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Madhya Pradesh Mineral Industry Association Vs. the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) Civil Lines, Nagpur and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMisc. Petn. No. 476 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1958Bom332; (1958)60BOMLR489; ILR1959Bom188
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 226 and 258; Minimum Wages Act, 1948 - Sections 2, 3 and 3(1); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908; Indian Companies Act - Sections 26 and 26(3); Factories Act, 1948 - Sections 7(1); Employees' Provident Funds Act
AppellantMadhya Pradesh Mineral Industry Association
RespondentThe Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) Civil Lines, Nagpur and ors.
Appellant AdvocateA.S. Bobde, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateW.B. Pendharkar, Spl. Govt. Pleader
Excerpt:
.....i, entry 8--whether application of entry no. 8 limited to particular business or occupation of stone breaking or stone crushing as an occupation--meaning of words 'employment' and 'stone' in entry no. 8--act whether applies to persons employed in stone breaking and crushing operations carried on at manganese mines.;the minimum wages act, 1948, applies to persons employed in stone breaking and stone crushing operations carried on at manganese mines.;the word 'employment' in entry no. 8 in part i of schedule a to the minimum wages act, 1948, is used in its general sense of the action of employing or the state of being employed and not with reference to any particular trade, business or occupation.;the word 'stone' in entry no. 8 in part i of schedule a to the minimum wages act, 1948,..........to the applicability of the provisions of the minimum wages act, 1948, to persons employed in stone breaking and stone crushing operations carried on at the mines. the petition is moved at the instance of a limited liability, non-profit-making company registered under section 26 of the indian companies act. the petitioner claims to represent its 65 associated members owning 230 manganese mines, and since the question raised is one of the applicability of the act to the industry as a whole, we have permitted the petitioner to move the petition though no right special to the petitioner has been shown to be infringed. moreover, the respondents did not object at the hearing to the petitioner being allowed to represent its members without any particular injury, or infringement of right.....
Judgment:

S.P. Kotval, J.

1. In this petition is raised a question of importance to the manganese mining industry. The question raised relates to the applicability of the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, to persons employed in stone breaking and stone crushing operations carried on at the mines. The petition is moved at the instance of a limited liability, non-profit-making Company registered under Section 26 of the Indian Companies Act. The petitioner claims to represent its 65 associated members owning 230 manganese mines, and since the question raised is one of the applicability of the Act to the industry as a whole, we have permitted the petitioner to move the petition though no right special to the petitioner has been shown to be infringed. Moreover, the respondents did not object at the hearing to the petitioner being allowed to represent its members without any particular injury, or infringement of right being made out.

2. The facts upon which the petition is founded lie within a short compass. The Minimum Wages Act (XI of 1948) came into force on 15th March, 1948. Section 2(b) read with Section 3 of the Act gives the Central Government the power to make notifications in regard to any scheduled employments in mines to which the Act should apply, but the President acting under his powers under Article 258 of the Constitution has delegated his powers to the State Government by a notification No. S.R.O. 2052, dated 11th December, 1951. Acting under that delegation, the then State of Madhya Pradesh (now represented by the State of Bombay, respondent No. 2) issued a notification No. 352-257-XXIII on 30th March, 1952, adding an entry in the Schedule to the Act and so the provisions of the ACT came to be applied to 'employment in stone breaking or in stone crushing operations carried on in mines'. It was the petitioner's case that in pursuance of this notification,

'respondent No. 1 has now threatened large scale prosecution on the footing that the Act is made applicable to the manganese mining industry and his officers have been purporting to inspect various mines of the petitioner's members and point out alleged contraventions of the Act'.

3. Before we state the question that is raised, it would be appropriate to refer to certain provisions of the Minimum Wages Act. Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act runs as follows :

'3. Fixing of minimum rates of wages --(1) The appropriate Government shall, in the manner hereinafter provided.-

(a) fix the minimum rates of wages payable to employees employed -

(i) in an employment specified in Part I of the Schedule at the commencement of this Act, before the 31st day of December, 1954:

(ii) in an employment specified in Part II of the Schedule at the commencement of this Act, before the 31st day of December, 1954;

Provided that the appropriate Government may, instead of fixing minimum rates of wages under this sub-clause for the whole State, fix such rates for a part of the State or for any specified class or classes of such employment in the whole State or part thereof; and

(iii) in an employment added to Parti I or Part II of the Schedule by notification under Section 27, before the expiry of one year from the date of the notification;

(b) review at such intervals as it may think fit, such intervals not exceeding five years, the minimum rates of wages so fixed and revise the minimum rates, if necessary.'

The word 'employer' is defined in Section 2(e) as follows:

' 'employer' means any person who employs, whether directly or through another person, or whether on behalf of himself or any other person, one or more employees in any scheduled employment in respect of which minimum rates of wages have been fixed under this Act, and includes, except in Sub-section (3) of Section 26,--

(i) in a factory where there is carried on any scheduled employment in respect of which minimum rates of wages have been fixed under this Act, any person named under Clause (f) of Sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Factories Act, 1948 (LXIII of 1948), as manager of the factory;

(ii) in any scheduled employment under the control of any Government in India in respect of which minimum rates of wages have been fixed under this Act, the person or authority appointed by such Government for the supervision and control of employees or where no person or authority is so appointed, the head of the department;

(iii) in any scheduled employment under any local authority in respect of which minimum rates of wages have been fixed under this Act, the person appointed by such authority for the supervision and control of employees or where no person is so appointed, the chief executive officer of the local authority;

(iv) in any other case where there is carried on any scheduled employment in respect of which minimum rates of wages have been fixed under this Act, any person responsible to the owner for the supervision and control of the employees or for the payment of wages.' 'Scheduled employment' is defined in Section 2(g) as follows :

' 'scheduled employment' means an employment specified in the schedule, or any process or branch of work forming part of such employment.' Entry No. 8 in Part I of Schedule A appended to the Act was in the following terms: 'Employment in stone breaking or stone crushing.' By a notification No. 352-257-XXIII, dated 30th March, 1952, however, the then State Government of Madhya Pradesh fixed the minimum rates of wages in respect of this particular employment, mentioned as 'employment in stone breaking or in stone crushing operations carried on in the mines'. It may here be stated that the vires of this notification, though challenged in the petition, was not challenged before us, and therefore the only question that remains is one of interpretation of the relevant provisions of the entry introduced by the notification we have reproduced above.

(4-5) It will be noticed that nowhere in the Act is the word 'employment' as such defined, but what was submitted on behalf of the petitioner was that reading the new entry in Schedule A along with the definition of 'employer' in Section 2(e) and the definition of 'schedule employment in Section 2(g), the application of the entry would necessarily be limited to the particular business or occupation of stone breaking or stone crushing as an occupation. In other words what was argued was that so far as any person was employed by an employer whose principal business was manganese mining, even though the employee may actually be breaking or crushing stones, he would still be employed in the mining industry and not in stone breaking or stone crushing. It was urged that what the Court should look at is the substantial category of employment and not to the processes that may be involved in it.

6. Now, the definition of the word 'employer' would bring within its ambit any person, who, directly or through another person, or whether on behalf of himself or any other person, employs one or more employees in any scheduled employment, and the subsequent Clauses (i) to (iv) of the definition also refer back to the definition of 'scheduled employment' in Section 2(g) and the definition of 'scheduled employment' in Section 2(g) once again refers back to Schedule A. Therefore, it appears to us that the petitioner cannot derive much assistance from a reference to Section 2(e) and 2(g) because in any event those definitions are with reference to the particular employment mentioned in the Schedule.

7. Turning to the entry, what is contended is that those persons, who are engaged in stone breaking and stone crushing in mines, are really employed in manganese production and not in stone crushing or stone breaking as an employment. The entry refers to the particular trade, occupation or business of stone breaking or stone crushing, and it is urged that it cannot possibly be held that those employees, who are really engaged in the production of manganese, can be said to have employment in stone breaking or stone crushing.

8. We have already indicated that the word 'employment' is nowhere defined in the Act, and, therefore, we can only turn to consider the ordinary meaning of the word. In the Shorter Oxford Dictionary the word 'employment' is defined as follows:

'The action of employing; the state of being employed.' No doubt, there is a secondary meaning attached to the expression and that is 'that on which (one) is employed; business; occupation; a commission'. Having regard to the intention of the statute and to its object, to which we shall presently advert, it seems to us that the word 'employment' used in the entry was used in its most general sense of 'the action of employing or me state of being employed' and not with reference to any particular trade, business or occupation.

9. We would also point out that in the preceding entries in Part I of Schedule A, i.e., entries 1 to 6, the word 'any' always qualifies the particular occupation or business referred to in those entries where the particular occupation was intended to be emphasized, for instance, 'any woollen carpet making or shawl weaving establishment'; 'any tobacco manufactory ; 'any oil mill' and so on, but in the disputed entry the words are not employment in any stone breaking or stone crushing operations, but the words used are 'employment in stone breaking or in stone crushing operations ....' It is impossible to avoid the generality of the terms of this clause. If it had been intended to limit the operation of clause to any particular trade or industry or any particular operations, it would have been so indicated.

10. The expression 'employment' is not conterminous with 'business', and it seems to us that in a particular business there may be several classes or categories of employment. For instance, in the business of manganese mining there may be several categories of employments e.g. diggers, persons transportingmanganese either by trolley or by head loads, shotfirers, watchmen, Sardars or supervisors, engineers and persons employed in stone crushing or stone breaking after the ore is out of the mine. The intent of the law appears to be to provide for payment of minimum wages to this last named category of employment in whatever business it may be.

11. Then it was urged that the entry merely refers to stone breaking or stone crushing, and that if employees are engaged in breaking or crushing manganese ore, that would not amount to breaking up or crushing up any stones. It was urged that manganese ore cannot be 'stone' within the meaning of the entry. Here again, the word has not been defined and we can, therefore, only turn for guidance to the general meaning of the word. The word 'stone' has been defined in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary as 'a piece of rock or hard mineral substance (other than metal) of a small and moderate size'. Therefore, a piece of pure metal would not partake of the nature of a stone, nor, in our opinion, would a small piece of stone containing some quantity of metal or mineral, for that reason, cease Ho be a stone, In the case before us it may be that in most of the pieces, which have been broken or crushed, there is a considerable amount of an element of metal, viz., manganese. The pieces, that are being broken up, would nonetheless be stones although containing some element of metal. We are of the opinion that the word 'stone' includes pieces of manganese ore. Any other interpretation of the word 'stone' in the entry would lay the door open for a set of definitions which would make me entry almost impossible to apply in most of the cases for which the legislature intended to provide.

12. The Minimum Wages Act is obviously a piece of social legislation passed with the beneficent object of ameliorating the conditions of the worker in stated employments and assuring to him a minimum wage. It behoves us to bear in mind this intention of the legislature in our duty to interpret the statute and so 'to suppress the mischief and advance the remedy', contemplated by the law. The word 'employment' and the word 'stone' occurring in the disputed entry are nowhere defined, and having regard to the intent and purpose of the statute, it seems to us that the construction we have placed above is the correct one.

13. Mr. A.S. Bobde on behalf of the petitioner then referred to a decision in Oudh Sugar Mills Ltd. v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Bombay, : (1957)IILLJ654Bom (A), to which one of us (Mr. Justice Tambe) was a party. That was a decision wherein the only question was whether the manufacture of tin containers fell within the entry 'electrical, mechanical or general engineering products' contained in the Schedule to the Employees' Provident Funds Act, and while Mr. Justice Mudholkar took the view that in interpreting the entry it is theprincipal object of the industry that should be considered and only a process which is related to the principal object of the industry can come under the Schedule, my learned brother held that in order to fall within the entry in the Schedule a manufacturing process need not be one which goes on in the entire premises of the factory but it may go on in any portion of it and yet he held to be one which falls within the Schedule. If the view that my learned brother took in that case were to be applied in the present case, it would be contrary to the contentions of the petitioner, but we do not think that that decision applies here. It cannot be a safe guide to the decision of the question before us because the provisions of the two statutes are not in pari materia.

14. In the result, therefore, the petitionfails and is dismissed with costs. The rule is discharged.

15. Petition dismissed.


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