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State of Bombay v/s K.P. Krishnan AIR 1960 SC 1223

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 negotiation.

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 company's production.

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
  1. 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 Section 10(1)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

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