RAJARATNAM, J.—Ceylon Estate StaJJs' Union v. Lund Ileform Commission297
1978 Present: Rajaratnam, J. and Gunasekera, J.
THE CEYLON ESTATE STAFFS’ UNION, Appellant
LAND REFORM COMMISSION, Respondent5. C. 84/97-—Labour Tribunal Case No. 1/13921/76
Labour Tribunal—Termination of services of workman by Land ReformCommission—Application made by Union for relief—Vesting ofEstate Lands in Commission—Power of Tribunal to give relief—•Land Reform Law, No. 1 of 1972, as amended by Law No. 39 of1975, seciion 42.
Held : That under the provision of section 42B (5) (a) of LandReform Law, No. 39 of 1975 the rights and liabilities of an employerin regard to a workman became the rights and liabilities of theLand Reform Commission in respect of a land that vested in theCommission under the said law. The Land Reform Commissionbecame the legal owners as from the date of vesting and accord-ingly become liable from such date. Accordingly where it termi-nated a workman’s services, a Labour Tribunal had jurisdiction tomake any order against the Land Reform Commission that it isnormally empowered to make in cases where a workman comesbefore it for relief.
Per Rajaratnam, J.
“ The Land Reform Commission has not been exempted frommaking provisions for fair labour practices. It is specificallyprovided how compensation is payable to the previous owner. Itwas never the policy of the State or the Law to allow the LandReform Commission to create conditions to deprive workmen oftheir work and throw them to the wolves. If there was a sale, thesecurity of the services of the workman had to be ensured by “ theemployer ” into which definition the Land Reform Commissiondefinitely came in”
Cur. adv. vult
A. PPEAL from an Order of the Labour Tribunal.
D. C. Amerasinghe, for the appellant.
Ameer Ismail, Senior State Counsel, for the respondent.
July 20, 1978. Rajaratnam, J.
This is an appeal from the order of the Tribunal dismissing theapplication filed by the Ceylon Estate Staffs’ Union on behalf ofits member J. M. de Zoysa seeking relief in respect of the termi-nation of his services by the Land Reform Commission. Theworkman was a Senior Assistant Clerk who had served a periodof 19 years.
Under the Land Reform (Amendment) Law, No. 39 of 1975,which introduced special provisions relating to estate landsowned by Public Companies, “ every estate land owned orpossesed by a Public Company was deemed to vest in and bepossessed by the Commission and managed under a statutorytrust for and .on behalf of the Commission by the agency houses
208 RAJARATNAM, J.—- Ceylon Estate Staffs' Union v. hand Reform Commission
or organisation which, or the person who, immediately prior totthe date of the vesting was responsible for the management
It was also provided by s. 42B (3) that it nhr” '… .^dy of
such trustee managing for and on behalf of t'ne Commissionto allow the workers who were lawfully resident on the estateland to continue to so reside and continue the employment. Itwas also provided under s. 42B(5) (a) that subject to certain pro-visions the rights and liabilities of the former owner of suchestate land under any contract or agreement express or impliedwhich relates to the purposes of such estate land and whichsubsists on the day immediately prior to the date of suchvesting and the other rights and liabilities of such owner whichrelated to the running of such estate land which likewisesubsist shall become the rights and liabilities of the Commissionand the amounts required to discharge all such liabilities shallbe deducted from the amount of compensation payable in respectof such estate land.
Under s. 42G, any statutory trust may be terminated at anytime at the option of the Commission and unless terminatedearlier such trust shall continue for a further period of one yearand not beyond except with the express approval of the Minister.
Section 42H specified the purposes for which the estates sovested may be used. Inter alia it may be alienated by way ofsale, exchange, rent, purchase or lease to persons for agriculturaldevelopment, etc. or for a co-operative or collective farm orenterprise or village expansion or any other public purpose.
It is in the context of these legal provisions that the followingfacts emerge. Lellopitiya Estates vested in the Land Reform Com-mission by operation of Law No. 39 of 1975 on 17.10.1975. Theestate was managed for and on behalf of the Land ReformCommission by the statutory trustees, i.e. Lellopitiya EstatesLtd. The workman J. M. de Zoysa was notwithstanding thevesting continued in employment by the statutory trustee, i.e.the former owners/employers, for and on behalf of the LandReform Commission. This statutory trust was terminated on
and the management was handed over to the PelmadullaElectorate Land Reform Co-operative Society which did not offerwork to the workman. His services were therefore at an end.
The Tribunal held that it was left to the discretion thereafterfor the Co-operative Society to employ whatever workmen theyWanted on the estate and that it cannot accept the position thatthe Land Reform Commission was the legal owner of theseestates.
RAJAKATNAM, <T. —Ceylon Caiaie. Staff*' Union v. Land Jlejomi OaminUtmon 239
The Tribunal has misdirected itself on the definition of theterm employer in the Industrial Disputes Act. It means anyperson who employs or on whose behalf any other personemploys or any person w»ho employs on behalf of another andincludes a Corporation.
At the stage the statutory trustee employed the workman,they did so lor and on behalf of the Land Reform Commission,vide s. 42B (3). The purpose of the Land Reform Law, No. 1 of1372, was inter alia to increase productivity and employment andcertainly this purpose was not to be achieved by sacrificingpersons who had already been employed on estate land.
Whether the Land Reform Commission sold the land or handedover the management to the Pelmadulla Estate Co-operativeSociety, the rights and liabilities of the previous employersbecome the rights and liabilities of the Land Reform Commissionunder s. 42B (5) (a) on the date of the vesting. If there had beenan outright sale to the co-operative society, then their conduct innot employing the workman means that they had no contractof service with, the said workman, and therefore the Land Re-form Commission by its act and deed of the sale virtually ter-minated the services of the workman who found himself wittoouthis job. It cannot be said as the Tribunal held, that the LandReform Commission cannot be considered to be legal owners and
therefore liable for termination of the services of the workman,
and that “ in view of the certain circumstances arising by theoperation of the law of the land ” the Land Reform Commissionwas not liable for the termination of the services of the workman.The Tribunal, in my view, gravely misdirected itself and tooreadily abandoned the strict principles of the labour laws ofthisi country to leave the workman without any relief. It waspossible for the Tribunal in the context of the provisions of theLand Reform Law to apply the yardstick of fairness after a fullinquiry into the facts and make a just and equitable order.There is no provision in the Land Reform Law to exempt theLand Reform Commission from the liabilities of the formerowner. On an examination of s. 42B (5) (a) there was a contractof service between the former owner and the workman and theowner was liable to all the obligations that flow from fair legalpractices. When these liabilities which were incidental to therunning of the estate were by statute transferred to the LandReform Commission it was the responsibility of the Commissionto fulfil the obligations to the workman which the labour lawsdemanded of the previous owner.
3iJ0 RAJARATNAM, J.—Ceylon Estate Staffs' Union v. Land Reform Commission
■ -The Land Reform Commission has not been exempted frommaking provisions for fair labour practices. It is specificallyprovided how compensation is payable to the previous owner. Itwas never the policy of the State .or the Law to allow the LandReform Commission to create conditions to deprive workmen oftheir work and throw them to the wolves. If there was a sale,the security of the services of the workmen had to be ensured by<fthe employer” into which definition the Land ReformCommission definitely came in and it was not allowed to theLand Reform Commission, because of the purposes for which theestate lands vested in the Commission may be used under s. 42H
, to dispose of estates regardless of the rights of workmen. Inthis case, it appears that there was no sale and if so it is all themore reason why the co-operative society to whom the estatewas handed over by the Land Reform Commission should havebeen tied to the condition that they continue the services of theworkmen.
It is unfortunate that the Land Reform Commission in thesecases had not the interest of the workmen as a foremost obli-gation on their part. They seem to have been regardless of theirinterest. The Land Reform Commission on whom the estatevested by operation of law with all the liabilities attached werein no better position than the previous owners and employers ofthe workman, and, as by their act, the services of the workmanwere terminated, they have incurred the same liabilities as anyother employer and are in no privileged position enjoying anyprivileged position or immunity from a just and equitable orderthat the Tribunal may after inquiry make. The Tribunaltherefore erred when they expressed sympathy towards theworkman and gave immunity to the Land Reform Commission.
I therefore send the record back holding that the Land ReformCommission is by law not freed from liability to a just andequitable order that the Tribunal may make after due inquiry.The Tribunal has jurisdiction to make any order it is normallyempowered to make in cases before it where the workman comesfor relief on the termination of his services. The appeal isaccordingly allowed with costs fixed at Rs. 105 payable by therespondent to the applicant. I
I also direct the Registrar to send the record hack forthwithto the Tribunal with a direction from this Court to hear ayiddetermine this application as expeditiously as possible} and alsothe connected application.
Gunasekera, J.—I agree.
THE CEYLON ESTATE STAFFS’ UNION, Appellant and LAND REFORM COMMISSION, Respon