SC and HC Judgments Online at MyNation

Judgments of Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Jk Jute Mill Mazdoor Morcha vs Juggilal Kamlapat Jute Mills … on 30 April, 2019

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.20978 of 2017

JK JUTE MILL MAZDOOR MORCHA …APPELLANT

VERSUS

JUGGILAL KAMLAPAT JUTE MILLS
COMPANY LTD. THROUGH ITS DIRECTOR
ORS. …RESPONDENTS

JUDGMENT

R.F. NARIMAN, J.

1. The present appeal raises an important question as to

whether a trade union could be said to be an operational creditor for

the purpose of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 [“Code”].

The facts of the present case reveal a long-drawn saga of a jute mill

being closed and reopened several times until finally, it has been

closed for good on 07.03.2014. Proceedings were pending under
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
the SectionSick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985. On
NIDHI AHUJA
Date: 2019.04.30
18:13:12 IST
Reason:

14.03.2017, the appellant issued a demand notice on behalf of

1
roughly 3000 workers under Section 8 of the Code for outstanding

dues of workers. This was replied to by respondent No.1 on

31.03.2017. The National Company Law Tribunal [“NCLT”], on

28.04.2017, after describing all the antecedent facts including suits

that have been filed by respondent No.1 and referring to pending

writ petitions in the High Court of Delhi, ultimately held that a trade

union not being covered as an operational creditor, the petition

would have to be dismissed. By the impugned order dated

12.09.2017, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal

[“NCLAT”] did likewise and dismissed the appeal filed by the

appellant before us, stating that each worker may file an individual

application before the NCLT.

2. Shri Gopal Jain, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf

of the appellant took us through various provisions of the Code and

the SectionTrade Unions Act, 1926, [“SectionTrade Unions Act”] and cited a

Division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court in SectionSanjay

Sadanand Varrier v. Power Horse India Pvt. Ltd., (2017) 5 Mah

LJ 876 [“Sanjay Sadanand Varrier”] to argue that even literally

speaking, the provisions of the Code would lead to the result that a

2
trade union would be an operational creditor within the meaning of

the Code. Even otherwise, a purposive interpretation ought to be

granted, as has been done in various recent judgments to the

provisions of the Code, and that therefore, such an application by a

registered trade union filed as an operational creditor would be

maintainable. Shri Gaurav Kejriwal, learned Advocate appearing on

behalf of respondent No.2 has supported the arguments advanced

by Shri Gopal Jain.

3. On the other hand, Shri Navaniti Prasad Singh, Shri Jayant K.

Sud, and Shri Anip Sachthey, learned Senior Advocates appearing

on behalf of respondent No.1 supported the NCLAT judgment to

argue that as no services are rendered by a trade union to the

corporate debtor to claim any dues which can be termed as debts,

trade unions will not come within the definition of operational

creditors. That apart, each claim of each workman is a separate

cause of action in law, and therefore, a separate claim for which

there are separate dates of default of each debt. This being so, a

collective application under the rubric of a registered trade union

would not be maintainable.

3

4. Section 5(20) of the Code defines operational creditor as

follows:

“5. Definitions.—In this Part, unless the context
otherwise requires,—
xxx xxx xxx
(20) “operational creditor” means a person to whom an
operational debt is owed and includes any person to
whom such debt has been legally assigned or
transferred;

xxx xxx xxx”

Section 5(21) defines operational debt as follows:

“5. Definitions.—In this Part, unless the context
otherwise requires,—
xxx xxx xxx
(21) “operational debt” means a claim in respect of the
provision of goods or services including employment or
a debt in respect of the payment of dues arising under
any law for the time being in force and payable to the
Central Government, any State Government or any local
authority;

xxx xxx xxx”

Rule 6 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Application to

Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2016 states as follows:

“6. Application by operational creditor.—(1) An
operational creditor, shall make an application for
initiating the corporate insolvency resolution process
against a corporate debtor under Section 9 of the Code
in Form 5, accompanied with documents and records
required therein and as specified in the Insolvency and

4
Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution
Process for Corporate Persons) Regulations, 2016.

(2) The applicant under sub-rule (1) shall dispatch
forthwith, a copy of the application filed with the
Adjudicating Authority, by registered post or speed post
to the registered office of the corporate debtor.”

Form 5, to which Rule 6 refers, contains Part V, in which the note

states:

“Note: Where workmen/employees are operational
creditors, the application may be made either in an
individual capacity or in a joint capacity by one of them
who is duly authorised for the purpose.”

An operational creditor refers to any “person”. “Person” is defined

under Section 3(23) of the Code to include the following:

“3. Definitions.—In this Code, unless the context
otherwise requires,—
xxx xxx xxx
(23) “person” includes—

(a) an individual;

(b) a Hindu Undivided Family;

(c) a company;

(d) a trust;

(e) a partnership;

(f) a limited liability partnership; and

(g) any other entity established under a statute,
and includes a person resident outside India;
xxx xxx xxx”

5

5. When we come to the SectionTrade Unions Act, Section 2(h) defines

a trade union as follows:

“2. Definitions.—In this Act, ‘the appropriate
Government’ means, in relation to Trade Unions whose
objects are not confined to one State, the Central
Government, and in relation to other Trade Unions, the
State Government, and, unless there is anything
repugnant in the subject or context,—
xxx xxx xxx

(h) “Trade Union” means any combination, whether
temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the
purpose of regulating the relations between workmen
and employers or between workmen and workmen, or
between employers and employers, or for imposing
restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or
business, and includes any federation of two or more
Trade Unions;

xxx xxx xxx”

Equally, trade disputes under the said Act are defined under Section

2(g) as follows:

“2. Definitions.—In this Act, ‘the appropriate
Government’ means, in relation to Trade Unions whose
objects are not confined to one State, the Central
Government, and in relation to other Trade Unions,
the State Government, and, unless there is anything
repugnant in the subject or context,—
xxx xxx xxx

(g) “trade dispute” means any dispute between
employers and workmen or between workmen and
workmen, or between employers and employers which

6
is connected with the employment or non-employment,
or the terms of employment or the conditions of labour,
of any person, and “workmen” means all persons
employed in trade or industry whether or not in the
employment of the employer with whom the trade
dispute arises; and
xxx xxx xxx”

Section 8, Section 13, and Section 15(c) and (d) are relevant and

state:

“8. Registration.—The Registrar, on being satisfied that
the Trade Union has complied with all the requirements
of this Act in regard to registration, shall register the
Trade Union by entering in a register, to be maintained
in such form as may be prescribed, the particulars
relating to the Trade Union contained in the statement
accompanying the application for registration.”
“13. Incorporation of registered Trade Unions.—
Every registered Trade Union shall be a body corporate
by the name under which it is registered, and shall have
perpetual succession and a common seal with power to
acquire and hold both movable and immovable property
and to contract, and shall by the said name sue and be
sued.”
“15. Objects on which general funds may be spent.—
The general funds of a registered Trade Union shall not
be spent on any other objects than the following,
namely,—
xxx xxx xxx

(c) the prosecution or defence of any legal proceeding to
which the Trade Union or any member thereof is a party,
when such prosecution of defence is undertaken for the
purpose of securing or protecting any rights of the Trade
Union as such or any rights arising out of the relations of

7
any member with his employer or with a person whom
the member employs;

(d) the conduct of trade disputes on behalf of the Trade
Union or any member thereof;

xxx xxx xxx”

6. On a reading of the aforesaid statutory provisions, what

becomes clear is that a trade union is certainly an entity established

under a statute – namely, the SectionTrade Unions Act, and would therefore

fall within the definition of “person” under Sections 3(23) of the

Code. This being so, it is clear that an “operational debt”, meaning a

claim in respect of employment, could certainly be made by a

person duly authorised to make such claim on behalf of a workman.

Rule 6, Form 5 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Application to

Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2016 also recognises the fact that

claims may be made not only in an individual capacity, but also

conjointly. Further, a registered trade union recognised by Section 8

of the Trade Unions Act, makes it clear that it can sue and be sued

as a body corporate under Section 13 of that Act. Equally, the

general fund of the trade union, which inter alia is from collections

from workmen who are its members, can certainly be spent on the

conduct of disputes involving a member or members thereof or for

8
the prosecution of a legal proceeding to which the trade union is a

party, and which is undertaken for the purpose of protecting the

rights arising out of the relation of its members with their employer,

which would include wages and other sums due from the employer

to workmen.

7. The Bombay High Court in Sanjay Sadanand Varrier (supra),

after setting out various provisions of the SectionTrade Unions Act,

including Section 15, has held:

“13. As can be seen from the said section, Registered
Trade Unions can prosecute or defend any legal
proceeding to which the Trade Union or member thereof
is a party, when such prosecution or defence is
undertaken for the purpose of securing or protecting any
right of the Trade Union as such, or any rights arising
out of the relations of any member with his employer or
with a person whom the member employs. In fact, the
Trade Union can even spend general funds on the
conduct of trade disputes on behalf of the Trade Union
or any member thereof.

14. On a conjoint reading of the provisions of the
SectionCompanies Act, 1956 and more particularly Sectionsections 434
and Section439 as well as the provisions of the SectionTrade Unions
Act, 1926, we are clearly of the view that looking to the
mandate of Sectionsections 13 and Section15 of the Trade Unions Act,
1926, there is no doubt in our mind that a Petition for
winding up would be maintainable at the instance of the
Trade Union. This is for the simple reason that Sectionsection
15(c) and (d) clearly mandates that the prosecution or
defence of any proceeding to which the Trade Union or

9
any member thereof is a party as well as the conduct of
trade disputes on behalf of the Trade Union or any
member thereof can be done by the Trade Union. This
would clearly go to show that the Trade Union, for and
on behalf of its members can certainly prefer a winding
up Petition as contemplated under Sectionsection 439 of the
said Act. This is for the simple reason that if the
workmen have not been paid their wages and/or salary
by the Company, they would certainly be a creditor or
creditors as contemplated under Sectionsection 439(1)(b) of the
Companies Act, 1956. Section 15 clearly mandates that
the Trade Union can take up this cause for and on
behalf of its members. Hence, after complying with the
provisions of Sectionsection 434 of the Companies Act, 1956
the Trade Union would certainly be competent to present
a winding up Petition.”

8. No doubt, this judgment was in the context of a winding up

petition, but the rationale based upon Section 15(c) and (d) equally

applies to a petition filed under the Code.

9. However, learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent

No. 1 have cited the judgment reported as SectionCommissioner of

Income Tax (TDS), Kanpur and Anr. v. Canara Bank, (2018) 9

SCC 322 [“Canara Bank”]. This judgment dealt with the expression

“established by or under a Central, State or SectionProvincial Act”

contained in Section 194-A(3)(iii) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. After

exhaustively reviewing the case law on the subject, this Court came

10
to the conclusion that the NOIDA authority was established as an

authority under the SectionState Act. While dealing with several judgments

of this Court, the Court, in paragraphs 20, 24, and 25, followed

judgments stating that a company incorporated and registered

under the SectionCompanies Act cannot be said to be “established” under

the SectionCompanies Act. The context of Section 3(23) of the Code shows

that this judgment has no application to the definition contained in

Section 3(23). Here, a “person” includes a company in clause (c),

and would include any other entity established under a statute

under clause (g). It is clear that clause (g) has to be read noscitur a

sociis with the previous clauses of Section 3(23). This being the

case, entities such as companies, trusts, partnerships, and limited

liability partnerships are all entities governed by the SectionCompanies Act,

the SectionIndian Trusts Act, and the SectionPartnership Act, which are not

“established” under those Acts in the sense understood in Canara

Bank (supra) and the judgments followed by it. The context,

therefore, in which the phrase “established under a statute” occurs,

makes it clear that a trade union, like a company, trust, partnership,

or limited liability partnership, when registered under the Trade

11
SectionUnion Act, would be “established” under that Act in the sense of

being governed by that Act. For this reason, the judgment in Canara

Bank (supra) would not apply to Section 3(23) of the Code.

10. Even otherwise, we are of the view that instead of one

consolidated petition by a trade union representing a number of

workmen, filing individual petitions would be burdensome as each

workman would thereafter have to pay insolvency resolution

process costs, costs of the interim resolution professional, costs of

appointing valuers, etc. under the provisions of the Code read with

Regulations 31 and 33 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of

India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons)

Regulations, 2016. Looked at from any angle, there is no doubt that

a registered trade union which is formed for the purpose of

regulating the relations between workmen and their employer can

maintain a petition as an operational creditor on behalf of its

members. We must never forget that procedure is the handmaid of

justice, and is meant to serve justice. This Court, in SectionKailash v.

Nanhku and Ors., (2005) 4 SCC 480, put it thus:

12
“28. All the rules of procedure are the handmaid of
justice. The language employed by the draftsman of
processual law may be liberal or stringent, but the fact
remains that the object of prescribing procedure is to
advance the cause of justice. In an adversarial system,
no party should ordinarily be denied the opportunity of
participating in the process of justice dispensation.
Unless compelled by express and specific language of
the statute, the provisions of CPC or any other
procedural enactment ought not to be construed in a
manner which would leave the court helpless to meet
extraordinary situations in the ends of justice. The
observations made by Krishna Iyer, J. in SectionSushil Kumar
Sen v. State of Bihar [(1975) 1 SCC 774] are pertinent:
(SCC p. 777, paras 5-6)
“The mortality of justice at the hands of law
troubles a judge’s conscience and points an
angry interrogation at the law reformer.

The processual law so dominates in certain
systems as to overpower substantive rights
and substantial justice. The humanist rule that
procedure should be the handmaid, not the
mistress, of legal justice compels consideration
of vesting a residuary power in judges to act ex
debito justitiae where the tragic sequel
otherwise would be wholly inequitable. …
Justice is the goal of jurisprudence —
processual, as much as substantive.”

29. SectionIn State of Punjab v. Shamlal Murari [(1976) 1 SCC
719 : 1976 SCC (LS) 118] the Court approved in no
unmistakable terms the approach of moderating into
wholesome directions what is regarded as mandatory on
the principle that: (SCC p. 720)
“Processual law is not to be a tyrant but a
servant, not an obstruction but an aid to justice.
Procedural prescriptions are the handmaid and

13
not the mistress, a lubricant, not a resistant in
the administration of justice.”
SectionIn Ghanshyam Dass v. Dominion of India [(1984) 3 SCC
46] the Court reiterated the need for interpreting a part
of the adjective law dealing with procedure alone in such
a manner as to subserve and advance the cause of
justice rather than to defeat it as all the laws of
procedure are based on this principle.”

This judgment was followed by the Constitution Bench decision in

SectionSarah Mathew v. Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases and Ors.,

(2014) 2 SCC 62 [at paragraph 49].

11. The NCLAT, by the impugned judgment, is not correct in

refusing to go into whether the trade union would come within the

definition of “person” under Section 3(23) of the Code. Equally, the

NCLAT is not correct in stating that a trade union would not be an

operational creditor as no services are rendered by the trade union

to the corporate debtor. What is clear is that the trade union

represents its members who are workers, to whom dues may be

owed by the employer, which are certainly debts owed for services

rendered by each individual workman, who are collectively

represented by the trade union. Equally, to state that for each

workman there will be a separate cause of action, a separate claim,

14
and a separate date of default would ignore the fact that a joint

petition could be filed under Rule 6 read with Form 5 of the

Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Application to Adjudicating Authority)

Rules, 2016, with authority from several workmen to one of them to

file such petition on behalf of all. For all these reasons, we allow the

appeal and set aside the judgment of the NCLAT. The matter is now

remanded to the NCLAT who will decide the appeal on merits

expeditiously as this matter has been pending for quite some time.

The appeal is allowed accordingly.

………..……………… J.

(R. F. Nariman)

…..…………………… J.

(Vineet Saran)
New Delhi.

April 30, 2019.

15

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Not found ...? HOW TO WIN 498a, DV, DIVORCE; Search in Above link

All Law documents and Judgment copies
Laws and Bare Acts of India
Landmark SC/HC Judgements
Rules and Regulations of India.

STUDY REPORTS

Copyright © 2021 SC and HC Judgments Online at MyNation
×

Free Legal Help, Just WhatsApp Away

MyNation HELP line

We are Not Lawyers, but No Lawyer will give you Advice like We do

Please read Group Rules – CLICK HERE, If You agree then Please Register CLICK HERE and after registration  JOIN WELCOME GROUP HERE

We handle Women Centric biased laws like False Sectioin 498A IPC, Domestic Violence(DV ACT), Divorce, Maintenance, Alimony, Child Custody, HMA 24, 125 CrPc, 307, 312, 313, 323, 354, 376, 377, 406, 420, 497, 506, 509; TEP, RTI and many more…

MyNation FoundationMyNation FoundationMyNation Foundation