BATA INDIA LIMITED VS WORKMEN OF BATA INDIA LIMITED

BATA INDIA LIMITED VS WORKMEN OF BATA INDIA LIMITED

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 1 of 7
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6794 OF 2010
BATA INDIA LIMITED ..... APPELLANT
VERSUS
WORKMEN OF BATA INDIA LIMITED AND
ANOTHER ..... RESPONDENTS
O R D E R
It is an admitted position that the appellant - Bata India
Limited and the first respondent - Workmen of Bata India Limited,
an association of the appellant’s employees, had entered into the
settlements dated 11.03.1998 and 14.12.1998. As per the
appellant, by virtue of the settlements, the workmen had agreed to
produce a minimum of 1,200 pairs of shoes per shift. The weekly
target for production was fixed at 21,600 pairs of shoes in three
shifts working per day. The norm for calculation of incentive on
production was fixed at 12,960 pairs of shoes per week.
2. It is a case of the appellant that after 01.02.2001, workmen had
deliberately adopted “go slow” tactics and did not produce the
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 2 of 7
minimum agreed production as per the settlement. The production
was below 50 per cent of the normal production. Despite repeated
requests and warnings, the workmen did not pay any heed to
increase production. Consequently, the appellant decided to pay
pro-rata wages to those not meeting the mutually agreed target.
However, the workmen refused payment and resorted to stay-instrike. Apprehending danger to safety, the management declared
lockout on 08.03.2000, which was lifted on 03.07.2000.
3. The industrial dispute pertaining to justification of the lockout, strike
of the workmen and “go slow” strategy on the part of the workmen
was referred by the Government before the Industrial Tribunal,
Bangalore. Despite referral, the dispute escalated as the strike
continued for a long time resulting in prohibitory order1 by the
Government dated 08.02.2001 over the continuance of the strike.
By another order, the Government invoked power under Section
10-B2 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 19473 whereby the workmen
were directed to report for duty. Following the order, the workmen
resumed work from 12.02.2001.
1 Section 10(3) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
2
“Section 10B. Power to issue order regarding terms and conditions of service pending settlement of
dispute” inserted vide Karnataka Act 5 of 1988, sec. 3 (w.e.f. 07-04-1988).
3 For short, ‘the Act’.
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 3 of 7
4. We need not refer to other details as the issue raised is limited but
observe that the respondent association dispute that the workmen
had never adopted the “go slow” tactic.
5. The impugned judgment by the High Court of Karnataka at
Bangalore dated 11.04.2008 partly allowed the Writ Appeal No.
2256/2006(L) filed by the appellant, inter alia, holding that “go slow”
is nothing but sort of intentional refusal to work. In such a situation,
the management could be justified in reducing or paying pro-rata
wages. The mere presence of the employee at work without the
workmen contributing and doing work would not entitle them to
wages. The judgment observes that the workmen, 40 in number,
had given normal production but significantly large number of
workmen had deliberately not given adequate production in view of
the call to “go slow”. The impugned judgment also records that the
authorities could not decide the issue under Section 33-C(1)4 of the
4 33-C. Recovery of money due from an employer.—(1) Where any money is due to a workman from
an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of Chapter V-A or Chapter V-B,
the workman himself or any other person authorised by him in writing in this behalf, or, in the case of
the death of the workman, his assignee or heirs may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery,
make an application to the appropriate Government for the recovery of the money due to him, and if
the appropriate Government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate for that
amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrear of
land revenue:
Provided that every such application shall be made within one year from the date on which the
money became due to the workman from the employer:
Provided further that any such application may be entertained after the expiry of the said period of
one year, if the appropriate Government is satisfied that the applicant had sufficient cause for not
making the application within the said period.
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 4 of 7
Act as the amounts could not be determined with certainty.
Nevertheless, the appellant was at fault as it was required to adhere
to the principles of natural justice, especially when the workmen
were disputing the factual position that there was fall in production
by 50 per cent. The appellant should have heard the Union or the
workmen before the management proceeded to deduct the pro-rata
wages for “go slow” work. Having held so, the Division Bench took
notice of the argument of the appellant that they had put notices on
the notice board justifying the deduction of wages on a pro-rata
basis. This, the Division Bench observed, was a matter of fact that
cannot be gone into while exercising writ jurisdiction. What was
required and necessary was giving proper opportunity to the
affected person before making any deduction on pro-rata basis.
Having observed so, the management was directed to pay the
deducted/reduced wages to the employees within one month from
the date of receipt of the order passed by the Division Bench.
However, liberty was reserved for the appellant to take appropriate
steps regarding “go slow” strategy adopted by a large section of the
workmen and proceed in accordance with law.
6. We do not think that most of the findings recorded in the impugned
judgment require any interference or even clarification. The
contention of the appellant that the finding in the impugned
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 5 of 7
judgment pertaining to “go slow” strategy nothing sort of misconduct
should be set aside does not impress us. The impugned judgment
does not hold that any inquiry should have been conducted by the
appellant. However, taking holistic and pragmatic view, it is stated
that a fair opportunity shall be granted to the Union or workmen,
especially when there was a dispute whether or not there was
production on the agreed terms. Further the observations as to
misconduct have been made in different context to hold that the “go
slow” work was similar to or like intentional refusal of work.
7. However, what is highlighted by the appellant before us is the
failure of the Division Bench to take notice of the public notices
which were put on the notice board to justify the pro rata reduction
of wages. The notices are in the form of calculation of the wages
actually paid. The workers were not given any opportunity to
respond to these notices. Thus, on this aspect, we do not see any
reason to disagree with the findings in the impugned judgment.
8. While issuing notice vide order dated 24.08.2009 in the present
appeal, the operation of the impugned order had been stayed,
which order is continuing. In view of the aforesaid findings, we
vacate the stay with the direction that the appellant would make
payment of the reduced/deducted wages within one month. This
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 6 of 7
means that full wages would be paid. We do not feel it will be
appropriate to direct factual investigation or resort to the procedure
of issue of notice, reply etc. at this belated stage. Accordingly, we
also modify the direction given in the impugned judgment giving
liberty to the appellant to take appropriate steps/actions regarding
the “go slow” strategy for the period in question.
9. The appellant has raised the grievance that the “go slow” strategy
is still in continuation because of which the work and production are
affected. The respondent herein has interpreted the impugned
judgment as a direction to pay full wages. This is disputed by the
counsel for the first respondent. However, the first respondent does
not dispute and has accepted the findings in the impugned
judgment that pro rata deduction/reduction in wages is permissible
if there is a deliberate attempt to not produce or do work by resorting
to “go slow” strategy. We perceive and believe that the impugned
judgment protects the interest of the appellant and the workmen by
prescribing the right procedure which should be followed in case
the appellant is of the opinion that the workmen, though present on
duty, are not working and are not giving the agreed production on
the basis of which wages and incentives have been fixed. This
would depend upon the factual matrix and have to be ascertained
C.A. No. 6794 OF 2010 Page 7 of 7
in case of dispute to render any firm opinion. The procedure
prescribed should be followed.
10. Recording the aforesaid, the appeal is disposed of without any
order as to cost.
......................................J.
(AJAY RASTOGI)
......................................J.
(SANJIV KHANNA)
NEW DELHI;
MARCH 29, 2022.

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