B N ELIAS AND CO PRIVATE LTD Vs. AUTHORITY APPOINTED UNDER THE PAYMENT OF WAGES ACT
HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA
B.N. ELIAS AND CO. PRIVATE LTD.
AUTHORITY APPOINTED UNDER THE PAYMENT OF WAGES ACT
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D.N.Sinha, J. -
(1.) The petitioner in this case is a Private Limited Company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act 1913. One of the businesses of the Company is carried on under the same and style of the "Empire Bone Mills", In the said business, the petitioner crushes raw bones at its bone mills at Bansberia in the District of Hoghly and sells the various products of such crushig. It is stated that by reason of the partition of India in 1947, the petitioner lost a large number of principal sources of raw bones situated in Pakistan and also had to face competition with other bone mills nearer to the sources of supply. As a result of shortage of raw materials, the petitioner had been compelled to discontinue the working of his mill and to lay off its workmen and finally in January 1958 the business was practically closed and the workmen retrenched. On or about 13th January, 1958, 92 of its workmen employed in the said bone milk were retrenched and compensation was paid under Section 25-F of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. On or about 9th of April, 1959 the respondent No. 2, Nirmal Kumar Bhattacharjee claiming to be an official of a registered Trade Union, who had been authorised in writing by sixty-five workers of the petitioner, under Sub-section (2), Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 made an application before the respondent No. 1, the Authority appointed under the said Act for the State of West Bengal, claiming that proper compensation and gratuity, due -. to retrenchment made on 13-3-1958 had not been paid to the said workers aggregating to a sum of Rs. 13,184-54 nP. Such an application was made under Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the said Act. The relevant provision is as follows:
"Where contrary to the provisions of this Act any deduction has been made from the wages of any employed person or any payment of wages has been delayed, such person himself or any legal practitioner, or any official of a registered Trade Union authorised in writing to act on this behalf, or any Inspector under this Act or any other person acting with the permission of the Authority appointed under Sub-section (1), may apply to such Authority for a direction under Sub-section (3); Provided that every such application shall be presented within six months from the date on which the deduction from the wages was made or from the date on which the payment of the wages was due to be made, as the case may be; Provided further that any application may be permitted after the said period of six months when the applicant satisfies the Authority that he has sufficient cause for not making the application within the said period."
(2.) Prima facie, the application was made out of time. The only excuse given for claiming exemption from the period of limitation was as follows:
"The applicant made protracted negotiations with the opposite party and through the Labour Commissioner for settlement without any effect and ultimately this case is to be filed before this Court. In the circumstances the applicant prays that the delay may kindly be condoned. (Annexure "B" and "C") (Copies of two letters to the Labour Commissioner are filed herewith. The applicant craves leave of the Court to file the originals and other correspondence at the time of hearing on point of condonation of delay.)"
(3.) The first letter, annexure "B" is dated 16th January, 1958 and is a copy of a letter supposed to have been sent by Nirmal Kumar Bhattacharji. describing himself as "Secretary", to the Assistant Labour Commissioner, sending him a list of workers who were retrenched by the Empire Bone Mills, Bansberia, on several dates including 13-3-1958. It is stated therein that the workers were paid 13 days' wages per year of service as compensation, in place of 15 days' wages as per the Industrial Disputes Act, and that the workers were also entitled to get gratuity as per certain awards mentioned therein. The second letter, annexure "C" is a copy of a letter written by one S. N. Dutta describing himself as ''Joint Secretary", to the Labour Commissioner, dated 31-12-1958. In that letter, it was stated that gratuity and retrenchment compensation had not been paid to the workmen. It was stated that instead of 15 days' wages for every year, only 13 days' wages were paid. I have already stated that the application was made on the 9th April. 1959. On 20-4-1959 the respondent No. 1 directed that a copy of the application was to be sent to the employers asking them to appear and state why the delay in filing the application should not be condoned. There is then the following direction:
"Ask the applicant to appear and show the original letter referred to in the explanation and ad-duce evidence in support of his contention. The order of O. P. showing, retrenchment of the workmen should also be produced. To 19-5-1959.";
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