Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Citing the concept of ‘co-extensive’ rights as laid down in Delhi Cloth and General Mills Co. Limited v. Union of India (1986) 2 SCC 288, the bench comprising of I.P. Mukerji J., allowed the writ petition by the Indian Oil Officers’ Association impugning various clauses in a Memorandum of Understanding  between them and the Indian Oil Corporation (Respondents) on grounds of unconstitutionality, arbitrariness, illegality and mala fide intent, through violation of rights to freedom of demonstration, association, etc. under Article 19 of the Petitioner-Association.

The said agreement, governing the IOAA, a Trade Union registered under section 13 of the Trade Unions Act, 1926, was allegedly signed on 24th April 2009 by office-bearers of the IOAA who were then suspended or dismissed employees of the Corporation, and rejected by the All India Central Executive Committee of the IOAA on 29th July 2011. The impugned clauses 4, 11, 13, 16 and 18, sought to:

  1. Bar the Association from membership of any other federation or collective forum (clause 4)
  2. Prevent officers of Grade G and above from membership in the Association. (clause 11)
  3. Bar interference of Association in any manner in rights of Management in employment, non-employment, terms of employment and service conditions (clause 13)
  4. Prevent Officers in the position of Head of Department and Location Head, irrespective of grade, from participation in agitation of any kind. (clause 16)
  5. Stipulate that any violation of the code, reported or observed, would occasion loss of recognition of Association (clause 18)

The Court stated that it could not adjudicate upon questions of fact under its writ jurisdiction, nor upon the private law matter of authority to form contract. Assuming existence of agreement, the Court, while recognising that a company or body corporate could not enforce rights under Article 19 as held in The Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co. Ltd. v. State of Bihar, (1997) 7 SCC 155, and also stated that there may be causes of action common to a body corporate as well as the shareholders or members, or ‘co-extensive’ rights; in which a writ may be maintained by a body corporate or  registered trade union or its members. Further, section 15 (d) of the Trade Unions Act provides for the expenditure of funds by a trade union for conduct of trade disputes on behalf of its members, in effect an espousal of members’ causes. The Court declared its jurisdiction over the public law element, whether it arose from contract or not, and adjudged the impugned clauses as void ab initio and illegal. The Court ordered the supersession of the agreement within 6 months, or else its termination by operation of this order. The Court stated that the writ, filed 6 years after the events, could not be barred by delay, as something non-existent did not trigger a cause of action capable of limitation. Indian Oil Officers’ Association. v. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, 2016 SCC OnLine Cal 2301 , decided on June 15, 2016.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Disposing of a batch of petitions dealing with a matter of public importance involving the functioning of courts and their orderly conduct, and the duty owed by the Bar to the courts, which variously contended that :

  • the principle of one advocate “one vote in one Bar”, should be introduced for all Bar Associations, irrespective of the multitude of memberships of an advocate in Delhi;
  • introduction of the concept of “one person one chamber, one court complex”;
  • ensure that only genuine practitioners are members of the Bar Associations attached to various courts in the city of Delhi, to safeguard that chambers are allotted to genuine practicing    advocates and that the transfer of allotted chambers, is prohibited and discontinued;
  • to frame rules, policies and guidelines involving the issues of allotment of chambers, tenure of

   Bar  Associations and the procedure for free and fair conduct of elections;

the Bench of Ravindra Bhat and Siddharth Mridul, JJ.  by  a common judgment  directed that the principle of “one Bar,  one vote” shall be applicable henceforth in every Bar Association  across  Delhi and also that  “one person , one chamber, one court complex” shall be applicable for allotment of chambers to advocates in all the court complexes  subject to the administrative control of the Delhi High Court.

As to the maintainability of proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution, the Court held that the nature of relief sought is intrinsically connected with public functioning of the court, as the activities of Bar Associations have a predominantly public character and can in many instances, affect court functioning.

The Court held that the rule incorporating the “one Bar, one vote” principle shall stand incorporated forthwith in relation to every Bar Association in Delhi including the Delhi High Court Bar Association, the Delhi Bar Association, the New Delhi Bar Association, the Rohini, Shahdara, Saket and Dwarka Courts Bar Association and all other courts or Tribunals attached Bar Associations. This condition shall be deemed to be incorporated in the conditions of eligibility applicable for voting  as well as candidature for the post of member of any executive body (by whatever name called) and every office bearer of each association (President, Vice-President, General or Honorary Secretary, Assistant, Joint Secretary, Treasurer, Asst. Treasurer, or any other office bearer of each Association (by whatever other name called), immediately and shall be given effect to in every election to each Bar Association hereafter. This condition shall remain in force and bind all Bar Associations as condition for their recognition.

The “one person one chamber, one court complex” rule applicable for allotment of chambers to advocates in all Delhi Court complexes shall be deemed to have been incorporated with immediate effect.

The District Judge concerned of each court complex and the Registrar of the Delhi High Court were directed to ensure that the above conditions are suitably incorporated in the Chamber Allotment Rules, within two weeks and till then, the same are applicable and shall govern all chamber allotments. [P.K. Dash v. Bar Council of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 3493, decided on May 31, 2016]