1. These are two companion matters involving a common question as to the liability of the appellants, under the Payment of Wages Act, to pay compensation to certain workers on account of delay in the payment of their wages. In Second Appeal No. 727 the wages, which were payable on June 7, 1938, were paid on June 17, and in the other appeal they were payable on July 7, 1938, but were paid on July 15. The Junior Inspector of Factories and Inspector under the Payment of Wages Act thereafter applied to the Additional District Magistrate of Ahmedabad, who was the authority under the Act, for direction under Section 15 (3) of the Payment of Wages Act to pay compensation for delay in the payment of wages. The Magistrate, after hearing the case on the merits, directed that the opponents, who are the occupier and the manager of the factory in which the men were employed, should pay compensation, under Section 15 (3) of the Act, to each worker whose wages had been delayed.
2. Appeals were preferred by the opponents to the Assistant Judge at Ahmedabad. A preliminary objection was taken on behalf of the respondent that the appeals were not competent as the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation in each case did not exceed Rs. 300, and that therefore, no appeal lay as provided in Section 17 (1)(a) of the Act. That objection was upheld by the Assistant Judge and the appeals were dismissed.
3. The present appeals have been preferred against these orders. It is contended on behalf of the appellants that the appeals were competent inasmuch as the amount of the delayed wages, which were paid before the applications were presented together with the amount of compensation ordered to be paid exceeded the amount of Rs. 300 in each case. Under Section 17 (1)(a) the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation must exceed Rs. 300. As the amount of delayed wages had already been paid before the applications were preferred, the Magistrate could not and did not make any order about the payment of delayed wages, but simply awarded compensation at a certain rate. The amount of compensation did not exceed Rs. 300. Mr. Shah, however, argues that even though the delayed wages had been paid before the applications were preferred, the order made by the Magistrate must, for the purpose of Section 17 relating to appeal, be regarded as an order for the payment of delayed wages together with compensation. That argument is clearly untenable, because the section says that the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages as well as compensation must exceed Rs. 300, and no amount for wages was directed to be paid. In my opinion, therefore, the appeals to the District Court were not maintainable under Section 17 (1)(a).
4. It is, however, urged on behalf of the appellants that the trial Court, i.e. the Additional District Magistrate, had no jurisdiction to entertain these applications which were only for payment of compensation and not for payment of the delayed wages together with compensation. That point does not seem to have been urged before the trying Magistrate. In the memorandum of appeal to the District Court the point seems to have been taken, but it does not appear from the judgment of the lower appellate Court that it had been argued. However, as it is a point about the maintainability of the applications which goes to the root of the jurisdiction of the Court, I think it is open to the appellants to urge it here. I have, therefore, allowed the appellants to convert the two appeals into revisional applications subject to the payment of the balance of the necessary Court-fees.
5. Treating the appeals, therefore, as revisional applications, the question is whether the Magistrate had jurisdiction to entertain the applications for the payment of compensation alone. Under Section 15(2), where contrary to the provisions of the Act, any payment of wages had been delayed, the Inspector might apply to the authority constituted under the Act for a direction under Sub-section (3). That sub-section provides that when an application under Sub-section (2) is entertained, the authority shall hear the applicant and the employer, and, after such further inquiry as may be necessary, may direct the payment of the delayed wages, together with the payment of such compensation as the authority may think fit, not exceeding ten rupees. In my opinion, this sub-section means that the order for compensation could be passed along with the order for the payment of delayed wages; but where there could not be any order for the payment of delayed wages if they were paid before the application was made, I do not think it is open to the applicant to apply for a direction for the payment of compensation alone. Forms Nos. A, B and C in Appendix I to the Act also provide for an order of compensation to be . made along with the order for the payment of delayed wages. As I read Sub-sections (2) and (5) of Section 15, the legislature has not contemplated the case of an application for compensation alone. The application must be for the payment of delayed wages, and it is only in such an application that the authority: might pass an order for compensation along with the order for the payment of delayed wages. I can only say that if it was the intention of the Legislature that an application for compensation alone could be preferred after the payment of delayed wages, it has not used appropriate words in the section. The only construction that I can put on the section is that an order for compensation could be made along with the order for the wages, but not by itself, and that therefore an application for compensation alone is not competent. In my view, therefore, the Magistrate had no jurisdiction to entertain the applications for compensation.
6. I, therefore, set aside the orders of the Magistrate in both the cases, and make the rules absolute. There will be no order as to costs throughout.
7. The applicants must furnish deficit Court-fee stamp for converting the appeals into revision applications.