Decided on October 09,1953



Venkatarama Aiyar, J. - (1.) The substantial question that is raised in this application is whether it is competent to the Government to refer a dispute concerning wages to adjudication by a Tribunal under Section 10, In-Dustrial Disputes Act, 14 of 1947, after there had been a fixation of minimum wages under the provisions of the Minimum wages Act 11 of 1948. The petitioner is the South India Estate Labour Relations Organisation, an association representing 180 plantation estates in South India. On 25-9-1950 the Govt. of Madras appointed under Section 5(l)(b), Minimum Wages Act, a Committee for fixing minimum wages in plantation and acting on their report, fixed minimum wages by G.O. No. 1093 dated 20-3-1952 to take effect from 25-3-1952. While the above committee was carrying on its investigation, disputes arose between employers and employees in various estates. At a meeting of the staff of these estates held on 20-5-1951 a resolution was passed demanding an increase in the basic salary and dearness allowance and threatening, that in a case of non-compliance within fourteen days, a strike ballot would be taken. Vide Ex. A annexed to the reply affidavit in support of the petition. A copy of this resolution was sent to the owners of all the estates. On 7-6-1951 the petitioner replied that with a view to secure an agreed settlement the estates had agreed to accept the union as entitled to make demands and "failing redress, to proceed to secure adjudication by an Industrial Tribunal without further reference to this organisation"; and that therefore the union should withdraw the notice and work for settlement, Ex. B. To this, the union replied by Ex. C dated 146- 1951 that no action would be taken on their notice, Ex. A till 15-7-1951. Meantime on 10-6-1051, the Malabar District Estates Workers' Union passed a resolution demanding an increase in wages, Ex. P. The Government thereupon started conciliation proceedings and on 29-9-1951 the petitioner received notice that there would be a conference of the employer and employees on 16th and 17th October at Coonoor and on the 19th at Valparai. The parties met but failed to reach an agreement and on 6-11-1951 the Labour Commissioner sent his report Ex. G in which he stated "As the union is maintaining a sustained agitation over these matters, a settlement is possible only by adjudication." It was after this that the Government took action under Section 10(1)(c), Industrial Disputes Act, and referred the disputes to the adjudication of an Industrial Tribunal by G.O. No. 1240 dated 24-3-1952. The annexure sets out the matters so referred and they include fixation of wages for field workers, kole maistries, factory workers and pluckers; and bonus for the year 1949-50. On 25-6-1952 the Government issued a memorandum No. 59079 amending the reference dated 243- 1952 under G.O. No. 1240 by adding some more matters under annexure No. 2. In pursuance of these references the matter is now pending adjudlcation as Industrial Disputes No. 8 (special) 1952 before the Industrial Tribunal, Coimbatore. It is at this stage that the present application was filed for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the reference both under G.O. No. 1240 dated 243- 52 and under the memorandum dated 25-5-1952.
(2.) Mr. K. Rajah Aiyar, the learned advocate for the petitioner urged the following points in support of the petition: 1. The reference to the Industrial Tribunal in so far as it relates to fixation of wages is without jurisdiction as the same had been already fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, 11 of 1948; 2. The reference is incompetent in so far as it relates to maistries and kole maistries, as they are not workmen as defined under the Industrial Disputes Act 14 of 1947. 3. The reference in so far as it relates to bonus is bad as that had already been the subject of a settlement and there was no dispute about it. 4. The memorandum No. 59079 dated 25-6-1952 is illegal as it purports to amend G.O. No. 1240 dated 24-3-1952, there being no power in the Government to amend a reference. _ 1. This is the point that has been most strongly pressed upon us. The contention of Mr. K. Rajah Aiyar, the learned advocate for the petitioner is that the Industrial Disputes Act 14 of 1947 is a statute dealing with Industrial Disputes in general, whereas the Minimum Wages Act 11 of 1948 deals with one of the topics comprised therein; the fixation of wages in the trades specified in Part I of the schedule to the Act; that, being a later enactment dealing with a particular matter, Act 11 of 1948 supersedes 'eo extanti' the earlier enactment, Act 14 of 1947; and that fixation of wages cannot therefore be a matter of reference under the latter Act. The question for determination then is whether Act 14 of 1947 can be held to have been repealed by implication by Act 11 of 1948.
(3.) The rules of construction bearing on this point are well settled end may thus be stated: (1) Law does not favour repeal by implication and It is only in the last resort that courts hold that one enactment is repealed by another, even without express words. "A sufficient Act" ought not to be held to be repealed by implication without some strong reason" per Lord Bramwell in --'G. W. Rly. Co v. Swindon and Cheltenham Rly. Co.', (1884) 9 AC 787 at p. 809 (A). "Unless two Acts are so plainly repugnant to each other, that effect cannot be given to both at the same time, a repeal will not be implled as per A.L. Smith J. in -- 'Kutner v. Phillips'; l891-2 QB 267 at p. 272 (B). "If It is possible, it us my duty so to read the section as not to repeal of the earlier Act per Farwell J. in--Chance, In re', 1936 Oh 266 at p. 270 (C). Repeal by implication which, whenever it occurs, is the consequence of Inconsistent legislation, is never to be favoured and should not be Imputed to Parliament". Halsbury Laws of England, Vol. 31, page 561, para. 759 .(Hailsham's Edn.) (2) "If the provisions of a later Act are so Inconsistent with or repugnant to those of an earlier Act, that the two cannot stand together, the earlier stands impliedly repealed by the later. 'Leges Posteriores Priores contrarias abrog-ant'". Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 10th Edn., page 161. Vide also Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. 31, page. 561, para. 759. The following passages from the judgment of Dr. Lushington in 'The India', (1864) 33 LJ P. M. & Adm. 193 (D) contain what has become a classic statement of the law on the subject: "What words will establish a repeal by implication it is impossible to say from authority or decided cases. If, on the one hand, the general presumption must be against such a repeal on the ground that the intention to repeal, if any had existed would have been declared in express terms, so, on the other, it is not necessary that any express reference be made to the statute which is to be repealed. The prior statute would, I conceive, be repealed by implication if its provisions were wholly incompatible with a subsequent one; or if the two statutes together would lead to wholly absurd consequences; or if the entire subject-matter were taken away by the subsequent statutes.";

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