10 June 2024


High Court of Madras

Tamil Nadu Atomic Power Employees Union Vs. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.



Labour and Industrial

Right to form association or union is subject to reasonable restriction in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India, public order and morality

The Plaintiff is the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited located within the campus of Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam. It is a Government of India enterprise. The Defendant is the Employees Union in the plaintiff's establishment. Against the concurrent findings of the Courts below granting permanent injunction, the aggrieved Defendant has filed the present second appeal.

The trial Court has taken into consideration the security risk in allowing the Defendants union members and representatives to conduct gate meeting or slogan raising within the prohibited area and near the sensitive installations. The appeal suit filed by the Defendant was dismissed by the first appellate Court confirming the reasons assigned by the trial Court.

In present second appeal, the learned counsel for the Appellant contended that, civil suit is not maintainable to restrain the recognised trade union form exercising its rights in the form of protest and by conducting gate meetings. The alleged understanding between the Management and the Unions in the Joint Consultative Council is not a settlement under Section 18 or under Section 12(3) of the Industrial disputes Act, 1947. The prohibitory decree of injunction had taken away the fundamental right of the workman under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

Right to form association or union is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (c) of the Constitution. This covers variety of right including expressing the grievance in lawful and peaceful manner. However, this right is subject to reasonable restriction in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India, public order and morality.

In the instant case, the Plaintiff has demonstrated before the Civil Court, that the members of the Appellant union in the name of gate meeting and slogan shouting are disturbing the industrial peace. The reasonable restriction is imposed on them by the Civil Court which has jurisdiction under Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) to try cases of these nature. There is no bar under the Industrial Dispute Act or any other statute for the Civil Court to entertain suits when the civil right of the larger public is affected. The fundamental right of any individual or group of individuals is subservient to the fundamental right of larger public. When there is conflict between two fundamental right or between two groups over exercise of their respective fundamental rights, the right which would advance the public interest should be enforced through the process of the court.

Permitting to gather and agitate, to shout slogan and to gherao within the security sensitive areas like the plaintiff premises where atomic plant is installed, may lead to breach of security. It may cause security threat to nation in general and to the installation in particular. A restriction of 100 meters away from the premises outer compound for all these activities is reasonable and a good balance between fundamental rights of life and liberty of the others, fundamental right of trade of the Plaintiff Management and the fundamental right of association vest with the defendant Union.

Therefore, present Court concurs and confirms the judgment and decree of the Courts below. It is also to be noted that, the restrain order of injunction is only upto 100 meters from the main gate and within the prohibited area and not beyond that. The injunction decree cannot be construed as a ban on Respondent union activities anywhere beyond the 100 meters. The Second Appeal is dismissed.

Tags : Agitation Injunction Legality

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