Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is an aerospace and defence company, which has headquarters in Bangalore. It is governed under the management of the Indian Ministry of Defence. It had filed writ petition praying to issue a writ of mandamus to restrain office bearers and workmen of HAL Employees Association from the continuing strike, same was allowed.
“A Writ of Mandamus is an order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior Tribunal, Corporation, Municipal Corporation, or individual to perform, or refrains from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.”
Facts of the case
HAL Employees Association gave a notice on 6th August 2018 proposing to go on one-day token strike on 24th August 2018 on the ground that workmen’s wage settlement had elapsed in December 2016 and their charter of demands for wage revision for the period 2017-21 was not considered. The Conciliation Officer and Assistant Labour Commissioner (Central) issued a notice on 10th August 2018 fixing conciliation meeting on 20th August 2018. Accordingly, conciliation proceedings were held. The Conciliation Officer directed the association to desist from going on strike.
On 30th September 2019, Association caused another intimating about the indefinite strike to be commenced from 14th October 2019. Management replied to the said notice on 3rd October 2019 stating inter alia that Management was always open to conclude the wage revision at the earliest with realistic increases.
The Conciliation Officer advised the Association to call off the strike and the Management to maintain status-quo as per Section 33 of the Industrial Disputes Act, at the meeting of conciliation which was held on 16th October 2019.
“Sec 33 of The Industrial Disputes Act says Conditions of service, etc., to remain unchanged under certain circumstances during pendency of proceedings”.
Shri. Subba Rao, counsel for HAL Employees Association mainly urged three contentions:
- that a writ petition is not maintainable because a mandamus can be granted only in a case where there is a statutory duty imposed and there is the failure to discharge statutory obligation;
- the only remedy available in respect of a strike is under the ID Act; and
- ‘Right to strike’ is recognized as a legitimate and important weapon.
Shri. Sawkar counsel for the HAL management submitted that the conciliation proceedings commenced as per Section 20 of the ID Act. The proceedings are in progress. HAL is a defence establishment. It also repairs and services the defence Aircraft. Due to the strike, HAL has suffered the loss of an average of Rs.17 crores for each day between 14th and 16th October 2019. Adverting to Section 22(1)(d) of the ID Act, he argued that no person employed in a public utility service shall go on strike during the pendency of any conciliation proceedings before the Conciliation Officer and 7 days after the conclusion of such proceedings. In such circumstances, it is unlawful for the Union to go on strike.
Decision of the Court
On hearing the contentions of both the counsel High court of Karnataka allowed the writ of Mandamus and ordered the Conciliation Officer to continue with the proceedings. Further stated Petitioner and Union shall participate actively and endeavour to settle the issue at the earliest.
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