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Tularam Manikrao Hadge v/s M/s. Sudarshan Paper Converting Works, Juni Mangalwari

    Writ Petition No. 571 of 2020

    Decided On, 21 September 2020

    At, In the High Court of Bombay at Nagpur

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ANIL S. KILOR

    For the Petitioner: Yash Venkatraman, Advocate. For the Respondent: None.



Judgment Text

Oral Judgment:1. A rejection of the petitioner’s application under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, (for short ‘of the Act, 1947’), by the Labour Court, Nagpur, vide judgment and order dated 29.07.2019, has been assailed by the petitioner in the present petition.2. The facts leading to the present petition are that the petitioner was working with the respondent scheduled employment “Printing Press”, to which provisions and schedule prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, are applicable.3. The petitioner had worked as a skilled worker in the respondent – Industry during the period from 11.08.1989 to 31.12.2013.4. In 2005, the petitioner filed a complaint ULPA No.2/2005, before the Industrial Court under the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971, claiming permanency.5. After filing of the said complaint, the petitioner was treated as a permanent employee by the respondent, which gave him a reason to withdraw the said complaint. The order of the learned Industrial Court dated 20.10.2006, reads thus:“Heard Complainant in person and with Advocate. Read para 5 of pursis at Exh.17 with Prayer Clause in complaint.Complaint having being already treated as permanent employee nothing remains in the complaint. The complaint is disposed. No costs.”6. However nonpayment of the wages of permanent employee, drove the petitioner to approach this Court by way of a Writ Petition No.3370/2007.7. In the reply to said writ petition a categorical statement had been made by the respondent that, the petitioner was working as a skilled worker, since 1989 and he was getting benefits of permanent employee.8. In the light of above referred statement, this Court, disposed of the said writ petition as withdrawn, vide order dated 05.06.2008, which is as under:“Learned counsel for the respondent Nos.1 and 2 makes a categorical statement that the petitioner is already made permanent and is working in that capacity since last 15 years. He further submits that whatever claim made by the petitioner is complaint before the Industrial Court is already given and, therefore, the complaint was rightly disposed of by the learned Industrial Court.In view of the above statement made by the learned counsel for the respondents, the learned counsel for the petitioner seeks leave to withdraw the petition.Leave granted.Writ petition stands disposed of as withdrawn.”9. Consequently on 21.08.2013, the respondent entered into an agreement under Section 2(p) of the Act, 1947, with the employees, in the light of the Notification dated 11.04.2007, pertaining to revised minimum rates of wages payable to the employees of the scheduled employment “Printing Press”, issued by the State Government.10. The petitioner, subsequent to this, tendered his resignation, citing a reason that despite of a statement made by the respondent before the learned Industrial Court and this Court that, the petitioner was a permanent employee, minimum wages have not been paid to him as per the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.11. Against the aforementioned backdrop, the petitioner again took resort to legal remedy by preferring an application under Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947, before the Labour Court, for grant of arrears of wages and bonus for the period 11.08.1989 to 31.12.2013, as a ‘fitter’.12. Except raising dispute as regards the quantum of amount, no denial to the applicability of the revised minimum rates of wages to the respondent, as per the Notification dated 11.04.2007, canvassed by the respondent in its written statement.13. A statement of arrears of wages and bonus filed subsequent to a statement filed along with the application under Section 33-C (2) by the petitioner, shows Rs.1,45,736.55 towards an amount due from the respondent.14. The learned Labour Court vide its judgment dated 29.07.2019, denied the relief to the petitioner, in these following words :“16. In the present case, the applicant has failed to prove his documents and notification. There is no pleading in application that on which basis determine the claim, also there is no in pleading as well as his evidence on affidavit what was his salary and last drawn salary. This Court is only executing court under Section 33-C(2) of I.D.Act. The applicant has failed to prove his case, he having perexisting right. Therefore, the above cited (supra) are applicable to the present case. In 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act there is no provision to claim for bonus amount. Admittedly, he availed leave 13 days, admitted in his cross examination he was received the amount of leave wages.17. Therefore, applicant has failed to prove his case, he was nothing per-existing right to adjudicate the claim. Therefore, this Court is of view that the application filed by applicant stands dismissed. Hence, I pass the following order.Order1. Application u/S.33-C(2) stands dismissed.2. No order as to costs.”15. I have heard Shri Yash Venkatraman, learned counsel for the petitioner. None for the respondent, though served and sufficient chances were given to appear and defend the case.16. Shri Venkatraman, learned counsel for the petitioner vehemently argues that, the claim for minimum wages can be filed under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act as it is a benefit computable. It is submitted that rates of minimum wages are fixed by notification and the petitioner is entitled to receive the same as a legal right. He argues that, however, the learned Labour Court by rejecting the application, failed to exercise jurisdiction.17. To substantiate his argument, he has placed his reliance on the judgment of the Hon’ble the Supreme Court of India, in the Case of Chief Mining Engineer M/s. East India Coal Company Limited vs. collary reported in AIR 1968 SCC 218. He further relies on the judgment of the Kerala High Court in the case of Deepak Photos and others Vs. State of Kerala reported in 2004 (L.L.N. 1119).18. He further argues that the Act, 1947, being a beneficial legislation and since an industrial dispute is not a civil proceeding filed under the provisions of the Civil Procedure of Code, strict rule of pleadings, is not applicable to an industrial dispute. By arguing so he prays for quashing of impugned judgment and order.19. To consider the contentions raised by the petitioner at the bar, I have gone through the record and carefully perused the relevant provisions and the judgments cited.20. The questions those emanate for consideration of this Court, against the aforestated backdrop, are as follows:“1. Whether the Labour Court, possesses jurisdiction under Section 33C(2)of the Act, 1947, to grant arrears of wages due under Minimum Wages Act, particularly where there is no dispute regarding the rates of wages and it is admitted by the parties that minimum rates of wages were fixed by the Government?2. Whether the strict rule pleadings is applicable to the Industrial disputes?”21. The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, enacted for the purpose to make provisions for the Investigation and settlement of Industrial Dispute, and for certain other purposes.22. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Banglore Water Supply and Sewerage Board vs. A Rajappa and others, reported in 1978 SCC 213, has observed thus:“18. To sum up, the personality of the whole statute, be it remembered, has a welfare basis, it being a beneficial legislation which protects labour, promotes their contentment and regulates situations of crisis and tension where production may be imperilled by untenable strikes and blackmail lock-outs. The mechanism of the Act is geared to conferment of regulated benefits to workmen and resolution, according to a sympathetic rule of law, of the conflicts, actual or potential, between managements and workmen. Its goal is amelioration of the conditions of workers, tempered by a practical sense of peaceful coexistence, to the benefit of both – not a neutral position but restraints on laissez faire and concern for the welfare of the weaker lot. Empathy with the statute is necessary to understand not merely its spirit, but also its sense.”23. At this juncture, it is germane to refer to Section 33- C(2) of the Act, 1947, which reads thus :“33C. Recovery of money due from an employer(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any money or any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money and if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be diecided by such Labour Court as may be specified in this behalf by the Appropriate Government.”24. The language of Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947, makes it clear that if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be decided by Labour Court.25. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Manganese Ore (India) Ltd. v. Chandi Lal Saha, 1991 Supp (2) SCC 465, has observed thus:“16. The third argument of Mr Sanghi based on the interpretation of Section 20 of the Act is again devoid of any force. This precise argument was considered by this Court in Town Municipal Council, Athani v. Presiding Officer, Labour Courts, Hubli and decided in the following terms: (SCR Headnote)“The Minimum Wages Act is concerned with the fixing of rates — rates of minimum wages, overtime rates, rates for payment of work on a day of rest — and is not intended for enforcement of payment of wages. Under Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act, in which provision is made for seeking remedy in respect of claims arising out of payment of less than minimum rates, or in respect of remuneration for days of rest, or for work on such days, or of wages at the overtime rates, the Authority is to exercise jurisdiction for deciding claims which relate to rates of wages, rates for payment of work done on days of rest and overtime rates. The power under Section 20(3) of the Minimum Wages Act given to the Authority dealing with an application under Section 20(1) to direct payment of the actual amount found due, is only an incidental power for working out effectively the directions under Section 20(1) fixing various rates under the Act. That is, if there is no dispute as to rates between the employer and the employee and the only question is whether a particular payment at the agreed rate is due or not, then Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act would not be attracted at all, and the appropriate remedy would only be either under Section 15(1) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, or under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act.”17. In the present case there was no dispute regarding the rates of wages and it is admitted by the parties that the minimum rates of wages were fixed by the Government of India under the Act. The workmen demanded the minimum wages so fixed and the appellant denied the same to the workmen on extraneous considerations. Under the circumstances the remedy under Section 20 of the Act was not available to the workmen and the Labour Court rightly exercised its jurisdiction under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.”26. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Chief Mining Engineer vs. Rameshwar and others (supra), has observed thus:“It is clear that the right to the benefit which is sought to be computed must be an existing one, that is to say, already adjudicated upon or provided for and must arise in the course of and in relation to the relationship between an industrial workman and his employer. Since the scope of sub-section 2 is wider than that of sub-section 1 and the sub-section is not confined to cases arising under an award, settlement or under the, provisions of Chapter VA. There is no reason to hold that a benefit provided by a statue or a Scheme made thereunder, without there being anything contrary under such statue of Section 33-C(2), cannot fall within sub-section 2.”27. In the case of Deepak Photos and others vs. State of Kerala and others (supra), the Kerala High Court, has held thus :“Finally it was argued that since a specific machinery is provided under the Minimum Wages Act, a petition under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act cannot be filed before the Labour Court. This issue was considered by this Court and the Apex Court in Hindi Prachar Press v. State of Kerala and others [1982 (1) L.L.N.358] and Manganese Ore (India) Ltd. v. Chandi Lal Saha and others [1991 (1) L.L.N. 304], and held that claim for minimum wages can be filed under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act as it is a benefit computable. Rates of minimum wages are fixed by notification and workers are entitled to receive the same as a legal right and service condition.”28. Thus from the above referred judgments it is clear that, the scope of sub-section (2) of Section 33-C is wider than that of sub-section (1) and the sub-section is not confined to cases arising under an award, settlement or under the, provisions of Chapter VA. Further more if there is no dispute as to rates between the employer and the employee and the only question is whether a particular payment at the agreed rate is due or not, then Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act would not be attracted at all, and the appropriate remedy would only be either under Section 15(1) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, or under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act.29. In the present matter there is no dispute that the revised rates of Minimum Wages are fixed by the notifications dated 11.4.2007, issued by the State Government. There is also no dispute that the petitioner is entitled to receive the said benefit of minimum wages and such benefit is computable, in the light of the provisions of Minimum Wages Act, and as per said notifications. And if such wages are not paid for which the petitioner is entitle, the remedy under Section 33-C (2) has been provided under the statute. Thus having considered the law as regards to the jurisdiction of the Labour Court under the provision of 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947 and undisputed facts referred above, I have no hesitation to hold that the learned Labour Court committed error in not exercising jurisdiction under section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947 and in observing that the Labour Court is merely an executing court under Section 33-C(2) of I.D.Act and further the applicant has failed to prove that he was having per-existing right.30. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of The Mumbai Kamgar Sabha, Bombay vs. M/s. Abdulbhai Faizullabhai and others, reported in 1976 SCC 832, has observed thus:“7. The substance of the matter is obvious and formal defects, in such circumstances, fade away. We are not dealing with a civil litigation governed by the Civil Procedure Code but with an industrial dispute where the process of conflict resolution is informal, rough-and-ready and invites a liberal approach. Procedural prescriptions are hand-maids, not mistresses of justice and failure of fair play is the spirit in which courts must view processual deviances. Our adjectival branch of jurisprudence, by and large, deals not with sophisticated litigants but the rural poor, the urban lay and the weaker societal segments for whom law will be an added terror if technical misdescriptions and deficiencies in drafting pleadings and setting out the cause title create a secret weapon to non-suit a party. Where foul play is absent, and fairness is not faulted, latitude is a grace of processual justice.”31. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Management of Borpukhurie Tea Estate vs. The Presiding Officer, Industrial Tribunal, Assam and another, reported in 1978 SCC 667, has observed thus:“7. The courts charged with the duty of administering justice have to remember that it is not the form but the substance of the matter that has to be looked to and the parties cannot be penalised for inadvertent errors committed by them in the conduct of their cases. The following observations made by this Court in Western India Match Company Ltd. v. Their Workmen are apposite in this connection :Again, as in most questions which come before the Courts, it is the substance which matters and not the form ; and every fact and circumstance relevant to the asertainment of the substance deserve careful attention.8. It is equally important for the courts to remember that it is necessary sometimes in appropriate cases for promotion of justice to construe the pleadings not too technically or in a pedantic manner but fairly and reasonably.”32. Having considered the above referred judgments it is clear that the Act 1947, being a beneficial legislation which protects labour, promotes their contentment and regulates situations of crisis. The mechanism of the Act is geared to conferment of regulated benefits to workmen and resolution, according to a sympathetic rule of law, of the conflicts, actual or potential, between managements and workmen. Moreover an industrial dispute where the process of conflict resolution is informal, rough-and-ready and invites a liberal approach. Procedural prescriptions are hand-maids, not mistresses of

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justice and failure of fair play is the spirit in which courts must view processual deviances.33. Hon’ble the Supreme Court of India, in the above referred judgments, further observes that our adjectival branch of jurisprudence, by and large, deals not with sophisticated litigants but the rural poor, the urban lay and the weaker societal segments for whom law will be an added terror if technical misdescriptions and deficiencies in drafting pleadings and setting out the cause title create a secret weapon to non-suit a party.34. Thus Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, held that in industrial disputes it is not the form but the substance of the matter that has to be looked to and the parties cannot be penalised for inadvertent errors committed by them in the conduct of their cases.35. In view of that matter, since, the Act, 1947, is beneficially legislation and strict rule of pleadings is not made applicable, as applicable to the suits filed under the provisions of the Civil Procedure of Code, I am of the firm view that rejection of the application under Section 33-C(2) on the ground that no sufficient pleadings were made by the petitioner, is erroneous.36. Having made above observations, I am of the firm view that the impugned judgment and order passed by the Labour Court dated 29.07.2019 in IDA Case No.27/2014, needs to be set aside.37. Accordingly, the petition is partly allowed.38. The judgment and order dated 29.07.2019 passed in IDA Case No.27/2014, by the Presiding Officer, First Labour Court, Nagpur, is set aside and the matter is remanded back to the Labour Court, Nagpur, to decide the same afresh after hearing both the parties and by keeping in view the law discussed herein above.39. The Labour Court is directed to consider the application if any filed by the parties for amendment or for adducing additional evidence in support of their respective claim, on its own merit. No order as to costs.
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