1. The short question that arises for consideration in this revision petition is whether under S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, when the relationship existing between the parties disputed, the payment of wages authority has jurisdiction to go into that question. It arises in this way :
The respondent in this revision petition field C. Mis. 14 of 1969 under S. 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (hereinafter called the Act) claiming a sum of Rs. 385 together with compensation of Rs. 100 from the petitioner in this revision petition. His case was that he was an employee under the petitioner, that he was being paid daily wages at Rs. 7 per day, that the petitioner-employer had failed to pay his wages from January 1, 1968 upto July, 1968 and in spite of his efforts that amount was not paid; so the proceedings were initiated before the Court of the Additional First Class Magistrate, Bangalore, claiming the said relief.
2. The petitioner in this revision petition denied that the respondent was his employee and that he was paying daily wages to him. The learned Additional First Class Magistrate, Bangalore City, who heard the said petition, by his order dated June 30, 1969 held that the very basis of the claim being in dispute, the authority and no jurisdiction to decide the dispute and accordingly dismissed the petition.
3. The correctness of this order was challenged in an appeal filed under S. 17(1) of the Act before the Second Additional District Judge, Bangalore and the learned District Judge held that the authority had jurisdiction to decide as to whether the respondent was or was not an employee of the petitioner and accordingly set aside the order of the trial Court and remitted the case back to the Additional First Class Magistrate, Bangalore City, for disposal of the same in accordance with law.
4. It is the correctness of his order that is challenged in this revision petition.
5. The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner submits that the proceedings taken under the provisions of S. 15 of the Act are summary proceedings, and, therefore, it is not competent for the authority to go into the question of the existence of relationship between the parties. In support of this submission, he placed reliance upon the two judgments of this Court. The first is the judgment reported in Manager, Codialbail Press v. K. Monappa,  Mys. L.J. 968, wherein this Court has stated at page 971 as follows :
'The main purpose of the Payment of Wages Act, as revealed from its provision, is the prevention of illegitimate deduction from the wages of an employee and the delay in their payment. Under S. 15 of the Act which aims at the accomplishment of that purpose, every adjudication necessary for the fulfilment of that objective may prima facie appear permissible. Where, for example, an employer admits that the relationship of employer and employee subsists between him and the applicant, but there is a controversy about the quantum of wages payable by him to the applicant, an enquiry into that question for the purpose of determining the actual amount payable by way of wages on the basis of the admitted terms of employment would, it is reasonable to think, fall within the orbit of an enquiry under S. 15. Other similar incidental questions may also fall within the scope of such enquiry although it would be difficult to make an exhaustive enumeration of the questions which may properly form the subject-matter of such adjudication'.
It is clear from the pronouncement of Somnath Iyer, J. (as he then was) that the Court did not decide this question and merely stated that the jurisdiction to enquire into the truth of employment could be debatable. It is further necessary to note that this Court made a reference to the judgment of the High Court of Bombay in the case of Viswanath Tukaram v. General Manager, Central Railway, : (1957)IILLJ250Bom (F.B.), and did not express its dissent from the view expressed therein.
6. The second judgment is the one reported in Pierce Leslie and Co., Ltd. v. Rama Moily, [1965 - II L.L.J. 41] wherein this Court has stated as under :
'The scheme and purpose of the Payment of Wages Act make it clear that claims which may be decided under S. 15 of the Act are only those in which the foundation of the claim is beyond controversy or indisputable or reasonably clear although there is a dispute about its measure or magnitude. If there is a dispute about the foundational facts constituting the basis of the claim which could not be satisfactorily resolved in a summary enquiry, such controversy would fall outside the orbit of the enquiry by the authority under S. 15 of the Act'.
It may be seen that these observations are made by this Court with reference to the termination of the employment of the employee and would not be of any assistance in the disposal of the question arising in the present case.
7. Another judgment to which the learned counsel for the petitioner has made a reference is the judgment of the Supreme Court reported in Payment of Wages Inspector, Ujjain v. Surajmal Mehta, : (1969)ILLJ762SC . The relevant paragraph to which my attention is invited is paragraph 8, which is extracted below :
'8. It is explicit from the terms of S. 15(2) that the Authority appointed under sub-section (1) has jurisdiction to entertain applications only in two classes of case, namely, of deductions and fines not authorised under Ss. 7 to 13 and of delay in payment of wages beyond the wage periods fixed under S. 4 and the time of payment laid down in S. 5. This is clear from the opening words of sub-s. (2) of S. 15, namely, 'where contrary to the provisions of this Act' any deduction has been made or any payment of wages has been delayed. These being the governing words in the sub-section the only applications which the Authority can entertain are those where deductions unauthorised under the Act are made from wages or there has been delay in payment beyond the wage period and the time of payment of wages fixed or prescribed under Ss. 4 and 5 of the Act. Section 15(2) postulates that the wages payable by the person responsible for payment under S. 3 are certain and such that they cannot be disputed'.
It is also important to note that the Supreme Court further stated :
'... Equally, care must also be taken to see that the scope of these incidental matters was not unduly curtailed so as to affect or impair the limited jurisdiction conferred on the Authority. The Court declined to lay down any hard and fast rule which would afford a determining test to demarcate the field of incidental facts which could be legitimately considered by Authority and those which could not be so considered. It is true, as stated above, that the Authority has the jurisdiction to try matters which are incidental to the claim in question. Indeed S. 15(1) itself provides that the Authority has the power to determine all matters incidental to the claim arising from deductions from or delay in payment of wages. It is also true that while deciding whether a particular matter is incidental to the claim or not, care should be taken neither to unduly expand nor curtail the jurisdiction of the Authority. But it has at the same time to be kept in mind that the jurisdiction under S. 15 is a special jurisdiction ....'
8. Lastly, the learned counsel for the petitioner has brought to my notice the judgment of the Bench of the Bombay High Court in D. P. Kelkar, Amalner v. Ambadas Keshav Bajaj, 1970 L & I. Cases 124. In that case, it was held as under :
In most of the cases which come before the Payment of Wages Authority, the summary procedure would be suitable and expedient. But where complicated questions of fact or law are raised and a prolonged inquiry becomes necessary, the Payment of Wages Authority would have no jurisdiction to decide the claim before it'.
9. It is clear that in none of these cases, the Courts considered the question as to whether when a relationship of employer and employee is disputed, the Payment of Wages Authority had jurisdiction to go into that question. On the contrary, it has been held by the High Courts of Bombay, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh that it is competent for the Payment of Wages Authority to go into that question.
10. In the case of Viswanath Tukaram v. General Manager, Central Railway (supra) it has been held that the nature and ambit of the jurisdiction of the Authority acting under the Payment of Wages Act are .... 'in order to determine what the contract was, what the terms of the contract were, what were the wages due under the contract, it might become necessary for the Authority to determine whether in the first place there was an employment or not; ...' In paragraph 8 after consideration of the several decisions, it has been stated by Chagla, C.J. as follows :
'In our opinion, on these pleadings the issue directly and substantially arises as to whether the employee was in the employment of the Railway Authorities during the relevant period, and there can be no doubt that that is an issue which the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act can try and determine ...'
Further, it was observed :
'But when the dispute and controversy between the parties is whether the employee was in employment or not, that surely is an issue which is directly within the jurisdiction and competence of the Authority.'
11. In the case of Jay Gujarat Prakashan Ltd. v. Hariprasad Hargovindas Pandya, : AIR1960Guj10 , following the judgment of the High Court of Bombay in S. K. Lal v. Badshah : (1956)IILLJ457Bom , it was held that '... in other words it is within the ambit of his jurisdiction to decide whether there was relationship of a master and servant between the employer and an employee, or, to use different language, whether there was a subsisting contract of employment between the parties.' In the case before the High Court of Gujarat, the contention raised by the employer was he was not a worker and the Payment of Wages Authority had no jurisdiction to go into the question. At page 12 of the judgment, it has been stated that 'it is true that three are observations of the learned Chief Justice in that case, which, at first blush, may seem to lend support to the argument of Mr. Kapadia. It is also true that for many years after the Payment of Wages Act, 1936. found also place on the statute book, the view seems to have prevailed that the Act did not apply where the factum of employment was disputed. The leading case on the subject is Sarin v. Patil, : AIR1951Bom423 , where the scope and ambit of the jurisdiction of the Authority was considered in the light of the scheme and the relevant provisions of the Act. That case is a land mark among the decisions of the Courts on the question of the jurisdiction of the Authority. The logical extension of the principles laid down in Sarin's case (supra) is to be found in Mushran v. Patil, : AIR1952Bom235 . I had to consider this question of jurisdiction of the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act in C. S. Lal v. Badshah, : (1956)IILLJ457Bom , and said ... 'Again it is well established that it is open to the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act, in order to decide what sums are payable as wages, to determine whether a person has been employed or not, because the question of contract of employment can only arise if there was at the relevant time a subsisting contract of employment'. This question of the scope and ambit of the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act was considered in a Full Bench decision of the Bombay High Court in Vishwanath v. General Manager, Central Railway, : (1957)IILLJ250Bom , to which I was a party. We reaffirmed in that case that it was open to the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act in order to decide what sums are payable as wages, to determine whether a person had been employed or not. The view we took in that case was that it was within the ambit of his jurisdiction to decide whether there was relationship of master and servant between the employer and an employee, or, to use different language, whether there was a subsisting contract of employment between the employer and the employee. In that view of the matter, the present contention of the petitioners must be negatived.'
12. In the case of Ramachandra Tiwari v. District Judge, Jabalpur, : (1962)ILLJ359MP . The Madhya Pradesh High Court held as follows :
'... It must as such decide the incidental questions, namely, whether the petitioner was at all an employee and whether his services had been terminated or whether he was still in employment.'
13. Having regard to the pronouncements of the High Courts to which I made reference earlier with which I respectfully agree, it is clear that the Authority determining the question under S. 15 of the Act has jurisdiction to determine whether the person who has made the application is an employee and this jurisdiction is part of the jurisdiction of determining incidental matters arising out of the claim under S. 15 of the Act. The relief under S. 15 cannot be granted to an employee unless the Court has jurisdiction to determine the subsisting contract of employment and, therefore, is an incidental question which the Payment of Wages Authority has right to determine under the Act. The view taken by the learned District Judge in the present case is, therefore, in accordance with the view expressed by the several High Courts. In that view I find no good ground to interfere with the orders of the Court below.
14. In the result, for the reasons stated above, this revision petition fails and the same is dismissed with costs.