Legal Correspondent

"Falls within definition of `manufacture' under Factories Act"

  • High Court had ordered reinstatement of daily workers for the Uttaranchal Forest Development Corporation
  • "Area where activities are carried out is `premises' within the definition of factory"

    NEW DELHI: Cutting of trees in forests and changing the shape of timber into logs will come within the definition of industrial activity and manufacturing process as per the Factories Act, the Supreme Court has held.

    Giving this ruling, a Bench of Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice Tarun Chatterjee said a government-owned Forest Development Corporation carrying on such activities would come within the purview of an industrial establishment as defined in Section 25-L of the Industrial Disputes Act. As a result, the Bench said the provisions of Section 25 N relating to retrenchment of workmen would also be attracted to workers engaged in the forests in cutting trees and other related activities.

    Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Lakshmanan said that the process of cutting the tree by axe and changing the shape of timber into logs by using saw would squarely fall within the definition of `manufacture' as contemplated under the Factories Act since cutting would be included in the processes of `making' and `breaking up' as stated in the definition.

    Further, the bench said that changing of shape of timber by saw would come under the manufacturing processes of `altering' and `adapting' and once the provisions of Factories Act were attracted, the procedure contemplated under the ID Act for retrenchment of workers should be complied with.

    In the instant case, the Uttaranchal Forest Development Corporation had engaged daily workers for performing various activities in the forests. The services of some of the workers were retrenched after giving one-month notice. An industrial dispute was raised by a group of workers and the Industrial Tribunal upheld the retrenchment. On appeal, the High Court held that the workers should be put back to duty with back wages. Another section directly approached the Uttaranchal High Court and they too got the same relief. The present appeals by the Corporation are directed against that judgment.

    Disposing of the appeals, the Bench agreed with the findings of the High Court that the Forest Corporation "carries the activity of cutting, removal, disposal and sale of trees over the area allotted to the Corporation and therefore, the area of the land over which such activities are carried on is `premises' within the definition of factory."

    The Bench also concurred with the findings that since the retrenchment was made without complying with the provisions of Section 25 N of the ID Act, the retrenchment was not valid. The Bench, however, held that the benefit would be available only to those workers who availed the remedy of going to the Tribunal and not to those who directly approached the High Court after a delay of 10 years.