B.R. Singh & Ors. Etc. Etc. Vs. Union Of India & Ors.

Strike in a given situation is only a form of demonstration, e.g. go-slow. sit-in-work to rule absentism etc. Strike is one such mode of demonstration by workers for their rights. The right to demonstrate and, therefore, the right to strike is an important weapon in the armoury of the workers.

Case name:B.R. Singh & Ors. Etc. Etc. Vs. Union Of India & Ors.
Case number:1990 AIR 1 1989 SCR Supl. (1) 257
Bench:AHMADI, A.M. (J) SHETTY, K.J. (J)
Decided on:26/09/1989
Relevant Act/Sections:Constitution of India—Articles 19(1)(c) and 32 Industrial Disputes Act 1947–Sections 10(3), 10A (4A), 22 & 23
    • Trade Fair Authority of India Employees’ Union had been demanding from the management (i) housing facilities for the employees; (ii) regularisation of at least 50% of casual or daily rated employees and (iii) upward revision of the salaries and allowances of the workers. These demands were discussed by the Union with the management from time to time but nothing concrete except assurances emerged. On October 29, 1986, the Union wrote to the General Manager seeking implementation of the assurances not later than November 15, 1986.
    • It was also communicated that the workers would proceed on one day’s token strike on 13.11.86, if no action was taken. In response thereto the General Manager only assured the Union representatives that the Standing Committee which was seized of the matter, would be requested to take up the matter on priority basis but things remained standstill till the end of November 1986 and the reminders sent thereafter also did not yield the desired result.
    • Thereupon on January 15, 1987 the Union sought permission to hold the general body meeting on 19.1.87 during lunch interval and in anticipation of the grant of such permission issued notices of the meeting to the members. The General Manager however declined to grant the necessary permission. But the General Body Meeting of the Union was held as scheduled and a decision was taken to strike work on 21.1.1987 as a protest.
    • The management was put on notice, which reacted by suspending the President, Vice President & other Executive Members of the Union. Workers’ demand for withdrawal of the orders of suspension was rejected. Instead all the remaining office bearers & leading activists were suspended. These suspended employees have filed a writ petition challenging their suspension.
    • During the strike some workers attended duty while some others gave undertaking in the prescribed form; all such workers were allowed to work but others who refused to sign the Undertaking but reported for work were denied employment- Efforts to solve the unemployment problem of such employees having failed, they too have filed a writ petition seeking necessary relief.
    • By its order of March 3, 1987 the management terminated the services of all the 12 office bearers under Rule 32 of the Trade Fair Authority of India Employees (Conduct, Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1977 without holding a departmental inquiry as contemplated by Rules 27 to 29 of the Rules. According to the management the reason for not holding the inquiry was that the workers had terrorised & intimidated not only the Disciplinary Authority but also the witnesses and an atmosphere of violence, general in discipline and insubordination was created, as a result of which it was not practicable to hold the inquiry. These dismissed employees have also filed a Writ Petition.
    • One Raju, a casual laborer of TFAI since 1982, was selected on July 4, 1986 as a Mini-stiller Driver. He joined the new post on the same day but his appointment was cancelled without assigning any reason and he was reverted as a daily wager. He too had joined the others for regularization of his service and has taken part in the strike. His services were terminated on December 1, 1986 without any inquiry. He too has filed a Writ Petition challenging the action of the management. Another Writ Petition has been filed by two daily-rated Security Guards of TFAI whose services were terminated, even though they had remained on duty during the strike. Their contention is that they were dismissed as they refused to falsely implicate their co-workers who had espoused their cause. They urge their’s was a case of victimisation.

Whether the suspension of various posts and demands of the workers union by the company correct in its approach?

    • The court held that the right to form association or Unions is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. The necessity to form unions is obviously for voicing the demands and grievances of labour. The trade unionists act as mouthpieces of labour.
    • Court on the basis of circumstances opined that Although TFAI was sympathetic to regularisation of service of the casual workers, since the proposal had to pass through various levels it was not possible to take an early decision in the matter. In their frustration workers decided to put pressure by proceeding on strike. During the strike certain events happened which were avoidable but nothing destructive meaning thereby damaging the property of TFAI took place.
    • So far as the case of security guard Vipti Singh is concerned, the court was  constrained to say that the material on record does disclose that he had signed the attendance register showing his presence from March 23, 1987 to March 29, 1987, even though he was in fact absent on those days. His explanation in this behalf is far from convincing. The ends of justice would be met if his re-instatement without back wages is directed.
    • In the case of Raju, the action of the management must be held to be penal in nature and cannot be sustained as it was taken without hearing the delinquent, Keeping in view the interest both of the labour and the institution, the Court directed that the management will prepare a list of casual-daily-rated workers who were its employees prior to the strike on January 21. 1987 in accordance with their seniority, if such a list does not exist. TFAI will provide them work on the same basis on which they were given work prior to the strike. After the seniority list is prepared TFAI will absorb 85 of the seniormost casual workers in regular employment pending finalisation of the regularisation scheme.
    • TFAI will complete the regularization process within a period of 3 months from to-day. TFAI will determine the number of casual employees who would have been employed had they not proceeded on strike. The wages payable to such casual employees had they been employed for the period of 6 months immediately preceding the date of this order will be worked out on the basis of actual labour employed and the amount so worked out will be distributed amongst the casual employees who report for work in the next three months after TFAI resumes work to casual labour. Peon Umed Singh, Security Guard Bansi Dhar and Driver Raju will also be re-instated in service forthwith. They too will be paid back wages (less suspension allowance, if any) for a period of six months immediately preceding this order. So far as Driver Raju is concerned he will be absorbed in regular service as per the offer made in the letter of July 25, 1987.
    • The Security Guard Vipti Singh will also be re-instated in service but without back wages. In the case of the 12 dismissed workers the circumstances did not exist for the exercise of extraordinary powers under Rule 32 of the Rules. The orders terminating the service of the 12 union representatives are therefore set aside and they are ordered to be retained in service forthwith with hack wages covering a period of six months immediately preceding the date of this order. They should be reinstated forthwith.

Petition allowed.

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