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Indian Case Summary

Delhi Cloth & General Mills Co. Ltd vs The Workmen & Ors on 14 October, 1966 – Case Summary

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In the case of Delhi Cloth & General Mills Co. Ltd vs The Workmen & Ors on 14 October, 1966, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate on a series of industrial disputes between the management of Delhi Cloth Mills and Swatantra Bharat Mills (two units of the same company) and their workmen. The case was presided over by Justice G.K. Mitter.

Facts of the Case

The disputes arose from four main issues. The first issue pertained to the calculation of the bonus table, with the management arguing that there were settlements on various dates between the management and the Unions of workmen, and in view of those settlements, it was not open to the workmen to reopen the matter. The third and fourth issues revolved around the legality and justification of a strike at the Delhi Cloth Mills and a sit-down strike at the Swatantra Bharat Mills. The management contended that the issues were framed on the basis that there were strikes at the two units, and the only questions referred to the Tribunal for decision related to the legality of and justification for, the said strikes.

Issues

The Industrial Tribunal was tasked with determining whether the strikes at the two units and a lock-out declared by the management were justified and legal. It was also to decide whether the calculation of the bonus table was fair and reasonable. The Tribunal had to examine these issues on the basis that there was a strike at the Delhi Cloth Mills and a sit-down strike at the Swatantra Bharat Mills, and that there was a lock-out declared with regard to the former as stated in the order of reference.

Court’s Observations

The Court held that the Industrial Tribunal must confine its adjudication to the points of dispute referred and matters incidental thereto. It was not free to enlarge the scope of the dispute referred to it but must confine its attention to the points specifically mentioned and anything which is “incidental” thereto. Something “incidental to a dispute” means something happening as a result of or in connection with the dispute or associated with the dispute. The dispute is the fundamental thing while something incidental thereto is an adjunct to it. It cannot cut at the root of the main thing to which it is an adjunct.

The Court also held that the parties were not bound by any agreement with regard to the first issue and the Tribunal would have to take evidence to come to a finding on it. The basis of issues 3 and 4 was that there were strikes at the two units and a lock-out declared by the management at one. On the issues as framed, it would not be open to the workmen to question the existence of the strikes or to the Management to deny the declaration of a lock-out.

In conclusion, the Court upheld the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal to decide on the legality and justification of the strikes and the lock-out, as well as the calculation of the bonus table. The Court emphasized the need for the Tribunal to confine its adjudication to the points of dispute referred and matters incidental thereto, and not to enlarge the scope of the dispute.