1. These two applications are filed as test cases against the orders of authority under the Minimum Wages Act, requiring the employer's advocate to affix court-fee stamp of Rs. 2 on his authorization before the authority. We are told there are a large number of matters pending before the authority against the very petitioners.
2. The short question is whether the authority under the Minimum Wages Act is a civil Court within the meaning of the word used in Art. 12, Sch. II, Bombay Court-fees Act, 1959, which requires a stamp of Rs. 2 on a vakalatnama or a mukhtyarnama when presented to any civil or criminal Court other then High Court, or to any revenue Court, or to any Collector, or Magistrate, or other executive of Wages Authority is neither a criminal Court nor a revenue Court an executive officer.
3. Section 20 of the Act enables the Government to appoint an authority before whom the claims arising under the Act could be pursued. The qualifications are provided therein and the Government is entitled to appoint any of the persons described there to be the authority to hear and decide all claims which arise under the Act. An employee is entitled to make an application before such authority either by himself or through a legal practitioner or any officer of a registered trade union, authorizing him in writing to act on his behalf. Even an inspector or any other person acting with the permission of the authority is entitled to apply to authority for a direction under Sub-section (3) of S. 20. The authority after hearing parties is an titled to make appropriate orders under Sub-section (3). Sub-section (4) enables the authority hearing the application to make an order against the applicant directing him to pay a penalty not exceeding Rs. 50 to the employer in case the application is found to be malicious or vexatious. By Sub-section (5) provision is made for recovery of the amounts directed to be paid under Sub-section (3). If the authority is a magistrate, then he is entitled to recover the same as a fine, and if he is not a magistrate, then on an application being made by the said authority to a magistrate, the magistrate may recover the amount as a fine. Sub-section (6) declares the order of the authority as final. Sub-section (7) defines the power of the authority and it is on this sub-section that reliance is placed on behalf of the respondent for contending that a vakalatnama or a representation filed before the authority is governed by the Court-fees Act.
Sub-section (7) of S. 20 is as follows :
'(7) Every authority appointed under Sub-section (1) shall have all the powers of a civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), for the purpose of taking evidence and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents and every such authority shall be deemed to be a civil Court for all the purposes of S. 195 and Chap. XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (5 of 1898).'
4. The provisions of this sub-section are similar to those which are very often made regarding tribunals of limited jurisdiction and it is intended to define the powers which are possessed by such an authority. But the very words of the section indicate that it is really not a civil Court at all but for the limited purposes mentioned therein it is to be deemed to be a civil Court. It is true that for the purposes for which it is to be deemed to be a civil Court, it must be regarded for all those purposes as a civil Court. Admittedly, the provisions cannot be taken further than that.
5. It is clear, therefore, that under the deeming provision it can be regarded as a civil Court for the purposes of S. 195 and Chap. XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is impossible, therefore, relying on this sub-section, to hold that the authority under the Minimum Wages Act is a civil Court. Sri Dharmadhikari relied upon the decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Keki Ardeshir Master v. A. G. Kotwal 1964 II L.L.J. 17 where it is held that an authority under the payment of Wages Act is a Court subordinate to the High Court for the purposes of Contempt of Courts Act, S. 5. Indeed if the general definition of a 'Court' had to be applied, even an authority under the Minimum Wages Act may be regarded as a Court. But the question is not whether it is a Court simpliciter, but a civil Court. In view of Sub-section (7) of S. 20, since it is deemed to be a civil Court for the limited purposes defined therein, except for the purposes of S. 195 and Chap. XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it is impossible to regard it as a civil Court in which case alone Art. 12 of Sch. II of the Bombay Court-fees Act, 1959, can apply.
6. Sri Dharmadhikari contends that the word 'civil' or 'criminal' is merely a descriptive word and nothing much depends upon the use of that word in Court-fees Act. To accept the contention will be to disregard the express words 'civil' and 'criminal' in reference to Court. If the legislature intended that the article should apply to every Court, then there was no special reason why the word 'civil' or 'criminal' should have been used before the word 'Court.'
7. It is impossible by construction to reduce the word 'civil' or 'criminal' to nothing or redundant, which as a Court of construction we are not entitled to do. Apart from this, this is a taxing statute, and unless a case is very clearly brought within its ambit, a person cannot be required to pay the tax.
8. It is possible to contend that though the rights that the authority decides are the creation of a statute, they may still be civil rights. Yet, it is difficult to say that merely because the authority decides what may possibly be termed civil rights, it becomes a civil Court within the meaning of the term used in Art. 12 of Sch. II to the Court-fees Act.
9. We are not satisfied that the case is covered by the provisions of the article. The authority was in error in demanding court-fees from the petitioner in respect of the document of authority in favour of the petitioner's advocate. We order accordingly.
10. The Petitions are allowed. Sri Shankar Anand does not press for his costs. In the result, there will be no order as to costs.