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Sitaram Ramcharan and ors. Vs. M.N. Nagrashna and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSpecial Civil Appln. Nos. 285 and 348 of 1954
Judge
Reported inAIR1954Bom537; (1954)56BOMLR930; ILR1954Bom1389; (1954)IILLJ703Bom
ActsPayment of Wages Act, 1936 - Sections 15, 15(2), 15(3) and 17; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 47, 115 and 244; Constitution of India - Articles 226 and 227; Limitation Act, 1908 - Sections 5 and 14; Factories Act - Sections 50, 51 and 54; Shops and Establishments Act, 1948 - Sections 70; Conveyancing Act, 1881; Transfer of Property Act - Sections 114; Workmen's Compensation Act
AppellantSitaram Ramcharan and ors.
RespondentM.N. Nagrashna and anr.
Appellant AdvocateV.M. Tarkunde, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateB.J. Diwan, Adv. in C.A. No. 285, ;P.P. Khambata and ;V.B. Patel, Advs. in C.A. No. 348
Excerpt:
labour and industrial - wages - sections 50, 51 and 54 of factories act, section 70 of shops and establishments act, 1948 and sections 15, 15 (2), 15 (3) and 15 (7) of payment of wages act, 1936 - petitioners failed to raise claim for wages under factories act for reason of ignorance regarding applicability of act - subsequently filed time barred application for wages relying on subsequent high court's decision - ignorance of law cannot constitute sufficient cause for condonation of delay - said legal principle rendered application inadmissible - held, time barred application rejected. - - admittedly, the claim was made in respect of most of the wages six months beyond their becoming due, and as under section 15(2), payment of wages act, a claim made after six months is barred, it.....chagla, c.j.1. these two petitions are on behalf of the employees of the watch and ward department, in one case of the rohit mills, ahmedabad, and in the other case of the rajnagar spinning, weaving & , ahmedabad. these employees made an application on 23-9-1953, to the authority under the payment of wages act for payment of wages which according to them had been delayed; and in the case of the rohit mills the claim was with regard to wages from 1-1-1951, to 31-12-1952, and with regard to the other mill the claim was with regard to wages from 1-1-1951, to 30-6-1953; the basis of the claim was that the lights of these employees were governed by the factories act and under the provisions of the factories act, inasmuch as they had worked more than eight hours a day, they were entitled to.....
Judgment:

Chagla, C.J.

1. These two petitions are on behalf of the employees of the Watch and Ward Department, in one case of the Rohit Mills, Ahmedabad, and in the other case of the Rajnagar Spinning, Weaving & , Ahmedabad. These employees made an application on 23-9-1953, to the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act for payment of wages which according to them had been delayed; and in the case of the Rohit Mills the claim was with regard to wages from 1-1-1951, to 31-12-1952, and with regard to the other mill the claim was with regard to wages from 1-1-1951, to 30-6-1953; The basis of the claim was that the lights of these employees were governed by the Factories Act and under the provisions of the Factories Act, inasmuch as they had worked more than eight hours a day, they were entitled to overtime due.

Admittedly, the claim was made in respect of most of the wages six months beyond their becoming due, and as under Section 15(2), Payment of Wages Act, a claim made after six months is barred, it was incumbent upon the petitioners to satisfy the Authority that they had sufficient cause for not making the claim within time, The Authority came to the conclusion that the petitioners had failed to show sufficient cause, and therefore in the case of the Rohit Mills he dismissed the application of the petitioners and in the case of the other mill he dismissed the bulk of the claim made by the employees. It is against this decision of the Authority that the petitioners have come to this Court under Arts. 226 and 227.

2. In the first place, a preliminary objection is taken that the petitioners should have preferred an appeal as provided by the Act and should not have come under Arts. 226 and 227 to this Court. In our opinion there is no substance in that contention. As has been pointed out in -- 'Prem Narayan v. D. T. M. Bhusawal', : (1953)IILLJ334Bom , the scheme of the Payment of Wages Act is that an application for payment of wages is only entertained under Sub-section (3) of Section 15, Payment of Wages Act, after it has been admitted on sufficient cause being shown if it is presented after the period of limitation laid down in Sub-section (2). The section relating to appeals, viz. Section 17, only makes a direction under Sub-section (3) given by the Authority appealable.

Now, a direction under Sub-section (3) would be a direction on merits after the application was entertained, but in this case the direction given by the Authority is not on merits and not falling under Sub-section (3), but it is a decision under Sub-section (2) holding that the applicants had failed to show sufficient cause for not filing the application within time. Such an order is not made appealable under Section 17. Therefore, the only remedy that the petitioners had to challenge the decision of the Authority was by coming to this Court under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution.

The petitioners could not also have come to this Court under Section 115, Civil P. C., because a Division Bench of this Court in--'Spring Mills, Ltd. v. G. D. Ambekar AIR 1949 Bom 188 (B) has held that the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act is not a Court subordinate to this Court and therefore this Court has no revisional powers over the Authority under Section 115, Civil P. C.

3. Coming to the merits of the matter, it appears that Section 70, Shops and Establishments Act, which was passed in 1948 provided:

'Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to apply to any person employed in or within the precincts of a factory and the provisions of the Factories Act shall, notwithstanding anything in the said Act, apply to such persons.'

Now, under the Factories Act the petitioners would not have satisfied the definition of 'worker', but Section 70, Shops and Establishments Act, 1948, extended the operation of the Factories Act and made the Factories Act applicable to persons working in the precincts of a factory, and as admittedly the petitioners worked within the precincts of the two mills, by reason of the extension of the Factories Act the provisions of the Factories Act became applicable to them.

This had some very important consequences as far as the petitioners were concerned, because when we turn to the Factories Act we find that under Section 51 'no adult worker shall be required or allowed to work in a factory for more than 48 hours in any week', and under Section 54 'no adult worker shall be required or allowed to work in a factory for more than nine hours in any day', and Section 50 provides for extra wages for overtime and it provides:

'Where a worker works in a factory for more than nine hours in any day or for more than forty-eight hours in any week, he shall, in respect of overtime work, be entitled to wages at the rate of twice his ordinary rate of wages.'

Inasmuch as according to the petitioners they had been working nine hours a day and 54 hours a week, they became entitled to wages of overtime, and this is the claim they made in the application which was dismissed by the Authority.

4. Now, although it seems that Section 70, Shops and Establishments Act, is clear in its terms, for some reason which it is difficult to understand, the petitioners were not aware of the provisions of this section. Their ignorance went to this length that they actually approached the Industrial Court for sanction of a change of conditions of service on the assumption that the Factories Act did not apply to them and therefore their conditions should be approximated to those workers to whom the Factories Act was applicable. Their Claim for a change was resisted by the employers also on the assumption that the Factories Act did not apply to them, and the Industrial Court gave an award making some changes favourable to the petitioners on 23-11-1950, also on the assumption that the Factories Act did not apply.

In November 1951 an application was made by the workers of some other mill for wages on the basis of the Factories Act, and the Authority gave his decision in November 1951 holding that by reason of Section 70, Shops and Establishments Act, the members of the staff of the Watch & Ward Department were governed by the Factories Act. This decision was taken into appeal and the appellate Court, which was the Small Causes Court, gave its decision on 2-5-1952, upholding the view of the Authority, and according to the petitioners it Avas only when this decision was given that they became aware of their rights and after some correspondence which the Union conducted with the Minister for Labour, with the Factory Inspector and with the Mill-Owners' Association they ultimately filed their claim for delayed wages on 23-9-1953, and the sufficient cause that they pleaded for not making the claim within time was ignorance of the legal provisions which gave them the right to claim these wages, and the Authority has held that ignorance of law cannot constitute sufficient cause to condone the delay on the part of the petitioners to make their application for payment of wages, and it is this decision that is being challenged by the petitioners.

5. It is urged by Mr. Tarkunde that the proviso to Section 15(2), Payment of Wages Act, confers a very wide discretion upon the Authority to condone de-lay and that the Authority has erroneously put letters upon his own discretion by following certain legal principles which according to Mr. Tarkunde are not sound and thereby has failed to exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon him by the Legislature. Mr. Tarkunde says that if the Legislature confers a discretion upon a judicial authority and if the Legislature does not indicate any limitation upon that discretion, nor does it suggest the way in which that discretion should be exercised, no Court and no Authority can, by laying down any legal principle, set up rules to fetter the discretion wlu'ch has got to be exercised under the law without any limitation by the person upon whom the discretion has been conferred.

Mr. Tarkunde's grievance is that in this particular case the Authority has not exercised his own discretion, he has not considered all the circumstances of the case, but he has merely followed certain judicial decisions and has taken the view that he is bound by those judicial decisions, and according to these judicial decisions ignorance of law does not constitute sufficient cause and therefore he could not give relief to the petitioners.

6. In support of this contention very strong reliance is placed by Mr. Tarkunde upon an observation of Lord Loreburn in a decision of the House of Lords reported in -- 'Hyman v. Rose 1912 AC 623 (C), which has been cited with approval by the Supreme Court in -- 'Namdeo Lokman v. Narmadabai', : [1953]4SCR1009 . The observations are at p. 631. This is what Earl Loreburn L. C. says:-

'I desire in the first instance to point out that the discretion given by the section is very wide. The Court is to consider all the circumstances and the 'conduct' of the parties. Now it seems to me that when the Act is so express to provide a wide discretion, meaning, no doubt, to prevent one man from forfeiting what in fair dealings belongs to some one else, by taking advantage of a breach from which he is not com-mensurately and irreparably damaged, it is not advisable to lay down any rigid rules for guiding that discretion. I do not doubt that the rules enunciated by the Master of the Rolls in the pre-: sent case are useful maxims in general, and that in general they reflect the point of view from which Judges would regard an application for relief. But I think it ought to be distinctly understood that there may be cases in which any or all of them may be disregarded.

If it were otherwise the free discretion given by the statute would be fettered by limitations which have nowhere been enacted. It is one thing to decide what is the true meaning of the language contained in an Act of Parliament. It is quite a different thing to place conditions upon a free discretion entrusted by statute to the Court where the conditions are not based upon statutory enactment at all. It is not safe, I think, to say that the Court must and will always insist upon certain things when the Act does not require them, and the facts of some unforeseen case may make the Court wish it had kept a free hand.'

Now, this important observation must be read in the light of the particular statute which the House of Lords was called upon to consider, and the statute was the Conveyancing Act of 1881 which gave the widest discretion to the Court with regard to giving relief against forfeiture, and it is also pertinent to note that the Supreme Court applied this observation also to a case of relief against forfeiture which in India is governed by Section 114, Transfer of Property Act. Turning to Section 114, Transfer of Property Act, and referring only to the relevant provision, it provides that the Court may, in lieu of making a decree for ejectment, pass an order relieving the lessee against the forfeiture. Therefore, complete discretion is given to the Court either to pass an order relieving the lessee against the forfeiture or to pass an order for ejectment. The Legislature has not in any way controlled the discretion of the Court, nor has it indicated any rules which should govern the exercise of the discretion by the Court.

7. Now, when we turn to Section 15, Payment of Wages Act, with which we are concerned, the position seems to us to be very different. The relevant provision is to be found in the second proviso to Section 15(2):

'Provided further that any application may be admitted after the said period of one year when the applicant satisfles the authority that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within such period.'

It is true that' under this section the Authority has to be satisfied, but it has to be satisfied with regard to a specific fact and that fact is sufficient cause. Therefore, it may be said in one sense that the Authority has no discretion at all under the second proviso. If it is established by the applicant that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within the period indicated, then he must entertain the application. If, on the other hand, the applicant fails to satisfy him that he had sufficient cause, then it is equally incumbent upon him to dismiss the application. Therefore, it is difficult to understand where the scope for the Authority's discretion comes in.

In one sense every Judge who decides any issue has got to exercise his own personal judgment in coming to a conclusion. But that is not the discretion which the House of Lords or the Supreme Court was contemplating. The sufficient cause which has got to - be established under the second proviso to Section 15(2) is not any cause which in the personal opinion of the Authority is sufficient. The sufficient cause contemplated by the proviso is a cause sufficient in law and the sufficiency of the cause is to be decided not by any discretion of the Authority but by proper legal principles. Therefore, if we are of the opinion that the Authority ' has decided in this case that there was no sufficient cause by reason of well established legal principles, then it would not be correct to say, as has been urged by Mr. Tarkunde, that the Authority has limited his own discretion or put fetters upon his own discretion. Far from doing so, he has done what the law requires him to do, viz., to decide both as a question of law and as a question of fact as to whether a particular ground put forward by the applicant constituted sufficient cause within the meaning of the second proviso to Section 15(2).

It may be that Mr. Tarkunde is right when he suggests that the decision of the Authority on this point is a collateral fact and it would be open to us to interfere if we come to the conclusion that his decision is wrong because it is only on his deciding the question of limitation including the question of sufficient cause that he either entertains the application or refuses to entertain it, and therefore his decision on this issue determines the fate of the application and either confers jurisdiction upon the Authority to decide the application on merits or to dismiss it 'in limine', and it may be that in this particular case we may not apply the strict principles of 'certiorari' where we would interfere only if there was a patent and manifest error on the record. But even assuming Mr. Tarkunde is right,. we should be satisfied that in the decision that the Authority has given he has wrongly dismissed the application on a ground of limitation and failed to exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon him under Sub-section (3) of Section 15 by deciding the application of the petitioners on merits.

8. Therefore, we must now turn to the merits of the decision of the Authority, and the question that we have to address ourselves is: Is the Authority right when he says that an ignorance on the part of the petitioners of the law which confers upon, them the right which they are asserting cannot constitute sufficient cause for delay in presenting the application to establish their right? Now, as the authorities point out, there is a clear distinction between ignorance of law and mistake of law. Ignorance of law as understood by the authorities is ignorance of the rights of a party which the law confers upon him. Mistake of law is mistake in establishing those rights by, for instance, going to one forum instead of another. The party knows his rights, he wants to assert them, and establish them, but through mistake in understanding the provisions of the law he goes to a wrong forum instead of going to the forum which the law had set up for the determination of his rights.

In cases where there is a mistake of law, the Courts have almost uniformly taken the view that the time taken up by asserting the rights in a wrong Court or wrong forum should be excused and the Courts have largely been influenced by the princi-f pie underlying Section 14, Limitation Act. As far as the] Limitation Act is concerned, the decisions are to be found under Section 5 which talks of sufficient cause, but that section only applies to appeals and certain: applications mentioned in that section. It is pertinent to note that the Limitation Act does not permit a litigant to file a suit after the period of limitation merely because he was prevented by sufficient cause. The saving of time as far as the filing of a suit is concerned is conceded under various other provisions of the Limitation Act and one of them is Section 14 which deals with prosecuting a claim in a wrong Court without jurisdiction bona fide, and it is the principle of that section which has been made applicable to Section 5 where an appeal is preferred after time and the time was taken up in filing that appeal in some other Court or taking some other step in some other tribunal.

It is true that as far as the payment of Wages Act is concerned and also the Workmen's Compensation Act is concerned, the Legislature has taken a more liberal and sympathetic view towards the claim of the workers and employees because although, as pointed out, under the Limitation Act a suit cannot be instituted after the period of limitation by getting the delay excused for sufficient cause, in the case of a claim for wages under the Payment of Wages Act and a claim for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation' Act a claim can be filed after the period of limitation if sufficient cause is shown for the delay.

9. Now, in this case, it is clear that there is no question of any mistake of law which prevented the petitioners from prosecuting their claim within time. It is a clear case of ignorance of law, because the petitioners were not aware of their rights under the law and according to them they only became aware when a certain decision was given, and therefore what the Authority has held is that as this is a case of ignorance of law, on proper legal principles it would not constitute sufficient cause. Mr. Tarkunde's contention is that it is fallacious to lay down that in no case can ignorance of law constitute sufficient cause. It was the duty of the Authority to consider the facts and circum-stances of this particular case and on the facts and circumstances to decide whether ignorance of law was a sufficient cause or not.

Mr. Tarkunde says that the facts here are very eloquent, that not only the workers but the employers themselves, the Industrial Tribunal, all acted on the assumption that the Factories Act did not apply to the petitioners, and therefore these poor employees could not be blamed if they slept over their rights and went to the Authority after the period of limitation. It is always unsafe to base principles of law upon either sympathy or emotion, and however strongly we feel for the petitioners whom Mr. Tarkunde represents, we should not put ourselves in a position of laying down a principle of law which may do justice in this particular case and yet may constitute a precedent for other cases, a precedent which may not be justified by proper legal principles.

10. Now, the Authority has relied on an old decision of this Court reported in -- 'Sitaram Paraji v. Nimba 12 Bom 320 (E), for the proposition that ignorance of law is not only no excuse, but also is never a sufficient cause for not asserting a party's rights in the forum established by law. That case is very significant because it lays down two different principles both of which, as we shall presently point out, have been followed in subsequent cases. The facts are very simple. A obtained a decree against B as the heir and legal representative of his deceased uncle C. There was a direction in the decree that the amount should be recovered from C's assets in the hands of B, and in the execution of this decree certain property was attached. In these proceedings B claimed the property as his own and he attempted to have the attachment removed, but the Court passed an order confirming the attachment.

Against this B filed a regular suit to set aside the order. The suit was dismissed as being barred by Section 244, Civil P. C., which corresponds to Section 47 of the present Code. Then B filed an appeal against the original order confirming the attachment and this appeal was held to be time-barred and rejected, and when the matter came in second appeal before this Court, Mr. Justice West and Mr. Justice Bird-wood held that the time spent in the actual proceedings of the suit to set aside the order in execution might be deducted in computing the delay that occurred before the appeal was filed; but the plaintiff was not entitled to a deduction of the time that intervened between the date of the order appealed against and the date of filing the suit. Therefore, as far as the first part is concerned, time was allowed because the party was prosecuting his case in a wrong forum. In other words, the principle of Section 14 was made applicable.

As far as the second part of the judgment is concerned, the time when the party did nothing to assert his right after the order confirming the attachment was passed and he filed the suit was not allowed to be condoned, and Mr. Justice West in his judgment at p. 321 on this aspect of the case says:

'But a deduction of the time that passed before the suit was filed would not follow that analogy. Mere ignorance of law cannot be recognized as a sufficient reason for delay under Section 5 of the Act, for that would be a premium on ignorance.'

The analogy he is referring to is with regard to the first part of the judgment where he says (p. 321):

'Such a deduction would follow the analogy of the rule prescribed by Section 14, Limitation Act, for ordinary suits.'

11. Now, this is the main judgment which the Authority has relied on for his decision that ignorance of law cannot constitute sufficient cause. Mr. Tarkunde's grievance is that the Authority has stopped short at 'Sitaram Paraji v. Nimba (E)', and has not noted the subsequent evolution of that decision in this Court, and Mr. Tarkunde has strongly relied on a decision of this Court in - 'Dadabhai v. Maneksha', 21 Bom 552 (F). That decision specifically dealt with the presentation of an appeal to a wrong Court under a bona fide mistake, and Mr. Justice Jardine and Mr. Justice Ranade held that that would constitute a sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5, Limitation Act, and in his judgment Mr. Justice Jardine says that the observation in 'Sitaram Paraji's case (E)', that mere ignorance of law cannot be recognised as a sufficient reason for delay, is a dictum made with reference to the facts of that particular case, and Mr. Justice Jardine expresses regret that the use of such general expression led the District Judge in that particular case to treat the judgment as ruling that the maxim 'Ignorantia legis non excu-sat' excludes from Section 5 all cases where the cause of not presenting an appeal in time is that it was first presented to a wrong Court.

All that Mr. Justice Jardine lays down, with respect rightly, is that the dictum of Mr. Justice West about ignorance of law does not and cannot apply to a case where an appeal has been preferred to a wrong Court. As a matter of fact, as we have already pointed out, Mr. Justice West himself in that case did not apply that principle to the case of a party prosecuting his claim in a wrong Court or before a wrong tribunal. We, therefore, entirely agree that the principle of ignorance of law is to be applied only to those cases where a party takes no action to assert his right because he does not know his rights, and should not be applied to cases where a party knowing his rights asserts them but asserts them in a wrong tribunal or before a wrong forum through a mistaken notion of what the law is.

12. Now, this Bombay case was also considered by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court in -- 'Krishna v. Chathappan 13 Mad 269 (G), and in our opinion that decision, really, very pithily lays down the correct principle that should be applied in deciding what is a sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5, Limitation Act, or also Section 15, Payment of Wages Act, because the same expression is used in that section. According to this Division Bench the words 'sufficient cause' should receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice when no negligence nor inaction nor want of bona fides is imputable to the appellant. Therefore, it is not sufficient that the party should not be guilty of negligence or should not be guilty of bad faith. He should also not be guilty of not taking any action, and when a party loes not choose to bestir himself because he is gnorant of his rights, he is clearly in law guilty of inaction.

In that case also where an appeal was preferred to the High Court instead of to the District Judge, the question was of a party going to the wrong forum and in the judgment of the Division Bench it is specifically stated that (p. 271);

'....the true rule is whether under the special circumstances of each case the appellant acted under an honest, though mistaken, belief formed with due care and attention. Section 14, Limitation Act, indicates that the Legislature intended to show indulgence to a party acting 'bona fide' under a mistake.'

So the Madras High Court also was applying the principle of Section 14 to the interpretation of the expression 'sufficient cause' used in Section 5, Limitation Act. .

13. The Authority has also relied on an English case, -- 'Roles v. Pascall and Sons', 1911 1 KB 982 (H), which lays down the same principle. The question that arose before the English Court of appeal was whether ignorance on the part of a workman of the existence of the Workmen's Compensation Act and of any right to compensation for an accident arising out of his employment was a mistake or a reasonable cause for not giving notice of the accident within the time laid down under the Act. Under that Act,

'failure to make a claim within the period ... specified shall not be a bar to the maintenance of proceedings if it is found that the failure was occasioned by mistake, absence from the United Kingdom, or other reasonable cause.'

In the judgment the Master of the Rolls Cozens-Hardy held that the case of the workman did not fall under the class 'mistake' because according to the learned Judge a mistake means that a man takes a wrong view as to the construction or effect of an Act of Parliament and that would be a mistake of law, and also he considers what a mistake of fact is. Then the learned Judge goes on to say (p. 985):

'...but mistake is not identical with ignorance. That is really what the argument of the respondent means. Then is it a 'reasonable cause' for a man not giving a notice that he is not aware of the Act of Parliament at all? In my opinion it is not. I think that those words are intended to mean an entirely different class of cases.'

Therefore, in that case also a distinction is drawn between a mistake and an ignorance of law.

14. The decisions on which Mr. Tarkunde has relied do not really lay down anything different from what is laid down in the cases to which reference has just been made. In the first place, there is the decision of the Privy Council in -- 'Brij Indar Singh v. Kanshi Ram', AIR 1917 PC 156 (I). Lord Dunedin who delivered the judgment of the Board did not accept the broad proposition laid down by the trial Judge that a mistake of law never could be the foundation of an application for indulgence which may be granted under Section 5, and this is the expression of opinion that has been most strongly relied upon by Mr. Tarkunde. But when we look at the facts which the Privy Council was considering, it is clear that it is a case of a wrong forum being resorted to. In that case the time occupied by an application in good faith for review which was made upon a mistaken view of the law, was added to the period allowed for presenting the appeal, and it is in this connection that the Privy Council refused to subscribe to the proposition of the learned Judge that mistake of law never could be the foundation of an application for indulgence which may be granted under Section 5. It is also necessary to note that the expression used by the Privy Council is 'mistake of law' and not 'ignorance of law.'

15. Then two Bombay cases are relied upon. One is -- 'Hogan v. Gafur Ramzan', AIR 1934 Bom 28 (J) and the other -- 'Munshi and Co. v. Yeshwant Tukaram', AIR 1948 Bom 44 (K). 'Hogan v. Gafur Ramzan (J)' is really an authority for the proposition that once the bar is removed for presenting of an application under the Workmen's Compensation Act by the workman satisfying the Authority that he had sufficient cause for not presenting the application within time, then the application can be presented at any time and there was no period of limitation subsequent to the removal of the bar for the presenting of the application. But on the facts of that case Mr. Tarkunde urges that sufficient cause was established on grounds which suggest that there was an ignorance of law and not a mistake of law.

The cause which was held sufficient in that case was that the workman after the accident continued to be in the employ of the same owner and as he was in the employ of the same owner he did not make the claim within time. It is difficult to understand why we should take the view that the Court held that the workman was ignorant of his rights. The view taken, rightly or wrongly, on the facts was that the employee did not want to jeopardize his employment by making a claim against the employer when he was still in his employ, and we do not read this decision as in any way supporting the contention of Mr. Tarkunde that ignorance of law can constitute sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5, Limitation Act.

16. The other decision is 'Munshi and Co. v. Yeshwant Tukaram (K)' and that is again a clear case of a mistake of law as to the proper forum. As appears in the judgment of Mr. Justice Macklin, the workman made his claim in the Court of the Claims Commissioner instead of in the Tribunal appointed under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and he was under the impression that he would receive all his compensation from the Court of the Claims Commissioner. It was under these circumstances that the Court held that the delay in presenting his application under the Workmen's Compensation Act could be excused.

17. The most extreme case to which our attention has been drawn is a decision of the Calcutta High Court in -- 'Krishna Mohan Ghosh v. Sura-pati Banerjee : AIR1925Cal684 . That was a case of setting aside the abatement of an appeal, and the petitioner pleaded that he was an ignorant milkman who had no experience of any previous litigation; that though he knew of the respondent's death, he did not know that the substitution of his legal representatives was necessary, and when he came to know of this it was too late to apply for substitution of the deceased respondent's legal representatives in time. The judgment is, with respect, of three lines and no reason is given, and we shrewdly suspect that the ignorant and poor milkman succeeded in getting the sympathy of the Court to restore his appeal. But even assuming, with respect, that this is a correct decision, even here the mistake of law was as to the procedure to be followed in the Court and not ignorance as to the substantive rights of the party. Therefore, extreme as this case is, it does not in any way militate against the principle laid down in 'Sitaram Paraji's case (E)' and which has been accepted by the Authority as the correct principle.

18. In this state of the law, can it be said that the Authority wrongly refused to entertain the application by holding that the petitioners had failed to satisfy him that there was sufficient cause for not presenting the application in time? As we have already pointed out, the Legislature provided that it was for the Authority to decide whether there was sufficient cause or not and the Authority has decided that the petitioners did not have sufficient cause, after considering the authorities and after taking the view that on correct legal principles ignorance of the party's rights cannot constitute sufficient cause for delay in making the application. In our opinion, it is impossible to suggest that the Authority was wrong in coming to this conclusion. On the contrary, our view is that in view of the decisions to which we have invited reference, the Authority came to the right conclusion.

19. We cannot part with this case without making some observations on the attitude of the two mills concerned. To dismiss an application of poor employees merely on the ground of limitation is never a very pleasant work. It is difficult to understand what possible defence the mills have against the claim made by these employees for their delayed wages. They have worked overtime, we take it they have helped the mills to make more profits, and the only ground for resistance seems to be that the claim has been made beyond time. Legally the mills may be justified in refusing to pay these wages to the petitioners, but we have impressed upon counsel for the two mills concerned that in order to satisfy their own employees and to maintain industrial peace and proper relations between employer and employees it would only be right if these employers arrived at some fair settlement with the petitioners, irrespective of the technicalities of the law which, as we have just pointed out, do not always result in a very satisfactory or just conclusion.

20. The result is that the two petitions must fail. No order as to costs.

21. Petitions dismissed.


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