Decided on June 06,1958

Cachar Cha Sramik Union Appellant
Manager, Martycherra Tea Estate And Anr. Respondents


G. Mehrotra, J. - (1.)THIS Rule was issued on an application tinder Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure and Article 227 of the Constitution. The petitioner is a registered trade union with its office at Silchar and has regular memberships of 520 workmen of Martycherra Tea Estate, and its out -garden Aenacherra Tea Estate. The opposite party No. 2 owns and runs a tea garden in Cachar named Martycherra Tea Estate, with an out -garden called Aenacherra Tea Estate, and the opposite party No. 1 is the ex -manager of the garden. The workmen were employed in the said tea garden on daily wage basis. Out of 520 workers of the garden, 284 were males, 210 females and 26 minors.
The manager was responsible for the payment of their wages, and the contention of the petitioner is that there was an implied contract under which besides the daily wages, the opposite party was liable to pay bonus twice a year - once during the Durga Puja and again at the time of Fague festival - -on the basis of the attendance of the workmen in the garden; and that the payment of bonus had no connection with the profit and loss of the garden. According to the petitioner, the management paid regularly the bonus, but during the relevant period they refused to pay the bonus.

Thereupon the petitioner was authorised by the workers in writing to make an application under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act to the Authority constituted under the said Act. The Deputy Commissioner, Cachar, who was the Authority constituted under the Act, heard the parties and came to the conclusion that the bonus came within the definition of the word 'wage' in the Act and directed payment of a sum of Rs. 3759/ - to the workers. The operative portion of the order of the Deputy Commissioner is in the following terms :

"The respondents are accordingly directed to pay the above sum to the Cachar Cha Sramik Union who are the applicants in this case, within a period of 2 months from the date of this order."

The opposite party went up in appeal under Section 17 of the Act to the District Judge who allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the Deputy Commissioner on the ground that the Payment of Wages Act did not apply to the present case and consequently no direction could be made under Section 15 of the Act.

(2.)IN the present petition, two points have been urged. Firstly, it is contended that no appeal lay to the District Judge, and his decision was without jurisdiction. Secondly, it is contended that the Payment of Wages Act applies to the present case, and the District Judge was not right in holding that the case fell outside the purview of the Act. Section 17 of the Payment of Wages Act provides as follows : - -
"Appeal. - -(1) An appeal against a direction made under Sub -section (3) or Sub -section (4) of Section 15 may be preferred, within thirty days of the date on which the direction was made, in a Presidency town before the Court of Small Causes and elsewhere before the District Court - -

(a) by the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages under Section 3, if the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation exceeds three hundred rupees or

(b) by an employed person, if the total amount of wages claimed to have been withheld from him or from the unpaid group to which he belonged, exceeds fifty rupees, or

(c) by any person directed to pay a penalty under Sub -section (4) of Section 15.

(2) Save as provided in Sub -section (1), any direction made under Sub -section (3) or Sub -section (4) of Section 15 shall be final."

The contention of the petitioner is that although one application was filed by the trade union, still it was for and on behalf of all the workers, and that although one direction was made for payment of Rs. 3000/ - and odd to the Union, in effect the direction was that different amounts were to be paid to each worker, and that as the amount which was to be paid to each of the workers did not exceed Rs. 300/ -, the employers had no right to come up in appeal.

Reliance was placed on the case of "Laxman Pandu v. Chief M. chanical Engineer, Western Railway" (A). In our opinion, the facts of that case are distinguishable. In that case, one application was made on behalf of 99 workers, but the direction which was given was for payment of different amounts to each of the workers separately, and under those circumstances it was held that even though the total amount exceeded Rs. 300/ -, the direction was for payment of less than Rs. 300/ -, and no appeal lay.

The following observation at page 283 of the report will make the whole thing clear:

"I do not look upon the order of the Authority in that light. The order of the Authority in substance is that the employer should pay to each employee the amount mentioned in the schedule, and the mere fact that the Authority aggregates those amounts and the result is a sum exceeding Rs. 300/ - does not lead to the inference that the order made was a composite order against the employer in respect of payment of a composite sum, but the direction clearly is to the employer to satisfy the separate individual claims of each employee mentioned in the schedule to the order."

In our opinion, therefore, there is no force in the first contention raised by the petitioner. The Madras High Court, in the case of "A.C. Arumugham v. Manager, Jawahar Mills Ltd., Salem Junction", AIR 1956 Mad 79 (B), has held, contrary to the Bombay High Court, that the appeal lies in the case. A preliminary point has been raised by the counsel for the opposite party that no revision lies under Section 115 of the C. P. Code. The argument is that the District Judge had jurisdiction to decide the question whether the case fell within the Payment of Wages Act or not, and even if his decision is wrong on a question of law, this Court will not exercise its revisional jurisdiction under Section 115 of the C. P. Code. Reliance has been placed on the case of "Keshardeo Chamria v. Radha Kissen Chamria (C). Particular emphasis is laid on the following observation at page 28 of the report:

"This speculation was hardly relevant in view of the case that he took. The Judge had jurisdiction to correct his own error without entering into a discussion of the grounds taken by the decree -holder or the objections raised by the judgment -debtors. We are satisfied, therefore, that the High Court acted in excess of its jurisdiction when it entertained an application in revision against the order of the Subordinate Judge, dated 25 -4 -1945 and set it aside in -exercise of that jurisdiction and remanded the case for further enquiry."

In that case, the Supreme Court was considering the applicability of Sub -clause (c) of Section 115 of the C. P. Code. The Privy Council decision in the case of "Joychand Lal Babu v. Kamalaksha Chaudhury (D) was quoted with approval. In that case, it was observed by the Privy Council as follows:

"There have been a very large number of decisions of Indian High Courts on Section 115, to many of which their Lordships have been referred. Some of such decisions prompt the observation that High Courts have not always appreciated that although error in a decision of a subordinate Court does not, by itself, involve that the subordinate Court has acted illegally or with material irregularity so as to justify interference in revision under Sub -section (c), nevertheless, if the erroneous decision results in the subordinate Court exercising a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or failing to exercise a jurisdiction so vested, a case for revision arises under Sub -section (a) or Sub -section (b), and Sub -section (c) can be ignored".

In the present case, the District Judge has not held that the bonus does not fall within the definition of the word 'wage'. The District Judge is of opinion that assuming that it falls within the definition of the word 'wage' under the Act, because the wage period in this case exceeded one month, under Section 4 of the Payment of Wages Act, such a case was excluded from the purview of this Act. The following observation by the District Judge will make this clear:

"The learned Authority has, after an elaborate discussion, held that the bonus in question is a 'wage' within the meaning of Section 2(vi) of the Payment of Wages Act. I do not consider it necessary to go into this question. The point is whether the Payment of Wages Act applies to this kind of bonus even if the same is regarded as 'wage'."

The District Judge, therefore, did not go into the question whether the payment of bonus came within the definition of the word 'wage' under the Act, or not. Mr. Ghose for the respondent has contended that bonus does not come within the definition of 'wage'. We do not think it proper to go into that question and give any decision on that point. The trial Court has taken pains and has discussed the matter fully, and as we propose to send back the case to the District Judge again for decision on all the other issues, it is not proper to prejudice his decision by giving our opinion on the point.
Coming to the main point on which the District Judge allowed the appeal. Section 4 of the Payment of Wages Act reads as follows:
"(1) Every person responsible for the payment of wages under Section 3 shall fix periods (in this Act referred to as wage -periods) in respect of which such wages shall be payable.

(2) No wage -period shall exceed one month."

Section 15 of the Act gives a right to a worker to apply to the Authority appointed under this Act for a direction in cases where any deduction has been made from his wages or if the payment which the petitioner claims is 'wage', and payment has been delayed. There is nothing in Section 15 which says that it will apply only to wages to respect of which the wage period is fixed within one month. There is nothing in Section 4, in our opinion, which suggests that if the wage -period in a particular case exceeds one month, such wage is taken out of the definition of the word 'wage' and that the Payment of Wages Act will not apply to such cases. Besides, in the present case, the petitioner represents workmen to whom the wages are to be paid daily, and the wage period does not exceed, in their case, a month. So far as this particular payment or bonus is concerned, it is to be paid to them twice a year; but that does not mean that they do not fulfil the category of a wage -earner under Section 4. In the case of "Managing Director, T. S. T. Company Ltd. v. R. Perumal Naidu, AIR 1958 Mad 25 (E), it was held that where the remuneration was calculated on the basis of wage periods extending over a month, the employees in receipt of wages so calculated are, if the quantum of wages payable to them is less than that provided by Section 1(6), not outside the enactment. The remuneration payable to a workman which is wage, as defined by Section 2(vi) of the Act, does not cease to be wages as so defined, merely because the wage period on the basis of which remuneration is calculated is a month. We are, therefore, of opinion that the District Judge was not right to hold that the present I provisions of the Payment of Wages Act did not apply, and on an erroneous decision has failed to exercise jurisdiction vested in him.

(3.)IN the result, therefore, we allow this revision, set aside the order of the District Judge and send back the case to him for decision on other issues but we make no orders as to costs.
Sarjoo Prosad, C.J.

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