Judgment : Chennai Port Trust V.The Chennai Port Trust Association

Judgment Date  27 Mar 2018                                                                                        
Chennai Port Trust .....Appellant(s)
The Chennai Port Trust Association ....… Respondent(s)

CIVIL APPEAL No.1381 OF 2010

Chennai Port Trust V.The Chennai Port Trust Association

1. This appeal is directed against the final
judgment and order dated 21.02.2006 passed by
the High Court of judicature at Madras in Writ
Appeal No.66 of 2006 whereby the Division Bench of
the High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the
appellant herein and affirmed the judgment and
order dated 24.08.2005 passed by the Single Judge
of the High Court in Writ Petition No.6872 of 2001
by which the Single Judge allowed the writ petition
filed by respondent No.1 herein.

2. Few relevant facts need to be mentioned
hereinbelow to appreciate the question involved in
the appeal.

3. The appellant is “Chennai Port Trust” at
Chennai. It has been in existence for the last many
decades and has a large administrative and
technical set up to run their multifarious activities
on the Port.

4. Large numbers of workers/employees are
employed by the Port Trust who work round the
clock in shifts to run and maintain the activities of
the Port Trust. These Port Trust
workers/employees are provided with the facility of
canteen. A Co-Operative Society called “Chennai
Port Trust Industrial Employees Co-operative
Canteen Limited” runs the Canteen. It has been
running since 1964. This canteen has employed a
large number of employees to run the canteen. The
employees working in the canteen have formed an
Association known as “Chennai Port Trust
Industrial Employees Canteen Workers Welfare
Association” (for short called“Association”)-respondent No.1 herein.

5. The Association-respondent No.1 herein filed a
writ petition being W.P. No.6872 of 2001 in the High
Court at Madras against the appellant herein
(Chennai Port Trust) espousing the cause of their
members (employees working in the Canteen) and
sought a writ of mandamus against the appellant –
Chennai Port Trust (respondent No.3 in the writ
petition) directing the appellant to treat the
employees working in the Canteen to be the regular
employees of the Chennai Port Trust and
accordingly pay them all attendant and monetary
benefits at par with the regular employees of the
Chennai Port Trust.

6. According to the writ petitioner (employees
concerned), they have been working in the Canteen
for decades and regularly catering and fulfilling the
needs of the employees of the Port Trust. According
to the Association, the members of the Association –
employees working in the canteen are entitled to
claim the same benefit and perks which are being
given to the regular permanent employees of the
Chennai Port Trust. The Association also pointed
out the similar instances of other government
organizations wherein the benefits of this nature
were given to the employees working in the
organizations alike the members of the Association
in question.

7. The Chennai Port Trust mainly opposed the
writ petition on two issues. First, the Chennai Port
Trust has no control whatsoever over any of the
activities of the Canteen in question including any
control over its employees and second, the question
as to whether the canteen employees are to be
treated as employees of the Chennai Port Trust or
not is a question of fact and, therefore, the writ
petition is not the effective remedy to decide this
question. According to the Chennai Port Trust,
such issues should be raised before the Industrial
Tribunal for its adjudication.

8. The Writ Court (Single Judge) allowed the writ
petition filed by the Association(respondent No.1
herein) and accordingly issued a writ of mandamus
against the appellant (Chennai Port Trust), as
prayed by the writ petitioner in their writ petition. In
other words, the writ Court granted the reliefs
claimed by the writ petitioner in their writ petition.

9. The appellant (Chennai Port Trust) felt
aggrieved and filed intra court appeal before the
Division Bench in the High Court. By impugned
judgment, the Division Bench dismissed the appeal
and upheld the order of the Single Judge, which has
given rise to filing of the present appeal by way of
special leave by the Chennai Port Trust.

10. Heard Mr. Keshav Thakur, learned counsel for
the appellant and Mr. Anil Kaushik, Mr. B. Vinodh
Kanna and Mr. Jayanth Muth Raj, learned counsel
for the respondents.

11. Having heard the learned counsel for the
parties and on perusal of the record of the case, we
find no merit in the appeal.

12. In our considered view, the Writ Court (Single
Judge) and the Division Bench were right in their
reasoning and the conclusion.

13. The Division Bench, in our opinion, rightly
relied upon the decision of this Court in Indian
Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd. and Anr. vs
Shramik Sena & Ors., (1999) 6 SCC 439 and
compared the facts of the above case with that of
the case at hand and found great similarities in
both for granting relief to the members of the
respondent (Association).

14. The Division Bench in Paras 14 and 15 of the
impugned judgment took note of 20 factors of this
case, which were found identical to the facts
involved in Indian Petrochemicals’s case (supra)
wherein this Court had issued a writ of mandamus
against the main employer in relation to such
employees working in the canteen run for the
benefit of the employer. It is apposite to reproduce
Paras 14 and 15 of the impugned judgment which
read as under:

“14. Even before the learned single Judge,
the Port Trust objected to deciding the
factual issues in proceedings under Article
226 since the appropriate forum is only the
Labour Court or the Tribunal. The learned
single Judge observed that the averments in
the affidavit have not been specifically
denied in the counter affidavit except to
state that the Management of the Port Trust
has no control over the functioning of the
canteen. Therefore, apart from a general
denial, the various assertions were not
specifically denied. The learned single Judge
then proceeded to set down the various facts
and circumstances that show the
administrative control exercised by the Port
Trust over the Canteen, and they are as
follows :
(i) The fact that the establishment is
kept open during the entire 24 hours
with employees working in several
shifts is not denied. Thereby, the
necessity of the workmen to have their
food inside the factory itself is
confirmed and that the canteen is
mainly intended only for the workers.
(ii) The fact that the Rules framed by
the Society for running the canteen
shall be subject to the approval of the
Chairman is not denied. This proves
that the ultimate control of the
administration of the canteen is with
the Port Trust.
(iii) It is only the workers belonging to
the Port Trust who are eligible to
become members of the Society and not
(iv) It is only the nominee of the Port
Trust who can act as the Chairman of
the Co-operative Society.
(v) The Port Trust administration has
the right to audit the accounts of the
(vi) Electricity and water are supplied
by the Port Trust free of charge. The
premises is also held by the Society
rent free.
(vii) As per bye-law 15, the fourth
respondent Society, the President as
well as four other contractors shall be
nominated by the Registrar only in
consultation with the Chairman of the
Chennai Port Trust.
(viii) The Port Trust provides cost of the
staff employed by the canteen,
maintains the building, reimburses
100% of the fuel costs and all the
benefits to the canteen employees.
(ix) The prices of the food stuff are very
cheap and the food is carried in trickles
to the workers in the Marshalling Yard,
ONGC Pipeline, Oil Dock, Diesel Loco
and such other places where a canteen
cannot be established and specifically
intended only for the workers.
(x) The Executive Engineer (Mechanical)
of the Port Trust has been nominated as
the President of the canteen and the
entire canteen affairs are handled and
controlled by the Chief Mechanical
Engineer of the Port Trust.
(xi) The financial matters are controlled
by the Financial Adviser and Chief
Accounts Officer of the Port Trust.
(xii) The President of the fourth
respondent controls all policy matters
concerning the canteen.
(xiii) It is a matter of common
knowledge that at least as far as
Chennai Port Trust is concerned, it is
located in a place that the nearest
restaurant or canteen would be at least
two to three kilometres away from the
entrance of the Port Trust. Therefore,
the canteen is a must not only for
employees, but also for the entire staff
at various levels and also visitors
having official and commercial dealings
with the Port Trust. The Port Trust
itself is a very large and sprawling area
from one end to the other. Therefore,
the canteen is an indispensable
necessity to the Port Trust.
The learned single Judge thereafter observed
that none of the aforesaid positive claims of
the writ petitioner are denied by the
respondents. It is only because there was no
dispute on facts that the learned single Judge
proceeded to decide the matter, though the
workmen had directly filed the writ petition
without approaching the Tribunal.

15. If we see the Indian Petrochemical’s case,
the similarity of the factual issues is quite
startling. In that case –
(a) The canteen has been there since
the inception of the appellant’s factory.
(b) The workmen have been employed
for long years and despite a change of
contractors, the workers have
continued to be employed in the
(c) The premises, furniture, fixture,
fuel, electricity, utensils etc. have been
provided for by the appellant.
(d) The wages of the canteen workers
have to be reimbursed by the appellant.
(e) The supervision and control on the
canteen is exercised by the appellant
through its authorised officer, as can be
seen from the various clauses of the
contract between the appellant and the
(f) The contractor is nothing but an
agent or a manager of the appellant,
who works completely under the
supervision, control and directions of
the appellant.
(g) The workmen have the protection of
continuous employment in the
On the basis of the above facts, the Supreme
Court arrived at the opinion that the
workmen were the workmen of the
management and by the same process of
reasoning, the learned single Judge also came
to the conclusion that the canteen workmen
were the workmen of the Port Trust. We see
no error in this reasoning.”

15. We find no fault in the aforementioned findings
recorded by the Division Bench as, in our view,
these findings were recorded on the basis of
undisputed facts and documents on record of the
case. That apart, these findings were recorded
keeping in view the facts involved and law laid down
by this Court in the case of Indian Petrochemicals

16. Mere perusal of the decision rendered in the
case of Indian Petrochemicals (supra) would go to
show that in that case also, somewhat similar
question, which is the subject matter of this appeal,
had arisen at the instance of the employees working
in canteen. This Court (Three Judge Bench)
elaborately examined the question and took note of
the relevant undisputed facts, which had bearing
over the question, granted the reliefs to the
employees concerned.

17. In our considered opinion, the approach and
the reasoning of the two Courts below (Writ Court
and Division Bench) while deciding the writ petition
and the appeal arising out of the writ petition
keeping in view the law laid down by this Court in
the case of Indian Petrochemicals (supra) is just,
proper and legal.

18. In other words, if on the undisputed facts, this
Court has granted benefit to the canteen workers in
the case of Indian Petrochemicals (supra) then
there is no reason that on the same set of
undisputed facts arising in this case, the Court
should not grant the benefit to the
employees/workers in this case. It is more so when
no distinguishable facts are pointed out in this case
qua Indian Petrochemicals’s case(supra).
19. We are, therefore, in agreement with the
approach, reasoning and the conclusion arrived at
by the two Courts below.

20. We are, however, not impressed by the
submission of the learned counsel for the appellant
(Chennai Port Trust) when he contended that the
writ Court should not have entertained the writ
petition and instead the respondent (Writ
Petitioner-Association) should have been granted
liberty to approach the Industrial Tribunal/Labour
Court for adjudication of the dispute raised by them
in the writ petition.

21. In the first place, writ Court having entertained
the writ petition and granted relief on merits, this
objection has lost its significance now; Second, the
appellate Court also having gone into the merits of
the case and affirmed the order of the writ Court on
merits, it is too late to entertain such submission,
which is technical in nature; and third, the findings
on merits have been recorded by the two Courts on
the basis of undisputed facts/documents requiring
no trial on facts.

22. It is for these reasons, we are of the view that
the submission of learned counsel for the appellant
has no merit.

23. Though learned counsel for the appellant
argued some more issues but they did not impress
us so as to reverse the findings of the two courts
below and in any case, in the light of the findings
recorded by the two Courts below, which are based
on the law laid down by this Court in the case of
Indian Petrochemicals (supra), we need not
entertain his submissions.
24. In the light of the foregoing discussion, we find
no merit in the appeal, which fails and is
accordingly dismissed.



New Delhi;
April 27, 2018

October 16, 2018

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