SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: BOMBAY)
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Gajendragadkar, J. -
(1.)When does an employer get a right to prefer an appeal against a direction made under sub-s. (3) of S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (4 of 1936) (hereinafter called the Act) That is the short question which arises for our decision in the present group of four appeals. The decision of this questions depends on the construction of S. 17 (1) (a) of the Act. In dealing with the question thus posed by the present group of appeals we will refer to the facts in Civil Appeal No. 75 of 1956, and our decision in it would govern the three remaining appeals.
(2.)Civil Appeal No. 75 of 1956 which has been brought to this Court by special leave arises from a dispute between the General Manager of the Times of India Press, Bombay, owned by Bennet Coleman and Co. Ltd. (hereinafter called the appellant) and some of the employees in his service (hereinafter called the respondents). In November 1953, 1066 applications were made by the Vice-President of the Times of India, Indian Employees Union on behalf of some of the respondents before Mr. C. P. Fernandes, the authority appointed under the Act in which a claim was made for arrears of increments alleged to have been withheld by the appellant from July 1, 1951 to September 30, 1953, as also for increased dearness allowance from January 1, 1953 to August 31, 1953. The authority dealt with the whole group of the said applications as a single application under S. 16 (3) of the Act, and held that the claim made by the respondents for increased dearness allowance was not justified. In regard to the claim of arrears of increments alleged to have been withheld the authority rejected the claim made by 761 employees and allowed the same in respect of 305 employees. In the result the order passed by the authority on 31-12-1954 directed the appellant to deposit Rs. 22,698 for payment to the said 305 employees.
(3.)The direction thus issued by the authority gave rise to two appeals before the Small Cause Court at Bombay which is the appellate authority appointed under the Act. Appeal No. 1 of 1955 was filed by the appellant while Appeal No. 187 of 1954 was filed by the respondent. Meanwhile the question about the extent of the right conferred on the employer to prefer an appeal by S. 17(1) (a) of the Act had been considered by the Bombay High Court in Laxman Pandu vs. Chief Mechanical Engineer, Western Railway, 57 Bom LR 399; and it has been held that under the said section the employer gets a right of appeal only if the order of the authority under this Act awards payment of an amount of Rs. 300 or more in respect of a single individual worker; the right does not exist if the order awards a sum exceeding Rs. 300 collectively to an unpaid group of workers every one of whom gets an amount under S. 300. Following this decision the appellant authority held that the appeal preferred by the appellant was incompetent and so dismissed it. The appellant then applied for an obtained special leave from this Court to prefer an appeal against the said appellate decision; and so the main point raised by the appeal is about the construction of S. 17(1) (a) of the Act.
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