Tripura High Court: The Division Bench of Akil Kureshi, CJ. and S.G. Chattopadhyay, J., allowed an appeal which was filed challenging the order of the Single Judge.
Appellant was a company incorporated under the Companies Act which was engaged in plantation, production and sale of tea. It ran a tea estate in Tripura in the name of Murticherra Tea Estate.
Pursuant to the recommendation of the Advisory Board constituted by the State Government the respondent approved the standards and specifications of houses for the workers engaged in various tea estates across the State. The appellant in the original petition had challenged the formation of the Advisory Board and the standards and specifications of housing accommodation for tea plantation workers which was approved by the said Advisory Board on the ground that its composition did not conform to of the said rules. Petitioner had sought explanation as to why the notification should not be declared bad in law for not being issued following the requirements of Rule 54 of the Tripura Labour Plantation Rules 1954, and accordingly quashed.
Respondent filed counter affidavit contending that Sri Anjan Kr. Das, President of Tea Association of India (TAI) in its Tripura chapter and its Secretary, Sri P.K. Sarkar were included in the Advisory Board constituted under Rule 54 of the said Rules as members with their consent because both of them were present in the tripartite meeting in which it was decided that the Advisory Board under Rule 54 of the said Rules would be constituted and said Anjan Kr. Das and P.K. Sarkar would be the employers’ representative in the board. Consequently, the formation of the Advisory Board was notified by the State Government.
Single Judge had held that there was no defect in the formation of the Advisory Board which was duly notified by the State Government by notification and which was duly published in the Official Gazette.
The appellant had challenged the order of the single judge on the following grounds:
(i) Formation of the board was defective because employers’ representatives were never intimated about their inclusion in the said Advisory Board.
(ii) Since the Advisory Board was not formed in conformity with the statutory provisions, the actions taken by the board were illegal.
(iii) Learned Single Judge did not appreciate the fact that the respondent could not adduce any proof of delivery of the letter intimating the employers‟ representatives about the schedule of the meeting held on 24.01.2012 in which the housing scheme was finalized.
The Court perused Rule 54, Rule 55(1) of the said Rules and noted that there is no conflict between Rule 55 and the notification dated 04-01-2012 of the State Government whereby the said Advisory Board was constituted. It would appear from the composition of the Board that the Advisory Board consisted of three representatives of the employers and three of the workers and as such the notification composing the Advisory Board cannot be faulted with. It was further observed that in so far as the challenge of the appellant to the validity of the recommendation of the Advisory Board in respect of the housing scheme was concerned, the appellant as it appears from the record, had challenged the validity of the meeting on the ground that no meeting notice was served on the employers’ representatives intimating them about the schedule of the meeting and the finding of the Single Judge that notice was served on one of the representatives of the employers who refused to attend the meeting cannot stand because there is no proof of delivery of notice on any of the employers’ representatives.
Procedure relating to the meetings of Advisory Board is laid down under Rule 60 to 66 in Chapter IV of the said Rules which was also perused by the Court and it was clarified that service of notice of meetings of the Advisory Board on every member at least 15 days before such meeting along with list of business is compulsory unless an emergent meeting is called by the Chairman in which case a notice giving such reasonable time as the Chairman may consider necessary shall be sufficient.
The Court was of the opinion that the challenge of the appellant with regard to validity of the recommendations made by Advisory Board as regards the standards and specifications of houses for tea garden labourers on the ground that no notice of the meeting of the said Advisory Board was served on any of the representatives of the employers appears to be genuine.
The Court allowing the appeal held that they are unable to accept the findings of the Single Judge with regard to the validity of the recommendations made by the Advisory Board.[Fortuna Agro Plantation Ltd. v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 46, decided on 13-09-2021]
Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
Advocates before the Court:
For Appellant(s): Mr S.M. Chakraborty and Ms P. Sen
For Respondent(s): Mr D. Sharma