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THE ORISSA HIGH COURT HAS HELD THAT IT IS NOT MANDATORY FOR THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT TO REFER A MATTER OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE TO THE NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES ACT, 1947

This particular decision is upheld by the High Court of Odisha through the division bench of Justice Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Radha Krishna Pattanaik in the case of Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Ltd. v. The Presiding Officer, Central Government Industrial Tribunal, Bhubaneswar & Anr. W.P.(C) No. 30779 of 2011

FACTS

The present dispute had its origins in an order dated 14th September 1992 passed by the Central Government referring the dispute for adjudication to the State Government Industrial Tribunal at Bhubaneswar. A written statement was filed by Opposite Party No. 2, i.e. Workers’ Union before the Tribunal raising the issue concerning all workers working in the drilling camps of M/s Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Ltd. (CMPDI) all over the country in regard to the benefit of special TA/DA and in the matter of holidays or festivals.

At one stage, the case was transferred to the Industrial Tribunal, Rourkela, but the Union for some reasons did not participate and the reference had to be returned to the Central Government. Ultimately, the case was transferred to the Central Government Industrial Tribunal, Bhubaneswar (CGIT). On 29th November 2004, the present petitioner prayed for taking up the issue of maintainability first. Later, it filed a writ petition before the High Court in which an order was passed on 9th February 2006 directing the CGIT to dispose of the issue of maintainability first. By the impugned order dated 24th January 2011, the CGIT held the reference to be maintainable.

CMPDI has filed this petition questioning the said order dated 24th January 2011 passed by the CGIT. While directing notice to issue in the present petition on 20th December 2011, the Court permitted the petitioner to file an application for adjournment of the main case before the CGIT and that interim order has continued for eleven years now.

JUDGEMENT

Moreover, in the present day and age, when there are virtual courts, it is possible to have witnesses examined even at remote locations. The earlier apprehensions regarding inconvenience of parties would have to be re-visited. It is now possible for a Tribunal in Bhubaneswar to examine witnesses virtually all over the country, and therefore that inconvenience is a thing of the past. Secondly, and most importantly, this dispute has been pending for more than three decades now and the Court does not consider it expedient at this stage to require the dispute to be referred to a National Tribunal for parties to start all over again. The Court has also perused the order passed by the CGIT in the present case negativing the above contentions of the Petitioner. It has been rightly noticed, on the strength of the decisions of the Bombay High Court in Life Insurance Corporation of India v. All India Insurance Employees’ Association (1995) III LLJ Supp. 797 (Bom) and the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Indian Banks Association v. Workmen of Syndicate Bank (1998) 1 LLJ 233 (AP) that in terms of Section 7-B of the ID Act read with Section 10 (1-A) thereof it is not mandatory for the Central Government to make a reference of a dispute which is of national importance to a National Tribunal. For all of the aforementioned reasons, the Court is not persuaded that in the present case, the CGIT has erred in declining the prayer of the Petitioner as regards the maintainability of the dispute before the CGIT, Bhubaneswar. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed. The interim order passed in the present petition stands vacated. The CGIT is now requested to proceed with the adjudication as expeditiously as possible. The LCR be returned forthwith.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NAISARGIKA MISHRA

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