The Orissa High Court on July 14, 2020 in the matter of Tisco Sukinda Chromite Mines Contractor Workers Union v. Union of India and Ors., had dealt with the issue of whether a writ petition is maintainable in the event a review application has been preferred against appropriate government’s decision to close down an undertaking in terms of the Section 25-O of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 ("ID Act").
Facts of the case:
By an order dated March 2, 2020 passed by the Joint Secretary (Industrial Relations), Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India ("Joint Secretary"), Tata Steel Ltd. ("TSL") was granted permission for closure of their undertaking involving termination of 221 workmen, and by an order dated March 26, 2020 also passed by the Joint Secretary, M/s. G.S. Atwal & Co. (Engineers) Pvt. Limited. of Sukinda Chromite Mines ("G.S. Atwal") was granted permission for closure of their undertaking involving termination of 358 workmen on expiry of mining lease of Sukinda Chromite Mine on March 31, 2020.
It is the case of the petitioner that, to apply for closure of establishment under Section 25-O (1) of the ID Act read with Rule 76-C of the Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957, an application for closure in Form-QA was required to be submitted at least 90 (ninety) days before the date on which the intended closure was to become effective after serving copies of such application along with all enclosures on the President or the Secretary of the registered trade union (petitioner herein) and displaying a notice conspicuously on the notice board at the main entrance of the establishment for information purposes of all concerned workmen, which was not done.
Being aggrieved by the orders dated March 2, 2020 and March 26, 2020, the petitioner filed review applications under Section 25-O (5) of the ID Act.
Furthermore, the members of the petitioner had resolved and constituted a 'Core Committee' to represent the petitioner for negotiation with both TSL and G.S. Atwal regarding various issues including unpaid salary and other unpaid allowances and dues and upgradation of salary. However, the petitioner alleged that illegally a memorandum of settlement dated June 11, 2020 was arrived at under Section 12 (3) of the ID Act between few of the members of the Core Committee, TSL and G.S. Atwal with regard to violation of Section 25-N of the ID Act before the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central), Bhubaneswar.
Decision of the court:
On the question of whether a settlement can override the provisions contains in Section 25-O of the ID Act, the court, by relying on the judgment of Oswal Agro Furane Ltd. and Anr. v. Oswal Agro Furane Workers Union and Ors., AIR 2005 SC 1555, held that a settlement even though binding on all workmen under Section 18 of the ID Act cannot be entered into in contravention of the provisions of Chapters VA and VB of the ID Act.
On the issue of maintainability of the writ petition during pendency of an application for review under Section 25-O of the ID Act, the court. by relying on the judgment of Orissa Textile and Steel Ltd. v. State of Orissa and Ors., AIR 2002 SC 708, noted that the word 'may' used in Section 25-O (5) of the ID Act would necessarily mean and be interpreted as 'shall', and that in the event an application seeking review of the order passed by the appropriate Government is filed, the appropriate Government 'shall' mandatorily review the order.
Accordingly, in the instant case, as the review was pending, the court refused to entertain the writ and remitted the matter to the revisional authority.
This update has been contributed by Arka Majumdar (Partner) and Avin Sarkar (Associate).
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