1. This petition seeks to challenge the order dated 10th of the October, 1973 passed by the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act, Poona, by which the said Authority refused to entertain an application preferred by the petitioner purportedly under S. 20 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act'. The following facts which can be taken as established or admitted may now be narrated in order to understand and appreciate the points raised by this petition. The petitioner was a clerk working with the respondent which is the Poona Cantonment Board for nearly 16 years prior to 1971. Between 1st of March, 1971 and 3rd of May, 1971 he was on leave but was entitled to claim amount as leave wages. That amount ultimately turned out to be about Rs. 600. The petitioner filed two applications under the said Act before the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act, Poona. Those applications were numbered as (MW) 1 and 2 of 1971 and they were for recovering wages which according to the petitioner were due for the period between 1st of March, 1971 and 3rd of May, 1971. The Authority returned those applications to the petitioner on the ground that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the same. Thereafter the petitioner filed an application, being Application No. 1008 of 1972, in the Central Labour Court at Bombay under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act for recovery of the amount for which he had originally filed an application under the Minimum Wages Act. That application - was made to the Central Labour Court because the respondent with whom the petitioner was working was an industry for which the appropriate Government was the Central Government and, therefore, the appropriate Labour Court for claims arising under the Industrial Disputes Act against the respondent would be the Central Government Labour Court. By an order dated 17th of November, 1971 the Central Government Labour Court decreed in full the amount which was claimed by the petitioner by way of wages for the period mentioned above.
2. Thereafter the petitioner preferred another application, being (MW) 2 of 1972 again - before the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act Poona whose Court by this time was held to have jurisdiction to entertain the claim under the Minimum Wages Act even against the industry for which the appropriate Government was the Central Government. In this application, purported to have been preferred under S. 20 of the Minimum Wages Act, no claim whatsoever was made for wages or for minimum wages that could be claimed under the Minimum Wages Act. In this application the only claim that was made was for compensation amounting to ten times the amount of wages which had been decreed in favour of the petitioner by the Central Labour Court by its order dated 17th of November, 1971. It was the contention of the petitioner that the respondent had illegally withheld the payment which was due to him S. 12(1) of the Minimum Wages Act. Though this amount had been ultimately made payable to him by an order of the Central Government Labour Court, he was entitled to compensation at the rate mentioned in sub-s. (3) of S. 20 of the Minimum Wages Act.
3. The Authority hearing this application thought that it put forth a claim for leave wages which had not been paid to the petitioner. Noticing that the petitioner had not put forth any claim at any particular rate of wages fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, the learned Authority unfortunately misdirected himself that it was for the recovery of wages which had not been paid and held that he could not entertain the application. In other words, the Authority thought that unless there was an application for wages at the rate fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, he could not entertain an application under S. 20(1) of the Act. With the view which he thus took, the learned Authority dismissed the application by his judgment and order dated 10th of October, 1973. It is against this order that the present petition has been filed.
4. Dr. Kulkarni, appearing in support of this petition, had no difficulty in pointing out to us that the view taken by the learned Authority below is wrong inasmuch as under sub-s. (1) of S. 20 of the Act, application for the recovery of wages also, as distinct from minimum wages could be filed. Probably the learned Authority's attention was not drawn to S. 20 of the Act as amended in its application to the State of Maharashtra and the view of the learned Authority was probably based upon the section in the Central Act. Section 20 of the minimum Wages Act in its application to the State of Maharashtra specifies that the appropriate Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, appoint an authority under this Act to hear and decide for any specified area all claims arising out of :
(1) payment of less than the minimum rates of wages;
(2) in respect of wages not paid within the time prescribed under sub-s. (1) of S. 12;
(3) in respect of payment of remuneration for days of rest or for work done on such days under clause (b) of S. 13(1) or of wages at the overtime rate under S. 14 to employees employed or paid in that area.
The claim mentioned against clause (2) above in the submission of Dr. Kulkarni, and in our opinion, is covered by the claim for wages which have not been paid within time by the employer to the employee. It is not necessary for a claim to fall within the second item mentioned above that it should be in respect of minimum wages; it can still fall under the said clause if it is in respect of wages as defined in the Minimum Wages Act itself. That definition is contained in clause (h) of S. 2 of the Act and defines wages as all remuneration capable of being expressed in terms of money which would if the terms of the contract of employment, express or implied, were fulfilled, be payable to a person employed in respect of his employment. The overtime wages, if they had been claimed by the petitioner before the Authority below, would undoubtedly be wages within the definition of clause (h) of S. 2 and that claim could have been entertained by the authority in an application under S. 20(1) of the Act. Dr. Kulkarni is, therefore, right when he says that the learned Authority misdirected himself on the question of his jurisdiction and declined to exercise the jurisdiction. If this were the only ground on which the order passed by the learned Authority were to be tested them we would have been compelled to set aside that order and remit the case for fresh trial in accordance with law.
5. But the order is clearly sustainable on a different ground, viz., that an application under S. 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act for compensation alone cannot be filed. From the narration of facts which we have made above, it is clear that the application preferred by the petitioner was for compensation to be calculated at 10 times the amount which had been ordered to be paid to him in a proceeding under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. In the Court of the learned Authority under the Minimum Wages Act there was no claim whatsoever either for minimum wages or for wages as defined in S. 2(h) of the said Act. Dr. Kulkarni, however, contended that even if the wages which could be claimed under sub-s. (1) of S. 20 have been paid by the employer, compensation can still be given by the Authority under the Act. We are unable, on a proper construction of sub-s. (3) of S. 20, to subscribe to the view that is propounded by Dr. Kulkarni. The said provision must now be reproduced in order to appreciate the difficulty in the way of the petitioner. Sub-section (3) of the S. 20 runs thus :
'When any application under sub-s. (2) is entertained the Authority shall hear the applicant and the employer, or of give them an opportunity of being heard, and after such further inquiry, if any, as it may consider necessary, may, without prejudice to any other penalty to which the employer may be liable under this Act, direct -
(i) in the case of a claim arising out of payment of less than the minimum rates of wages, the payment to the employee of the amount by which the minimum wages payable to him exceed the amount actually paid, together with the payment of such compensation as the Authority may think fit, not exceeding ten times the amount of such excess;
(ii) in any other case, the payment of the amount due to the employee together with the payment of such compensation as the Authority may think fit, not exceeding ten rupees; and the Authority may direct payment of such compensation in cases where the excess or the amount due is paid by the employer to the employee before the disposal of the application.'
Under sub-section of S. 20 the appropriate Government appoints authorities for deciding the claims specified therein which we have already enumerated above. An employee who has a claim of the nature referred to in sub-s. (1) may himself or through any legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union made an application to such authority for a direction under sub-s. (2). In other words, it is only when a claim arises in respect of wages, among other things, under sub-s. (1) and when for enforcing that claim an application is made by an employee or on his behalf as mentioned in sub-s. (2) of S. 20 that the question of exercising the jurisdiction by the authority under sub-s. (3) arises. Unless an application is made as aforesaid, the Authority cannot proceed to hear that application and proceed to award compensation as mentioned in sub-s. (3). The jurisdiction to award compensation, in our view, arises only when a properly constituted application under sub-s. (2) relating to a claim referred to in sub-s. (1) is presented to the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act. It is true, that Dr. Kulkarni with some justification contended, that the Authority may direct payment of compensation even in cases where the amount due is paid by the employer to the employee before the disposal of the application. But the application referred to is an application under sub-s. (2) and the payment of compensation can be directed in cases where the amount due is paid before the disposal of such an application. This has been provided, may be, because the Legislature wanted that an employee who had been driven to approach the Authorities should be compensated by the delayed payment amount due to the employee, but the direction for payment of compensation cannot be made by an Authority under the said Act except in proceedings arising out of an application made under sub-s (2) of section.
6. On analogous provisions contained in S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act which can be said to be pari materia with the Minimum Wages Act, this Court has held in Chimanlal Ishwarlal Mehta v. Junior Inspector of Factories, : AIR1942Bom273 that there cannot be any order for the payment of delayed wages if they are paid before the application is made and it is not open to the applicant to apply for a direction for the payment of compensation alone. The Court further observed that -
'An order for compensation can be made along with the order for wages, but not by itself and, therefore, an application for compensation alone is not competent.'
In the case before us also the petitioner has already in his possession an order of the Labour Court directing payment of wages that were due to him for the claim period. He could not have, therefore, made an application under sub-s. (2) of S. 20 for any wages. In such a situation, it is inconceivable that the Authority could have proceeded to award compensation because proceedings pursuant to an application under sub-s. (2) of S. 20 were not before the Authority at all. We are, therefore, satisfied that though the view of the learned Authority below on the scope of sub-s. (1) is erroneous, that order must be upheld on the ground that an application made purely for the payment of compensation could not have been entertained by him. Dr. Kulkarni then proceeded to say that Application No. (MW) 2 of 1972 should have been treated as a continuation of the two applications, being Applications Nos. 1 and 2 which had been returned to the petitioner for presentation to the proper Court. We are unable to accept this contention because the claim in those applications had been satisfied in so far as it related to the wages by the order passed by the Labour Court under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. After the order of the Labour Court the petitioner could not have made an application under sub-s. (2) of S. 20 of the Minimum Wages Act.
7. Dr. Kulkarni, however, sought to rely upon a judgment of the Supreme Court in Y. M. Mamrade v. Authority under Minimum Wages Act : (1972)IILLJ136SC and proceeded to point out that while interpreting the provisions of Minimum Wages Act, the Court should adopt liberal and rational approach and should not be tied down by what he characterised as legalistic, technical or doctrinnaire approach. We do not see the relevance of these observations and these submissions to the question before us because we are interpreting the provisions of a statute which is clear, unambiguous and unequivocal and does not admit of any other interpretation. The jurisdiction of the authority under sub-s. (3) of S. 20 is necessarily conditioned upon the presentation of an application under sub-s. (2) which must relate again to a claim to one or the other matters mentioned in sub-s. (1). In this view of the matter, this petition must fail.
8. The order dated 10th of October, 1973 passed by the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act in Application No. (MW) 2 of 1972 is confirmed. Rule is discharged. In the circumstances of the case, there will be no orders as to costs.