IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
SUBJECT : CONTEMPT OF THE LABOUR COURT
Cont.Case(C) No. 557/2004
RESERVED ON: 08-08-2005
DATE OF DECISION: 11-08-2005
Shri Thakur Singh Rawat & Ors. .......... Petitioners
Through: Ms.Asha Jain, Advocate.
K.S.Jaiswal & Anr. ......... Respondent
Through: Mr.Raj Birbal Sr.Adv. with
PRADEEP NANDRAJOG, J.
1. Petitioners pray that action be initiated against the respondents for having committed contempt of the labour court by not implementing the award dated 28.11.2001. Needless to state, petitioners were the employees of M/s. Jagatjeet Industries Ltd. Respondents are the Vice Chairman and the Chief Officer Incharge respectively of M/s. Jagatjeet Industries Ltd.
2. Services of the petitioners being terminated by M/s. Jagatjeet Industries Ltd. they raised an industrial dispute which was referred for adjudication to the labour court. Vide ID NO.357/1995 award was pronounced on 28.11.2001. Termination of services was held to be illegal. Directions were issued to the management to reinstate the petitioners. Backwages were denied. Award was published on 16.5.2002. Accordingly, it became enforceable on 16.6.2002. Petitioners filed a writ petition challenging the award in so far it denied backwages. During the pendency of the writ petition an application was filed praying of leave of this court to amend the writ petition by including a prayer for issuance of a mandamus to implement the award in so far it directed reinstatement.
3. Application seeking amendment as well as the writ petition were dismissed.
4. As of today, award dated 28.11.2001 has attained finality. Grievance of the petitioners is that the management is not reinstating the petitioners.
5. As per reply filed by the respondents, petitioner no.2 has joined duty and is working. Qua petitioner No.1 and 3 it is stated that they are working elsewhere and have not reported to the management. It is additionally stated in the reply that labour court is not “court” within the meaning of the Contempt of Courts Act,1971. It is additionally stated that contempt proceedings cannot be converted into execution proceedings. It is further stated that the petitioners have sought redressal by invoking Section 29 of the Industrial Disputes Act,1947. It is further stated that the petitioners have initiated action under Section 33(c) of the I.D.Act,1947.
6. With consent of parties, limited arguments were heard on 18.8.2005 to the maintainability of the petition in view of the reply filed by the respondent.
7. Learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon a Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court reported as AIR 1950 SC 188 Bharat Bank Vs. The employees of the Bharat Bank. Counsel urged that the said decision was to the effect that labour courts and industrial tribunals are courts. Counsel contended that this court would have the power to take cognizance of contempt committed in respect of orders and decisions passed by labour courts and industrial tribunals. Counsel for the petitioner additionally relied upon AIR 1986 Gujrat 209 Shaikh Mohammedbhaikhan Vs. the Manager Chandrabhanu (Full Bench decision of the Gujrat High Court). Counsel also relied upon JT 2003 (2) SC 378 K.Shamrao & Ors. Vs. Asstt. Charity Commissioner, 1994 Supp(2) SCC 395 Kumari Sarita Thakur Vs. UOI & Anr. and (1985) 1 LLJ 281 Gujrat (DB) Shankerpuri Chanpuri Goswami Vs. Shaikh Abdulhakim Asmadmahamad.
8. Per contra, Shri Rajbirbal learned Senior Counsel appearing for the respondents relied upon a decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court reported as 1995 (2) GLH 550 Alahar Cooperative Credit Service Society Vs. Shamlal, 2001 (88) FLR 112 Muljibhai Bhurabhai Vs. Upendra Vyas and 2000 VI AD (Delhi) 542 DGU Workers Union and others Vs. Shri Kishu Tekchandani and ors.
9. I need not deal, in extenso, with the decisions cited by learned counsel for the petitioners for the reason, in my opinion, issue stands settled by the decision of the Supreme court in Alahar Cooperative Credit Service Society's case (supra). In para 4 of the report, their Lordships held as under:-
'“4. The Labour Court is not a Court Subordinate to the High Court in the sense the Contempt of Courts Act makes provision requiring the High Court to deal with contempt of its Subordinate Courts; therefore, the High Court should have looked into that aspect before entertaining the contempt proceedings for non-compliance of the direction of the Labour Court. Contempt proceedings are again not intended to be a substitute of the execution process, and, therefore, care should have been taken before entertaining the contempt petition to examine the maintainability of such action.”
10. No doubt, Full Bench of the Gujrat High Court in Shaikh Mohammedbhaikhan's case (supra) held that labour courts and tribunals are courts within the meaning of Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, but said decision was rendered prior to the decision of the Supreme Court in Alahar Cooperative Credit Service Society's case. A subsequent Division Bench of the Gujrat High Court, taking note of the earlier decision of its Full Bench and the subsequent decision of the Supreme court, in Muljibhai's case (supra) held that the High Court would have no jurisdiction to initiate action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for violation of orders passed by labour courts and industrial courts.
11. A learned Single Judge of this court, Shri T.S.Thakur, J. in DUG Workers Union's case (supra), while dealing with the issue noted as under:-
'7. In so far as the first part of the said question is concerned, namely the enforcement of the awards made under the Industrial Disputes Act, the provisions contained in Chapter V-C and those contained in Chapter VI and VII are, in my opinion, sufficiently clear and provide an effective mechanism for enforcement of the awards made by the Labour Court or Tribunals, as in the instant case. Section 25T appearing in Chapter VC forbids the employer, workmen or trade unions, whether registered under the Trade Unions Act or otherwise, from committing any unfair labour practice, Section 25U, on the other hand, stipulates the penalty for the commission of any unfair labour practice. Section 2 sub-section (ra) of the Act defines 'unfair labour practice' to means any of the practices specified in the fifth schedule to the Act. Item 13 of the said schedule, in turn, declares failure to implement the award made by the Tribunal exposing those responsible for such failure to imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to Rs.1,000/- or with both under Section 25T read with Section 25U of the Industrial Disputes Act.
8. Chapter VI of the Act stipulates the penalties leviable for different acts of omission and commission mentioned in Sections 26 to 31 appearing under the said chapter. The breach of a settlement or award is made punishable under Section 29 of the Act with imprisonment of a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both and where a breach is a continuing one with a further fine, which may extend to Rs.200/- for everyday the breach continues after the conviction for the first offense.
9. The third and yet another remedy which is available to a person complaining of breach of an award made in his favour lies in proceedings under Section 33C of the Act which provides the machinery for recovery of money due from an employer under any settlement or an award or under the provisions of chapters VA and VB of the Act. Some of the beneficiaries of the award made by the Labour Court in the present case have, according to learned counsel for the respondents, already instituted proceedings under Section 33C of the Act which are pending adjudication.
10. It is, in the light of the above, incorrect to suggest that the beneficiaries of an award made by the Labour Court do not have any remedy for enforcement of the said award except by way of a petition for initiating contempt proceedings against those alleged to be disobeying the award, whether such award be interim or final in nature. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is a complete code in itself which not only creates rights but provides effective machinery for adjudication of disputes relating to such rights and enforcement of the judgments, awards and
settlements delivered in regard thereto by Courts, Tribunals and authorities competent to do so. That being the position, I see no reason why the petitioner cannot complain of the alleged violation of the award by the respondents in appropriate proceedings under anyone of the provisions referred to earlier. The legal position regarding the maintainability of contempt proceedings for execution of decrees or implementation of orders which are otherwise executable in accordance with the regular procedure prescribed for the same is fairly well settled.”
12. In the present case, admittedly, petitioners have initiated action under Section 29 of the I.D.Act,1947 and have also taken recourse to Section 33(C) of the said Act. I accordingly hold that the present petition is not maintainable.
13. Learned counsel for the petitioners had submitted that if this court were to hold that the contempt petition is not maintainable, it could be treated as a writ petition. I am afraid, petitioners, if they feels that the award can be enforced through the process of a writ proceeding, have to initiate action by invoking the jurisdiction of this court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
14. Petition stands dismissed.
15. No costs.
August , 2005 (PRADEEP NANDRAJOG)