A. Narayana Pai, J.
1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of an appropriate Writ quashing a notification issued by the State Government fixing minimum rates of wages for certain classes of employees of the cashew-nut Industry. Although the prayer is in general terms for quashing the entire notification, the challenge is limited to the fixation of rates in respect of only one category of workers called the shellers. In this category, there are what may be described as two Sub-categories--(1) shellers who work with their own hands and wooden mallet and (2) shellers who operate shelling machines. For purposes of clarity we call the former 'hand shellers' and the latter 'machine shellers'.
2. Both these hand shellers and machine shellers have throughout been paid wages on piece rate basis. Originally, when machines were brought into use, a distinction appears to have beenmade between the rate applicable to hand shellers and the rate applicable to machine shellers. These rates were 9 Np. per pound and 8 Np. per pound respectively. In the earliest available notification fixing the minimum rates, viz., the one dated 14th May, 1960, the same rates were prescribed as the minimum rates, viz., 9 np. per pound in the case of hand shellers and 8 np. pound in the case of machine shellers.
3. In 1966, proposals were made and steps taken by the Government for revising the rates. The first draft notification containing the proposals proposed a rate of 15 nP. per half kilo to hand shellers and 10 nP. for half kilo in the case of machine shellers. After receiving and considering the representations and objections of persons interested and after consulting the Advisory Board, the State Government issued its final Notification No. S. O. 1991 on 10th October, 1967. By the said notification they fixed a uniform rate of 15 P. for half kilo of shelled white kernels in the case of both hand shellers as well as machine shellers.
4. Although there were some suggestions in the affidavit in support of the petition that there have been defects in the procedure adopted by the Government and also some infirmities in the constitution of the Advisory Board, these were not pursued for the obvious reason that on the material placed before us, no departure from the procedure prescribed under the statute could be made out and that in a previous ruling of this Court in Chandrabhava Boarding v. State of Mysore, AIR 1968 Mys 156, the constitution of the Advisory Board was upheld as perfectly regular.
5. There is also no allegation, much less any specific allegation, of any mala fides or deliberate abuse of power.
6. The scope for interference under Article 226 of the Constitution is therefore extremely limited in this case. On the basis of the arguments advanced before us, the only reason which could possibly be formulated for interference could be either that the State Government have acted upon irrelevant considerations or have demonstrably left out of account considerations which are quite relevant to the matter, or that the fixation of minimum rates has resulted or will certainly result in disobedience of what may be regarded as the true mandate of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (Central Act 11 of 1948).
7. One of the lines of argument elaborately dealt with in the affidavit in support of the petition is that the machine shellers have the special advantage of the machines purchased and kept in working order by the petitioner at ahuge expense to him and that therefore the produce of his working is a product not merely of the workers' own personal labour but is also contributed to by the machinery of the employer which according to him, he maintains at a huge cost.
8. It appears to us that the entire line of argument is not of relevance to the consideration of the question of the minimum wages or the rate of minimum wages. Wages by definition are remuneration for work done by the worker. The rate ordinarily is relatable to the capacity and skill of the worker, and not to the supply of implements, machines and other goods by the employer. To test the proposition, it is enough to give only one example. The wages of an agricultural worker neednot depend or be varied according to the type of the plough which the employer supplies to him; nor can wages of an accountant or a clerk be reduced or determined upon a consideration of the cost of the account book which the employer supplies to him-
9. The real question, which is not quite free from difficulty, is whether there was some economic purpose relevant to the fixation of the minimum wages implicit in the fixation of two rates in the case of hand shellers and machine shellers from the commencement, and whether the fixation of a minimum uniform piece rate now has resulted in such departure from that necessary economic consideration as to result in a disobedience of the Minimum Wages Act.
10. Both sides have drawn our attention specially to the provisions of Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Minimum Wages Act which empower the rates of wages for different classes of Government to fix different minimum work. Controversy, therefore, did arise before us as to whether the two shellers-- hand shellers and machine shellers are workers employed in the same class of work or different classes of work. Reliance was also placed on the following observations of this Court in the case of Chandrabhava, AIR 1968 Mys 156 referred to above:--
'The concept of minimum wage does not imply that there should be an absolute uniform rate of wage for all workmen. There can be variation in the rate of minimum wage according to diverse factors like the nature of work, the degree of education, training and skill required for the job, the degree of responsibility and onerous ness of the job, the conditions under which the workmen work and the hazards of the occupation which, in addition to beingrelevant facts have also bearing on the efficiency of the workman. What may be an appropriate rate of minimum wage for an unskilled worker may not be one appropriate for a skilled worker. ****', and also on the following observations of the Supreme Court in the Appeal against the said order of this Court:-- 'The fixation of minimum wages depends on the prevailing economic conditions, the cost of living in a place, the nature of the work to be performed and the conditions in which the work is performed. *** : (1970)IILLJ403SC . '
11. In the course of his representations before the publication of the impugned notification, the petitioner appears to have pressed for the retention of the distinction between hand shellers and machine shellers. In the affidavit in support of this petition also, the said view is reiterated. Dealing with the same, the answer made on behalf of the Government in the affidavit of its Under Secretary, Mr. G. G. Purohit, is:--
'In the matter of fixing minimum wages several factors have to be taken into account and the fact that the distinction between workers who do hand shelling by using wooden mallets and the workers who do shelling by using machine is not maintained does not vitiate the Notification. Such distinction may be more relevant in the case of fixation of fair wages for the workers.**** Government felt that the distinction between the two classes of shellers was not relevant while fixing minimum wages after considering the representation of the parties.'
It would appear that there were some representations by the workers and also by one of the employing concerns that the distinction may be done away with.
12. Haying regard to the nature of the pleadings, there has necessarily been some hesitation on the part of counsel to stick rigorously either to the view that these shellers belong to the same class or to the view that they belong to different classes. We therefore consider it proper to examine the position from both the points of view and see whether there is sufficient ground made out by the petitioner to strike down the fixation of minimum rate wages for the hand shellers and machine shellers in cashew-nut industry.
13. In the first place, it appears to us that the idea of a wage or even a rate of wage is necessarily a composite idea. Although in general terms wage is remuneration for work done, payment has to be made in consideration of two circumstances, -- (1) the nature of the work and (2) either the quantum of work in respect of whichwage is fixed or the wage period with reference to which wage is fixed. Therefore, a mere statement that the rate is uniform does not convey the full idea of the ultimate result called the wage. Indeed, whereas the object of the statute is to see that a worker, gets at least a wage which is sufficient not only for bare sustenance of life but also for preservation of efficiency of work, -- which is described or suggested by the expression 'Minimum Wages', -- the process whereby the result is achieved is the fixation of minimum rates by the appropriate government. Under Sub-section (2) of Section 3, the appropriate Government may fix :--
'(a) a minimum rate of wages for time work (hereinafter referred to as a 'minimum time rate');
(b) a minimum rate of wages for piece work (hereinafter referred to as a Minimum piece rate');
(c) a minimum rate of remuneration to apply in the case of employees employed on piece work for the purpose of securing to such employees a minimum rate of wages on a time work basis 'hereinafter referred to as 'a guaranteed tune rate');
(d) ** ** ** '.
14. Whether the rate is a piece rate or a time rate, no clear idea as to whether the remuneration that he earns is or may be rightly regarded as minimum wage could be formed unless his earnings for a particular period are calculated and compared with the cost of his minimum needs mentioned above, both for sustenance of life as well as for maintaining efficiency of work. Even in common parlance, it is stated that a person requires so much money for sustenance of life and maintenance of efficiency for certain period, say a week or a month or a year. It is this idea that is given - effect to in clause (c) of Sub-section (2) of Section 3 cited above. That clause is intended to meet a situation where the operation of a minimum piece rate fixed by the appropriate Government may result in the worker earning less than the minimum wage.
15. It appears to us therefore duties essential that a Government fixing a minimum wage rate on the piece rate basis is bound to examine what the result of fixing such a rate would be by taking into consideration a reasonable wage period. In the case of workers normally paid by the day, the average wage likely to 'be earned for a day by the minimum piece rate sought to be prescribed should be calculated and the question whether the same would represent the minimum wage in the sense mentioned above, clearly and fully examined.
16. When a piece rate is fixed, one of the inevitable consequences would be that every worker will not earn the same amount for the day. If the difference is due to reasons which are purely personal to the worker, no grievance can be made; but if the difference is brought about by furnishing one with an appreciable advantage over the other, as for example, providing one with a machinery and the other with a hand mallet, there may be a possibility of injustice being caused and also a possibility of one person getting less than what the Government regards as the minimum wage and another getting much more than what the Government so regards. It is no doubt true that a minimum rate of wages cannot be fixed with anything like absolute mathematical precision. But it does not mean that no attempt should be made for arriving at a result which may really be, reasonable and just in the circumstances' and in furtherance of the known objects of the statute.
17. We shall therefore examine what the result would be.
18. According to the affidavit on behalf of the State Government, the revised rates result in a hand sheller earning a daily wage of Rs. 2-40 and a machine sheller earning a daily wage of Rs. 2.80.
19. According to the information furnished by the counsel before us, the average quantity shelled by the hand shellers per day is between 7 to 9 kilos and the average quantity shelled by the machine shellers is about 13 kilos. If the old rates of 9 p. per pound and 8 p. per pound are applied, their respective daily earnings would be Rs. 1-80 and Rs. 2-40. Under the revised rates, their respective daily earnings would be Rs. 2-70 and Rs. 3-90.
20. From these figures, it will at once be seen that the original distinction between the two categories or sub-categories is not obliterated by the fixation of a uniform piece rate. The only variation is that the proportion which the excess earnings of the machine shellers bear to the normal earnings of the hand shellers stands slightly enhanced.
21. There is no objection, nor can there be any, to the Government fixing a rate which brings them a higher earning than what they were getting formerly. The argument, if any, available is only with regard to or with reference to the difference between the two. In that regard, one leg of the argument is removed by the fact that the distinction is retained. The other leg can hardly stand because the difference is not, in our opinion, so appreciable or atrocious as to make the fixation itself completely illegal or of such a characteras to result in any flagrant disobedience of the object of the Minimum Wages Act.
22. The Writ petition thereforefails and is dismissed but without costs.