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Shankar Narayan Ghosh and Ors. Vs. Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. and Ors. - (High Court of Gauhati) (09 Nov 2017)

Dispute of regularization/absorption once settled and having been acted upon cannot be allowed to be raised or reopened


Labour and Industrial

Instant intra Court appeal is against the order passed by the learned Single Judge whereby he has allowed writ petitions. These writ petitions were filed by the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) - Respondent No. 1 challenging the references of identical industrial dispute. The references were made pursuant to industrial dispute raised by the respective Appellants. Challenge was also made by Respondent No. 1 to the consequential notices issued by the Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, ("Tribunal"). By the impugned judgment, all the references and also the consequential notices have been quashed on the ground that, in fact, no industrial dispute existed which required adjudication.

The Supreme Court in National Engineering Industries Ltd. v. State of Rajasthan, held that a settlement arrived at in the course of conciliation proceedings with a recognized majority union will be binding on all workmen of the establishment and that it is based on the principle of collective bargaining for resolving industrial disputes and for maintaining industrial peace.

In the case at hand, the dispute regarding regularization and absorption of contingent workers was settled in the course of conciliation proceedings after lot of deliberations. The management of Respondent No. 1 and two recognized Trade Unions, namely, ONGC Din Mazdoor Union (CITU) and Tripura ONGC Shramik Union (INTUC) had participated in the conciliation proceedings. The terms of settlement were reduced in writing and thereafter also acted upon by the parties. The settlement is based on the principle of collective bargaining for resolving industrial disputes and is at par with the award of Labour Court, or Tribunal, or National Tribunal or an arbitration award. Therefore, the dispute of regularization/absorption once settled and having been acted upon cannot be allowed to be raised or reopened by the Appellants. The State Government also cannot be permitted to make a reference in respect to a dispute which has already been settled in the presence of Conciliation Officer as provided under Section 12 of the Act. Even otherwise, it is not the contention of the Appellants that the settlement was arrived at on account of fraud, corruption or other inducements or is in any way mala fide. This being the situation, it cannot be said that, settlement is either arbitrary or unreasonable or that their claim for absorption was rejected because of superior bargaining power of Respondent No. 1.

A learned Single Judge in Review Petition vide order has already held that the terms of settlement are in conformity and consistent with the fair labour practice and not opposed to any statutory provision or public policy of the Government. This order was never challenged before any higher forum and as such it attained finality. The Appellants, therefore, cannot be given any benefit of the liberty given, more particularly, when the terms of settlement are not challenged on the grounds of mala fide, fraud, corruption or other inducements etc. Lastly, as the terms of settlement have become final, Present Court is not inclined to increase/enhance the amount mentioned in the Memorandum of Settlement either. There is no merit in present appeal.

Relevant : National Engineering Industries Ltd. vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors. MANU/SC/0755/1999


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