SREEDHARAN NAIR Vs. SANKU SREEDHARAN
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
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(1.) The failure to take a closer look at the law by counsel at the earlier stages of a case, particularly when the application of the law depends on determination of questions of fact, is almost decisive of the fate of a case in many instances. The present revision petition is, perhaps, an instance in point; for, out of three points raised, two are pure questions of fact and have been concurrently negatived by the original and appellate authorities and the third, which is a question of law affecting jurisdiction but turning on factual findings; has not been considered by either tribunal at the lower level obviously because it has not been raised before them. May be I am inclined to think, clearly, because there is no merit or point on the facts.
(2.) The revision - petitioner is the opposite party before the Payment of Wages Authority, being the contractor of Toddy Shop No. 28 in Pampady village under whom the respondents, tappers, had been employed. The claim put forward by the tappers was that there had been delay in payment of certain items of wages due to them in the latter half of 1962-63. A substantial part of the claim put forward has been upheld, and the Toddy Shop contractor has chosen to come up in revision. He contends that the entire claim had been settled at Rs. 300/- when there was a strike by the tappers and the Excise Inspector intervened to end the strike. His further case is that this amount of Rs. 300/-, which has been actually paid off by CPW. 2, was the only amount that could be claimed or decreed, even if the plea of payment was not accepted. The tappers, on the other hand, agree that there was some sort of a settlement but do not agree that it was at Rs. 300/- that the claim was settled and stoutly deny any payment. The appellate authority who affirmed the findings of the Labour Court (which is the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act hereinafter referred to as the Act), held that it was "well nigh impossible to believe" the story of payment without a voucher, and on the alternative case that even if the amount had not been paid nothing more than Rs. 300/-was claimable, the learned District Judge observed as follows:
"In the absence of cogent and reliable proof regarding the settlement and the terms thereof, I am unable to accept the argument that the substance of the settlement was an unconditional settlement at Rs. 300/-, and that payment of this amount was left to the sweet will and pleasure of CW. 1."
Both these points are pure questions of fact and however strenuous the submission may be regarding the misappreciation of the evidence, it is not possible for me to accede to the invitation to reopen findings of fact under S.115 of the Civil Procedure Code. I therefore decline the invitation to lift the veil and look beneath to ascertain whether the findings of fact are stricken with gross errors.
(3.) The learned District Judge proceeds to state that "no other point was urged", but the learned counsel for the revision petitioner has pressed before me a point put forward in his grounds, couched in the following terms:
"The Payment of Wages Authority and the lower appellate court ought to have found that bonus and preparation charges of trees cannot form the subject of an application under S.15 of the Payment of Wages Act (Act IV of 1936) and to that extent the courts below had exceeded the jurisdiction vested in them by law."
Although a contention vaguely on the same lines has been indicated in the statetment of the opposite party he has not let in acceptable evidence nor has he pressed such a contention before the Labour Court and the District Court. Whether "preparation charges" and "bonus" could be components in the concept of wages as defined in S.2(vi) of the Payment of Wages Act (Act IV of 1936) very much depends on whether these two claims are payable, expressly or impliedly, under the terms of employment. Essentially, the foundation has to be sought on the facts of each case for the application of the definition. In this case, no such foundation has been built and the contention must, therefore fail.;
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