Fora For Co-operative Society

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 Feb 2018 11:16:33



IN THE judgement of the case - Smt. K.A. Annamma v. The Secretary, Cochin Co-operative Hospital Society Ltd., delivered on January 12, 2018. Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, at the Supreme Court, have, while dealing with service dispute between a Co-operative Society’s Employee and his/her Employer, ruled that section 69 of the Kerala Co-operative Societies (KCS) Act, 1969 does not override the provisions of the Industrial Disputes (ID) Act and the fora under the KCS Act and the ID Act, both possess and enjoy the concurrent jurisdiction to decide any service dispute arising between the employee and the employer Co-operative Society.

In the SC’s opinion also, it may not be necessary to examine the issue involved in this case in the light of any other decision except confining its examination to the ratio laid down in the judgement of the case - Dharappa v. Bijapur Co-op. Milk Producers Societies Union Ltd.- (2007) 9 SCC 109, because in that judgement the Court has discussed all earlier decisions of the Supreme Court on the subject in extenso. So far as the view of majority (3) judges, one concurring with two, is concerned, though they discussed several issues in detail in their concurring opinion but in substance, in the Court’s view , their findings on material issues are as under :

First, the language of section 69 of the KCS Act as it originally stood is materially different from the language used in its counterpart sections of two earlier repealed KCS Acts of 1932 and 1951. This departure made in the language employed in section 69 of the KCS Act qua language of the two earlier repealed Acts is significant and has a material bearing while answering the questions.
Second, since the KCS Act, 1969 has received the Assent of the President on April 11, 1969, it was not necessary for the State to have obtained another Assent of the President for passing the Amending Act (1 of 2000) by which some provisions of the KCS Act, 1969 were amended with effect from January 2, 2003. In other words, once the KCS Act, 1969 has received the Assent of the President, it is not necessary for the State to obtain another Assent of the President for passing the Amendment Act, 1/2000. It is more so when it has received the Assent of the Governor.
Third, on interpreting the relevant provisions of the KCS Act, whether independently or in juxtaposition, it is clear that the KCS Act, 1969, as it originally stood and as amended by Act - 1/2000 overrides any other law for the time-being in force including the ID Act, 1947 insofar as it deals with the service disputes arising between the Co-operative Society’s Employee and his/her Employer. In other words, the KCS Act, 1969 has an overriding effect on the ID Act, 1947 since its inception, insofar as it deals with the service disputes arising between a Co-operative Society’s employee and his/her employer and thus excludes the applicability of the ID Act.

In the Supreme Court’s considered opinion, the ratio of the Dharappa’s case is that firstly, section 70 of the Karnataka CS Act as it originally stood and amended by first Amendment Act (19/1976) adding therein two clauses (d) and (e) to section 70, whether one reads it independently or/and in juxtaposition with other sections would find that it did not provide for express ouster or exclusion of the jurisdiction of the Labour Court/Industrial Tribunal under the ID Act. In other words, it did not create any express bar for the Labour Court/Industrial Tribunal regarding deciding the service disputes arising between a Co-operative Society’s Employee and his/her Employer.
Second, any Co-operative Society’s Employee satisfying the definition of the expression “workman”, “Industrial Dispute” and the Co-operative Society to be an “industry” as defined under the ID Act has the choice to select one forum out of the two forums for filing a case in relation to his service dispute, i.e., ether to file a case under the Karnataka CS Act or to seek an industrial reference under section 10 of the ID Act or to file an application under Section 10(4-A)of the ID Act.

Third, both the Acts, Karnataka CS Act and the ID Act possessed and enjoyed concurrent jurisdiction over service disputes till June 20, 2000.Fourth, consequent upon the second Amendment made by the State of Karnataka in section 70 by Amendment Act, 2 of 2000, which received the Assent of the President on March 18, 2000 and was brought into force on June 20, 2000, the State Legislature, for the first time, provided an express provision for exclusion of the jurisdiction of the Civil Court or Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal to decide any service dispute arising between a Co-operative Society’s Employee and his/her Employer. The effect of introducing such amended provision was that the provisions of the Act were held no longer applicable for deciding such service disputes. In other words, jurisdiction of the ID Act then stood excluded from deciding such service disputes from June 20, 2000 onwards.

Fifth, by way of rule of caution, the question of such nature should be decided by the Courts primarily keeping in view the language employed in the concerned State Act.
Sixth, Article 254 of the Constitution is attracted when there is a repugnancy between any provision(s) of the State Act such as Karnataka CS Act and the provision(s) of existing law enacted by the Parliament on the subject falling in concurrent list such as the ID Act.
The inconsistency should be so irreconcilable that it leads to direct head on collision with any provision of the Central Act, thereby creating a situation that obeying one Act would result in disobeying the other.
Seventh, if such a situation arises in any case, the State Law, which is reserved for President’s Assent and on receiving the President’s Assent, will prevail over the Central Law in that State by virtue of Article 254 (2) of the Constitution.
In the context of the facts of the case in hand, the Apex-Court has held that the KCS Act and the ID Act both possess and enjoy the concurrent jurisdiction to decide any service dispute arising between the Co-operative Society’s Employee and his/ or her Employer Co-operative Society. The Court has also held that it is the choice of the Employee concerned to choose any one forum out of the two forums available to him/her under the two Acts to get his/her service dispute decided. It is, however, subject to satisfying the test laid down under the ID Act that the employee concerned is a “workman”, the dispute raised by him/her is an “industrial dispute” and the Employer Co-operative Society is an “industry” as defined under the ID Act.

As a result of the conclusion reached by the Court, in its view, the Labour Court in this case was competent to decide the service dispute raised by the appellant-Employee under the ID Act. Accordingly the Supreme Court has remanded to the writ Court to decide the respondent’s writ petition for examining the legality and correctness of the award of the Labour Court on merits, in accordance with law.