived was that since Regulation 11 was exhaustive, a Labour Adviser being not one of the persons mentioned in the said Regulation had no right to appear before it under the Act.

(4) AGAINST this decision, the present appeal has been preferred both by the employer as well as by the Labour Adviser who is Appellant No. 2. The case of appellant No. 2 was not pressed before us. We heard the arguments fully and when we were about to dictate the judgment it was noticed that in fact the complaint from which the present appeal arose was dismissed, as stated earlier on November 7, 1983. Hence much to our anguish, we had passed the following order on February 7, 1989 :

"after the matter was fully argued, Shri Deshmukh for the Bar council brought to our notice that the complaint (ULP) No. 633 of 1981 which has given rise to the present appeal was dismissed on 7-11-1983. Hence nothing survives in the present appeal and the same is dismissed with no order as to costs. "

(5) SUBSEQUENTLY, civil application being Civil Application No. 992 of 1989 for review of the said order was filed, and it was pointed out in the said application that since the Industrial Court had passed the order of November 7, 1983 dismissing the complaint in the absence of the Union the Union had made an application on February 13, 1989 and the Industrial court by its order of February 14, 1989 had restored the original complaint. Hence, it was prayed in the application that the earlier order passed by us on February 7, 1989 be set aside and the present appeal be decided on merits. Shri H. I. Khan, the General Secretary of respondent no. 1-Union who appeared before us for the first time on that day and shri Deshmukh who appeared for the Maharashtra Bar Council who are interveners in the matter were heard, and we passed the order on February 23, 1989 granting the application for review. On that day we also directed that the matter be posted for further hearing and judgment today. Further hearing was necessitated because Shri Khan was absent during the entire hearing of the appeal earlier. Shri Khan argued for the Respondent-Union opposing the appeal.

(6) AS stated earlier, Appellant No. 2 who claims to be the Labour adviser has not pressed before us his case that he has the right to appear before the Industrial Court as Labour Adviser, and has prayed for the dismissal of his appeal. The appeal therefore stands dismissed so far as appellant No. 2 is concerned.

(7) SHRI Bhatkal who appears for Appellant No. 1 has confined this appeal only to the agitation of the right of appellant No. 1-employer to appoint any person of his choice to represent himself before the Industrial court. Therefore, the only question that we are called upon to answer is whether a party whether employer or employee has a right to appoint a person of his choice to represent himself/itself before the Industrial Court. The question before us is not whether any person has a right to practise as a Labour Adviser or Labour Practitioner, etc. In fact, the law does not recognise any such class of persons. It has become necessary to state this at the very outset because it will help avoid a good deal of confusion and unnecessary controversy. The right to be represented by a person of one's choice is different from the right to practise as Labour Adviser. The former is the right of the party and the latter the right of the practitioner. We are concerned with the former and not the latter.

(8) IN view of the decision of this Court in K. K. Khadikar v. Indian hume Pipe Co. Ltd. , Bombay and another reported in AIR 1967 Bom 521,the ratio of which is confirmed by the Supreme Court in the decision iu Paradip port Trust v. Their Workmen and another reported in AIR 1977 at page 36, the controversy between the parties has become narrow. The decision of the Division Bench of this Court in Khadikar's case (supra) v as on the interpretation of Section 36 of the Industrial Deputes Act, 1947 which provides for the representation of parties in any proceedings under that act. Relying on the said provisions, the workmen bad objected to the appearance of one Mehta who was representing the management in that case pursuant to the power of attorney executed by the company in his favour appointing him as its agent to represent it in the disputes before the Industrial Tribunal. It was the contention of the workmen that since the categories of persons who had a right to represent a party to the dispute were enumerated in Section 36 and the said enumeration was exhaustive, Shri Mehta being not one of the persons who could fill any of the said characters, had no right to appear in any proceedings before the industrial Tribunal. It is while dealing with this contention that this court in an exhaustive judgment held that the list of persons mentioned in the said Section 36 was not exhaustive, and it was open to the Tribunal under that Act to permit a person to be represented by any other person it may choose This decision has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Paradip Port Trust's case (supra) expressly negativing the contrary contention that Section 36 was exhaustive of the representation granted to the parties to the disputes. The Supreme Court has in terms held that the said Section 36 is not exhaustive in the sense that besides the persons specified there in there cannot be any other lawful mode of appearance of the parties.

(9) THE present Regulation 11, according to us, is pan materia with the provisions of Section 36 of the Industrial Disputes Act. Section 33 of the present Act, empowers the Industrial Court to make regulations consistent with the provisions of the Act and Rules made thereunder regulating its procedure. Section 33 reads as follows :

Section 33 - Regulations to be made by Industrial Court.- (1) The industrial Court may make regulations consistent with the provisions of this Act and rules made thereunder regulating its procedure.

(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the fore going power, such regulations may provide for the formation of Benches consisting of one or more of its members (including provisions for formation of a Full Bench consisting of three or more members) and the exercise by such Bench of the jurisdiction and powers vested in them : provided that, no Bench shall consist only of a member, who has not been, and at the time of his appointment, was not eligible for appointment as a Judge of a High Court.

(3) Every regulation made under this section shall be published in the Official Gazette.

(4) Every proceeding before the Court shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 192, 193 and 228 of the indian Penal Code, 1960 (XLV of 1960).

(5) The Court shall have power to direct by whom the whole or any part of the costs of any proceeding before it shall be paid : provided that, no such costs shall be directed to be paid for the services of any legal adviser engaged by any party. "

It is now well settled that the provisions relating to the appearance and representation of the parties form part of the procedure before the court or Tribunal as the case may be. That is also the view taken by the Supreme Court in its decision in A. K. Roy v. Union of India reported in AIR 1982 SC 710. Indeed, it is in pursuance of the power conferred by Section 33, that the Industrial Court has made the regulations in question and Regulation 11 in dispute is one of the said Regulations.

(10) CHAPTER II which begins with the said Regulation 11, is headad "appearance in Court". Regulation 11 reads as follows :

"appearance before the Industrial Court.- A party to any proceeding, an employer, an employee, a trade union of the members employed in any undertaking or the owner of the undertaking or any other person impleaded to a proceeding may appear in person or may be represented by (1) a duly authorised advocate, (2) an office bearer of the union of which the employee is a member, or (3) a member of a recognised union duly authorised by it in writing, or (4) an officer who is a whole time employee of the employer, authorised by such employer to represent the employer. 'or (5) an officer of an association of employers of which the employer concerned is a member, provided he is duly authorised by that association'. "

It is clear from the aforesaid Regulation that it permits either the party in person or his representative to appear before the Industrial Court. It enumerates the representatives in clauses (1) to (5), It does not say or indicate anywhere that none other than those enumerated in the said clauses will be permitted to represent a party. The language of the regulation is enabling and not restrictive, and shows that the categories of representatives mentioned therein are not intended to exhaust the whole range of representation, or to deprive a party of representation which is otherwise available to it. As has been exhaustively pointed out by the Division Bench of this Court in Khadilkar's case and by the supreme Court in Paradip Port Trust's case (supra), to confine the representation of the party to the classes of representatives mentioned in provisions such as Section 36 of the Industrial Disputes Act would in some cases result in no representation to the party at all. It is not necessary to repeat the said discussion here. Suffice it to point out that with some difference in the list of persons enumerated the language and purpose of both Section 36 of the Industrial Disputes Act and of the present Regulation 11 are the same.

(11) HAVING enumerated the list of persons in Regulation 11, Regulations 12 and 13 proceed to lay down the manner in which the person/ persons shall represent and the formalities which he/they will observe before claiming to represent the party. They have to file authority in form 2 of the Regulations. Regulation 14 places a restriction on the person representing, by obligating him to be bound by the directions of the Court and by deeming him to represent the party throughout the proceedings. Regulation 15 states that the statements and acts of representatives so authorised to appear for a party shall be binding on the parties authorising them to represent. Regulation 16 permits the representative to withdraw his appearance by a written application to the court, and the Court is given a discretionary power to allow such withdrawal, not as a matter of course, but only after such enquiry as may be deemed necessary. Until the permission is granted, the representative has to continue to represent the party concerned. Regulation 16 also lays down the manner in which the application for withdrawal has to be made and served on the party concerned. Regulations 18 and 19 lay down the manner in which an officer of the State Government shall appear before a Court and Regulation 20 similarly lays down the manner in which an Investigating Officer under the Act shall appear before the Court.

(12) THESE provisions, among other things, show that whoever is the person who is permitted to represent a party has to comply with certain formalities which are mandatory, and no person who does not conform to the said formalities can claim to represent a party (Regulation 13). The language of the Regulations further shows that the Court has a discretion to permit a representative to appear or not, although the discretion is to oe used judicially and the refusal of permission must be supported by some reasons.

(13) THESE provisions have also to be read in the context of the fundamental right of a person to be represented before any authority through a person of his choice. It is a part of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a) which means right to effective speech and expression. This right is restricted only by the provisions of sub-clause (2) of the said Article which states that the right does not prevent the State from making any law, imposing reasonable restrictions on its exercise in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Surely, when a person claims representation before the Industrial Court through another person or his agent, none of the aforesaid restrictive considerations mentioned in sub-clause (2) will come into operation. For this reason as well, therefore, the right of a party to appoint a person of his choice to represent himself cannot be denied, and should not be deemed to have been denied by any enactment ; lightly.

(14) WE should have thought that since the right of a party to represent himself through any person is thus fundamental and the decision in khadilkar's and Paradip's cases (supra) had effectively answered a similar contention arising out of more or less similar provisions in Section 36 of the Industrial Disputes Act, the answer should have been that Appellant no. 1 in the present case had a right to appoint any person as its agent to represent itself before the Industrial Court notwithstanding the description of such person either by others or by such person himself as Labour adviser or Labour Practitioner. Unfortunately, in the present case, and we must say that for this unfortunate situation Appellant No. 1 itself has contributed in no less measure, this simple question of the right of the party to appoint any person as its agent to represent itself, has been compounded, and confounded with the right of a person to practise the profession of labour adviser or practitioner. That is why before the learned Single Judge the contentions raised centred round mostly the irrelevant question, viz. , whether Appellant No. 2 had a right to represent as a Labour Adviser. We have made it clear at the very outset that we are not concerned with the said question, and since Appellant no. 2 has not pressed before us his said alleged right, his appeal has been dismissed and this appeal is confined to answer only the question whether a party has a right to appoint anybody as its agent or representative.

(15) IT was then contended by Shri Deshmukh on behalf of the maharashtra Bar Council that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. Hence if as in the present case, Appellant No. 1 is allowed to appoint Appellant No. 2 who claims himself to be a labour adviser to represent it before the Industrial Court, it would amount to allowing him to practise legal profession in contravention of the provisions of Section 33 of the Advocates Act. Hence, he submitted that Appellant no. 1 should not be allowed to appoint Appellant No. 2 as his agent in any case. According to us, this contention is not well merited for various reasons. In the first place, there is no institution or class of persons as labour advisers or labour practitioners which the law recognises. Merely because a person calls himself so he does not become one and get a right to practise as such, nor can any Court including the Industrial Court in the present case, allow him to practise before it as such labour adviser or practitioner. A party may appoint a person to represent himself before any Court or authority because of his expertise in the subject concerned or because he is his friend or adviser. When such a person is appointed in any particular case with the permission of the authority concerned, has does not practise the profession and contravene Section 33 of the advocates Act. Section 32 of the said Act in fact permits such appearance notwithstanding the fact that the person concerned is not enrolled as an advocate under that Act. Secondly, the privilege to practise the legal profession which is conferred on the advocate enrolled under the said Act is to practise as a matter of right and has to be distinguished from the appearance of a person with the permission of the Court or the authority as the case may be, every time he is appointed for the purpose. No Court, authority or person can refuse to hear an Advocate, unless of course a special law specifically prohibits his appearance or gives him only a permissive right to appear. On the other hand, a Court, authority or person may refuse permission to appoint a non-Advocate to represent a party and may also, at any time withdraw the permission already granted. In fact the application to appoint a non-Advocate to represent a party must proceed from the party himself. When such application is made the Court, authority or the person as the case may be has to take into consideration several circumstances before granting or refusing the permission. Thirdly, and this is a more effective answer to the contention in question. Section 33 of the Advocates Act itself carves out an exception to the general prohibition against legal practice by non-Advocates, when a special law permits such practice. Section 33 reads as follows :

"except as otherwise provided in this Act or in any other law for the time being in force, no person shall on or after the appointed day, be entitled to practise in any Court or before any authority or person unless he is enrolled a? an advocate under this Act. " (emphasis supplied).

In the present case Section 33 of the present Act has conferred powers upon the Industrial Court to make regulations regulating its procedure. As has been pointed out earlier, although the right to be represented through a person of one's choice is a substantial right from the point of view of the party concerned, it is a matter pertaining to the procedure before the Court, and the Court has made Regulation 11 in question in exercise of the power to regulate its procedure. Hence that Regulation is the "other law" within the meaning of Section 33 of the Advocates Act and is an exception to the generic prohibition contained in the said section. Hence, the prohibition contained in the section need not prevent the industrial Court from permitting such agents or representatives from appearing before it. It must furcher be remembered that there is nothing novel in such special provisions. The Income-tax Act. the Sales-tax Act, etc. permit persons not enrolled as Advocates, to act, appear and plead before the authorities under those enactments, and the relevant provisions in the respective statutes are saved from the general embargo of Section 33 of the advocates Act because of the said exception contained in the section itself. It is true that Income-tax Act, etc. have created a special class of practitioners whereas under the present Act there is no such separate class of practitioners. But that is not germane to the point which is canvassed before us, viz. that whether there can be a special law permitting non Advocates to be appointed to appear, act and plead. We have already made it clear that since labour advisers are not a class recognised by law they cannot appear or can be allowed to appear in that capacity.

(16) IT was however contended that whereas the relevant provisions in the Income-tax Act, etc. creating a special class of persons such as income-tax Practitioners, Sales-tax Practitioners, etc. are contained in the relevant Acts themselves, there is no such section in the present Act and it will not be permissible to equate a Regulation such as the present regulation 11 with such provisions. According to us, for the purposes of the point under discussion, this is a difference without distinction since it cannot be denied that Regulation 11 having been made in pursuance of the express power conferred by Section 33 of the present Act is also a law and will be covered by the expression "any other law" in Section 33 of the advocates Act.

(17) ALTHOUGH we have dealt with the provisions of Sections 32 and 33 of the Advocates Act in the present case, we must make it clear that we have done so in the context of the submission made by Shri Deshmukh that to permit Appellant No. 1 to appoint a person like Appellant No. 2 who calls himself a Labour Adviser would amount to an indirect contravention of Section 33 of the Advocates Act, and not in the context of appellant No. 2's right to practise as such labour adviser. As has been sufficiently made clear above, in the present case we are not called upon to decide the said right nor have we done so. Hence the fear expressed is not well-founded.

(18) SHRI Deshmukh in this context also relied upon a decision of the supreme Court in Harishankar Rastogi v. Girdhari Sharma and another, AIR 1978 SC 1019. In that case, a party to a criminal proceeding sought permission to appoint a non Advocate to represent him. In that context the Court observed as follows :

"having regard to this conspectus of consideration I hold that a private person, who is not an advocate, has no right to barge into Court and claim to argue for a party. He must get the prior permission of the Court, for which the motion must come from the party himself. It is open to the Court to grant or withhold permission in its discretion. It fact, the Court may, even after grant of permission, withdraw it half-way through if the representative proves himself reprehensible. The antecedents, the relationship, the reasons for requisitioning the services of the private person and a variety of other circumstances must be gathered before grant or refusal of permission. In the present case I have noticed the petitioner and his friend who is to represent him, come together with the mutual confidence. The party somehow has not shown sufficient confidence in advocates he has come by. This bodes ill for him. I should have suspected the association of the private person as having sinister implications of exploitation of a guideless party but suspicion by itself should not be the basis of a conclusion. Therefore, I think it right to give the party, who appears to be unable to represent him, come together with mutual confidence. The party somehow has not shown sufficient confidence in

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advocates he has come by. This bodies ill for him. I should have suspected the association of the private person as having sinister implications of exploitation of a guideless party but suspicion by itself should not be the basis of a conclusion. Therefore, i think it right to give the party who appears to be unable to represent his own case an opportunity to present his grievance through his friend. The friend, judging by the note prepared and put in, seems to be familiar with law, although quacks can prove fatal friends. I grant the petitioner permission to be represented by a private person as prayed for, with the condition that if this latter proves unworthy, the permission will be withdrawn. Permission granted. " We do not see any relevance of this case to the issue involved before us. In the Criminal Courts, only the Advocates enrolled under the advocates Act can appear, and except for the other persons who can appear with the permission of the Court, there is no special provision made in the Criminal Procedure Code, as in the present case which acts as an exception to Section 33 of the Advocates Act. Even otherwise, we thought that the aforesaid observations of the Supreme Court support the view we have been taking in the present case viz. that the Industrial Court will decide the application for representation in each case on its merits and grant or refuse it considering various factors some of which are, with respect, referred to by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid passage. We have also made clear that it is the party to the proceeding whether employer or employee who has to move the Court for appointing such third person as his agent or representatives and it is the discretion of the court to grant or refuse the application. The Court has also power to withdraw the permission at any stage of the proceeding, even though it is initially granted. (19) IN the result, we dismiss the appeal of Appellant No. 2 as being not pressed. We allow the appeal of Appellant No. 1 and set aside the impugned order of the learned Single Judge and also the order of the Industrial Court passed on 21st February, 1983 refusing the permission to Appellant No. 1 to appoint Appellant No. 2 to represent it on the ground that Appellant No. 2 is a Labour adviser. We direct the Industrial Court to examine the application of appellant No. 1 to appoint Appellant No. 2 on its merits without taking into consideration the fact that Appellant No. 2 calls himself or is called by others as Labour Adviser or Labour Practitioner. We further direct that all cases where the parties make applications to the Industrial Court to be represented by a third person should be similarly considered without taking into consideration the calling of the third person and the permission should be granted or refused in each case on its merits. (20) APPEAL allowed accordingly. In the circumstances of the case there will be no order as to costs.