Case Name: State of Bombay v. K.P. Krishnan
Citation: AIR 1960 SC 1223 - Court: Supreme Court of India
Facts Of The Case
There was a dispute between Firestone Tyre and the Rubber Company of India and
its workmen. The workmen went on a slow strike in the year 1952-53. The
company's standing order states that it is a misconduct if the production of the
company is wilfully slow down and therefore action was taken against 58 workers.
The workers demanded gratuity, holidays, bonus and classification of some
employees. The copy of this was also forwarded to the assistant commissioner of
labour, he is also the conciliation officer. The company did not recognizes the
trade union of the worker because of which there is no possibility of
The company gave a bonus of 1/4th of the basic earnings to the worker for the
year 1952-53. The workers accepted it but they believed that they are eligible
for much more and refused to step back for higher bonus. When the proceedings
began the conciliation officer only admitted two demands that were the
unconditional bonus for the year 1952-53 and the classification of employees.
The proceedings seems to be pointless and the officer as provided under Section
12(4) of the Industrial Disputes Act made a failure report. The government of
Maharashtra on the basis of the report decided that the matter would not be
referred to the Industrial Tribunal as the workers decided to go on a strike in
the year 1952-53. A worker filed a writ of mandamus in the Bombay high court
against the decision of the government, to refer the matter to the tribunal.
The High Court held that the decision of the government was based on the facts
which were not relevant to the subject of the considerations and the procedure
under Section 10 of IDA was not followed. Therefore, the government is to
reconsider the reference of the dispute and not considering the slowdown of the
The government then further filed an appeal before the supreme court of India
against the decision of the Bombay High Court.
- Section 12(5) of The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
- Section 10(1) of The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
- Whether or not the cases that are covered under Section 12(5) can
only be referred under Section 12(5) independently from Section 10 of IDA ?
Unlike the High Court, the supreme court is not in the opinion. The court
held that if a case falls under the ambit of Section 12(5), the case can be
referred and should be referred under Section 12(5). The foremost issue is
the interpretation of Section 10 of IDA, which provides with the power of
the government for reference of the cases to the industrial tribunal. Here
the question now is whether the Government had the power to refer the case
to the tribunal. The language used under section 10 is ambiguous and it is
subject to different interpretations. The court is required to look at the
purpose or the intention of this provision to examine the language and the
legislative intent. The intention of the legislature while enacting this
section in the Act was looked into by the court. The objective of this
provision was observed by the court by looking at the discussions and
debates at the assembly while enacting this provision.
Section 10(3) also gives power to the government to give order for
prohibiting the strike or lock-out which is related to industrial dispute
and is exists on the date of reference, but this is limited to the cases
that are referred under section 10 (1). So, if the reference is made under
Section 12(5) independently of Section 10(1) then the government has no
power for prohibition of the strike and this is can never be the intensions
of the legislature while drafting this provision. Therefore, apex court said
that no the cases cannot be referred under section 12(5) independently of
- Whether or not the decision of the government is only based on the
report that is prepared by the conciliation officer under Section 12(4)?
The report prepared by the conciliation officer is treated as a relevant
material by the government for deciding whether the case should be referred
or not, however, the section 12(5) of the Act does not provides that it is
the only and solely material that is to be considered by the government
while making the decision. The government can consider other relevant facts
as well that are bought in front of it and then can come to a decision. To
come to a conclusion, the government should first see whether there is a
prima facie case for reference, after that the government should see the
other relevant facts and circumstances which can justify that reference
should be made.
- Whether or not the decision of the government was based on the reasons
which were germane ?
The company had voluntarily paid bonus for 3 months notwithstanding the slow
strikes tactics of the workers during the year. The reasons given by the
government shows that it was the influence of any other consideration for
refusal of the reference. Moreover, the workers were punished by the
disciplinary actions. The strikes had no effect on the classification of
certain workers. The claims were submitted by the officer in the report
prepared by him. The report shows that the misconduct of the workers cannot
be used as a relevant circumstance to refuse to refer the dispute. So, the
decision of the government solely based on the slow strikes tactic by the
workers is like imposing extra punishment on them.
- Whether or not there is a scope of judicial review?
The court here held that it is the administrative power to make references
under Section 10 and it is subject to judicial review. The principles of
judicial review laid down by the court in this case also includes the
administrative decisions which are taken under this statue. The grounds for
the judicial review are dependent on the decision of the government. If the
government uses mala fide or arbitrary practice while taking a decision then
it can be subjected to judicial review. The court further said that in case
the government is not sure about the nature of the dispute, then they should
take caution and refer the matter to the industrial tribunal.
There have been powers given to the government by the Industrial Disputes Act,
but they are subject to certain limitations. The court here is in a view that
the Act was passed to add provisions for the case investigation and to settle
the dispute, however, if it the government prevent the investigation and
settlement of the dispute by refusing to refer the matter to the industrial
tribunal on the grounds which are completely irrelevant and order is contrary to
the provisions of Section 10(1) then in such cases writ of mandamus can be
issued by the court even if it is an administrative order.
Written By: Devanshi Sharma,
Final Year LL.B. (Hons.) Student - Jindal
Global Law School, O.P. Jindal. Global University