PRINCIPAL TRICHUR ENGINEERING COLLEGE Vs. SREENIVASAN
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
PRINCIPAL, TRICHUR ENGINEERING COLLEGE
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(1.)THESE Original Petitions are being heard and disposed of by a common judgment. O. P. No. 407/91 is treated as the main petition and the fate of the rest of the petitioners (O. P. Nos. 5535 and 10009 of 1991) except O. P. No. 7219/90 will depend upon the outcome of the main petition, viz. O. P. No. 407/91, so that if O. P. No. 407/91 is allowed, O. P. Nos. 5535 and 10009/91 will stand allowed and if O. P. No. 407/91 is dismissed, O. P. Nos. 5535 and10009/91 also will stand dismissed. All the above Original Petitions, viz O. P. Nos. 407, 5535 and 10009/91, are filed by the respective petitioners therein challenging the order of the Authority constituted under the Minimum Wages Act making payment of the minimum wage applicable to employees employed in the Hostels attached to the respective colleges under the petitioners which is a scheduled employment. O. P. No. 7219/90 is at the instance of President of Medical College Hostel and Mess Employees Association for the issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the respondents 3 to 13 (Principal, Warden etc. of the Medical College, Kozhikode) to implement Ext. P4 notification G. O. Rt. No. 1292/86/lbr dated August 30, 1986 issued by the Govt. of Kerala under Section 3 of the Minimum Wages Act fixing minimum wages for employees attached to the Hostels in Colleges in the State, so that the petitioner in O. P. No. 7219/90 can succeed only if the rest of the petitions are dismissed. O. P. No. 407/1991 In this Original Petition, the petitioner, the Principal, Govt. Engineering College, Trichur prays for the issuance of a writ of certiorari to quash Ext. P1 order passed by the 19th respondent, the Deputy Labour Commissioner, Trichur, the Appellate Authority under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 in M. W. A. 13 of 1989. M. W. A. 13 of 1989 on the file of the 19th respondent herein was an application filed by one P. R. Sreenivasan and 17 others who are employed in the hostel attached to the Trichur Govt. Engineering College and who are respondents 1 to 18 in this Original Petition against the opposite party therein, the Principal, Trichur Govt. Engineering College, and the petitioner in this Original Petition under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 for arrears of minimum wages for the period from December, 1988 to May, 1989 (both months inclusive) amounting to Rs. 26,510/ -.
(2.)THE case of the respondents 1 to 18 was that they are employees of the hostel mess attached to the Trichur Govt. Engineering College in different categories such as cooks, kitchen helpers, suppliers, etc. that they are eligible to the minimum rates of wages payable to the employees employed in the employment in hostels in the State and that they are employees of the petitioner. They therefore prayed for a direction under Section 20 (3) of the Act for payment of difference in wages under the Minimum Wages Notification and the wages actually paid. The petitioner denying liability for payment, contended that respondents 1 to 18 are not employed by him and that the petitioner is the head of the institution directly run by the State Government and all employees working in the institution are appointed by the State Government based on the advice of the Public Service Commission or Employment Exchange, as the case may be, and that all regular employees are paid wages as fixed by the Government from time to time. It is further contended by the petitioner in the O. P. that respondents 1 to 18 did not produce any letter of appointment to substantiate their claims that they are employed by the petitioner and that the mess attached to the hostel is run by the students and food expenses are met by the students themselves on the basis of dividing system, that the students, for meeting certain additional work of casual nature, had engaged some casual labourers like respondents 1 to 18 on contract basis and their charges were met by the students from the mess fund pooled by them. It was also averred by the petitioner that there is a hostel council consisting of 21 elected student members to look after the affairs of the hostel mess which is assisted by a mess committee consisting of mess secretary, mess directors and some nominated members. The petitioner pointed out that the hostel council is the authority to take decision for appointing casual labourers and the wages of the casual labourers thus engaged by the hostel council are paid by the students themselves. In the result, the petitioner denied responsibility for paying minimum wages to respondents 1 to 18 and pleaded that he may be exonerated from any liability to pay minimum wages as demanded by respondents 1 to 18 as the petitioner is not the 'employer' of respondents 1 to 18 and hence not liable to meet the claim of the respondents and hence the application is liable to be dismissed.
(3.)A. W. 1-RESPONDENT No. 13 in this Original Petition who was one of the applicants before the Authority was examined on the side of the applicants. He deposed that:
"he and other 17 persons in the application are the employees in the hostel attached to Govt. Engineering College, Trichur, that he has 2 years' service in the hostel whereas others are having 2 to 14 years service. The hostel and hostel mess are being run by the college authorities. They were employed by the Warden of the hostel as per the instructions of the Principal of the college. The Warden is acting as the agent of the Principal. Therefore, the Principal of the college is the employer of the applicants who filed this application for the payment of difference between minimum wages payable under the notification and the wages actually paid to them. . . The averment in the counter statement of the opposite party that the applicants were not employed with the opposite party is not correct. The applicants have no employer-employee relationship with the mess committee. The mess committee is only a temporary arrangement made by the college authorities to run the hostel. The students will remit the mess bills and room rent in the hostel office. In cross, he deposed that he is the secretary of the union functioning among the hostel employees. He also deposed that the mess committee is elected every year. But the wages are paid to the applicants by Hostel Warden. No document is marked on the applicants' side. "
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