(1) These petitions arise out of the common order of the Labour Court Hubli in Applications (LCH) Nos. 101, 138, 139 and 140 of 1965. Those applications were made under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 by the employees working in different Departments of the Town Municipal Council at Athani,
(2) In W. P. No. 973/66 arising out of Application (LCH) NO. 138/65, 50 employees had claimed 'washing allowance' and the cost of uniform dress. In the remaining three cases, the claims of the employees were for overtime wages or for wages for work done on weekly off-days.
(3) The Petitioner-Municipal Council resisted all these claims of the employees. The labour Court disallowed the claim for cost of the uniform for the employees, but directed the Municipal Council to supply the Uniforms to those 50 employees. Their claim for 'Washing allowance' was allowed in full. In the three remaining cases, the claims of employees for over-time wages and for wages for work done on weekly off-days, were allowed and the petitioner-Municipal Council was directed to pay several amounts to those employees.
(4) Feeling aggrieved by the decision of the Labour Court, the Municipal Council as filed these petitions under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.
(5) Mr. V. S. Gunjal, learned counsel for the petitioner challenged the decision of the Labour Court on the following grounds:-
(i) The Labour Court has no jurisdiction under Section 33C(2) to adjudicate on the disputed claims of the employees.
(ii) The jurisdiction of the Labour Court to deal with claims for over-time wages and wages for work done on weekly off-days, has been barred under Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act.
(iii) The Labour Court could not entertain the claims barred by time.
(iv) The Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain claims relating to overtime wages and wages for work done on weekly off-days during any period prior to the date of coming into operation of Section 33C.
(v) The Labour Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the claim for 'Washing allowance'
(vi) The Labour Court erred in computing the several amounts payable to different groups of employees, in the absence of any issue and in the absence of evidence in that behalf.
(6) It is convenient to take up first the last of the above grounds. In Application (LCH) No. 101/65, the parties filed a joint memorandum stating that the amount to which the employee was entitled was Rules 8,342--32. Hence the question of determining the amount payable to that employee, did not arise in that case. In the three remaining applications, it is true that there was no issue regarding the amounts payable to the employees. Copies of objections filed before the Labour Court by the Municipal Council have not been produced before us. It is not shown that the Municipal Council had disputed the correctness of several amounts claimed by those employees. In the absence of such objections there was no need for the Labour Court to frame any issue regarding such amounts. It is not shown that the Municipal Council had urged before the Labour Court that such issues should be framed. A certified copy of the Order Sheet of the Labour Court has been produced by Mr. Gunjal. The entry dated 5-11-1965 therein states that parties declined to lead evidence and were content merely to submit arguments on the basis of the material on record
(7) In those circumstances, we do not see how the Municipal Council can have any grievance about determination by the Labour Court of several amounts payable to different sets of employees.
(8) Employment under a Local Authority is specified as item No. 6 in Part I of the Schedule to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and hence constitutes a 'Scheduled employment' as defined in Section 2(g) of that Act. It was not disputed that the several employees had done overtime work and had worked on certain weekly off-days, and were entitled to extra wages therefor under Sections 13(1)(c) and 14 of the Minimum Wages Act.
(9) Elaborating the first ground, Mr. Gunjal argued that Section 33C(2) only provides a machinery for enforcing payment of an amount indisputably due to a workman, and that if any claim of the workman is disputed by the employer the Labour Court has no jurisdiction under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act to adjudicate upon the claim. The pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the Central Bank of India Ltd v. Rajagopalan, : (1963)IILLJ89SC is a complete answer to this contention. Rejecting a similar contention, Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was), who spoke for the Court, stated:
'The claim under Section 33C(2) clearly postulates that the determination of the question about computing the benefit in terms of money may, in some cases have to be preceded by an enquiry into the existence of the right and such enquiry may be held incidental to the main determination which has been assigned to the Labour Court by sub section (2)..... We must accordingly hold that S. 33C(2) takes within its purview cases of workmen who claimed that benefit to which they are entitled should be computed in terms of money even though the right to the benefit on which the claim is based is disputed by the employer.'
(10) As the employees had clearly a right to get wages for overtime work and for work on weekly off-days, the Labour Court had jurisdiction to determine the amounts payable by the Municipal Council to its employees inspite of the Municipal Council disputing that claim.
(11) To appreciate the second ground urged by Mr. Gunjal it is necessary to set out certain provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.
(12) Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act provides that an employee may apply to an Authority appointed by the Government under this Section, for enforcing any claim arising out of payment of less than the minimum rates of wages or in respect of payment of wages for overtime work or for days of rest or for work done on such days. Under Section 20 of the Act the Judicial Magistrate First Class Athani, has been appointed by the Government as the Authority to hear and decide such claims.
(13) The Proviso to Section 20(2) requires that every such application shall be presented within 6 months from the date on which the minimum wage or other amount became payable. The further proviso to Section 20(2) empowers such authority to Condone, for sufficient reason, any delay in making such application.
(14) Section 24 of the Minimum Wages Act bars the jurisdiction of Civil Courts to entertain suits for recovery of any sum which can or could have been recovered by an application under Section 20 of that Act.
(15) Mr. Gunjal contended that as the claims of the employees could have been enforced by making an application under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act, to the Judicial Magistrate, Athani, the Jurisdiction of the Labour Court under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, was barred.
(16) As the claims of the employees for wages for overtime work and for work on weekly off-days amount to claims for money which they are entitled to receive from the employer, there is no reason why such claims should not fall within the ambit of Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. There is nothing in Section 33C(2) to exclude claims that can or could have been enforced under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act Section 24 of the Minimum Wages Act bars only the jurisdiction of Civil Courts to entertain suits in respect of such claims, and does not purport to bar the jurisdiction of the Labour Court under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act.
(17) but Mr. Gunjal argued that the jurisdiction of the Labour Court is barred by necessary implication in respect of claims falling within the ambit of Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act. In support of this contention, Mr. Gunjal strongly relied on the following observations of the Supreme Court in Bhim Sen v. State of U.P. : 1955CriLJ1010 :
'..... Exclusion of jurisdiction of a Court of general jurisdiction can be brought about by the setting up of a Court of limited jurisdiction in respect of limited field only if the vesting or the exercise of that limited jurisdiction is clear and operative.'
(18) The above observation can only apply to a Court of general jurisdiction when the Legislature constitutes a special Court or Tribunal and confers on it jurisdiction to deal with any special matter and the intention of the Legislature to exclude such matters from Court of general jurisdiction can be reasonably inferred.
(19) But the Labour Court cannot be regarded as a Court of general jurisdiction. It is as much a special Tribunal as the Authority appointed under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act. Each of these special Tribunals has jurisdiction in respect of matters specified in the enactment's constituting them and in any other enactment. There may be overlapping of jurisdiction of these Special Tribunals over some matters. There is nothing strange or unusual in more than one forum having jurisdiction over the same matter. If the Legislature has conferred jurisdiction on more than one forum to adjudicate upon a certain matter, a party can approach any one of those forums unless the jurisdiction of either of them is barred expressly or by necessary implication.
In Shamnugger Jute Factory Co. Ltd. (North) v. S.N. Modak the workmen had raised a dispute regarding the wages due to them during the period of a lock--out. The Government had referred that dispute to the Industrial Tribunal under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act. The employer contended that the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal to go into the question of such wages was barred as the claim to such wages could be determined under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (That section enables an employee to make an application to the Authority appointed by the Government under that Section, where payment of wages have been delayed or where any unlawful deduction has been made from the wages payable to him. Such application should be made within 12 months from the date on which the payment of wages was due or on which such unlawful deduction was made. Such authority is empowered to determine such claims of the employee and to direct payment of wages or to refund the amount deducted. Section 22 of that Act bars the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts to entertain any claim which comes within the ambit of Section 15). Rejecting the contention of the employer, the Federal Court said:
'The only additional argument urged before us was that claim to such payment should be determined under the Payment of Wages Act, because Section 15 of that Act creates the Tribunal and under Section 22(d) of the Act, the jurisdiction of Civil Courts to hear a suit for wages is excluded. In our opinion this argument is unsound. Section 22(d) only prevents a suit for wages. It does not exclude other proceeding permitted by law to enforce payment....'
Mr. Gunjal relied on the decision of a Bench of Madhya Pradesh high Court in Laxman Tulsiram v. Dayalal Meghji and Co., : (1968)ILLJ139MP . There the petitioner had made an application under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act for recovering from the employer the difference between the wages actually paid to him for certain period and the wages payable to him under the Madhya Pradesh Minimum Wages Fixation Act, 1962. The Labour Court, Raipur, rejected that application on the ground that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the same. The correctness of the decision of the Labour Court was challenged before the Madhya Pradesh High Court which upheld the view taken by the Labour Court. Dixit C. J. who spoke for the Court stated the conclusion thus:
'In our opinion, there is no indication whatsoever either in Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act or in Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act or in the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Central Bank of India, : (1963)IILLJ89SC (supra), that the scope of Section 33C(2) is wide enough to include claims under Section 2(vi) of the Payment of Wages Act'.
(19A) If we examine the reasoning of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, it is seen that it took the view that claims other than those under a settlement or an award or under the provision of Chapter V-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, do not come within the scope of Section 33C(2). With all respect to their Lrodships, we are unable to agree with that view. Though their Lordships have considered the decision of the Supreme Court in : (1963)IILLJ89SC with great respect, we think that they have missed the significance of the following pronouncement of the Supreme Court:
'We must accordingly hold that section 33C(2) takes within its purview cases of workmen who claimed that the benefit to which they are entitled should be computed in terms of money, even though the right to the benefit on which their claim is based is disputed by their employers'
(20) The decision of the Supreme Court in Bombay Gas Co. Ltd v. Gopal Bhiva, : (1963)IILLJ608SC was cited before the Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court. In Bombay Gas Co.'s case : (1963)IILLJ608SC the workmen moved the Labour Court to compute the benefit which they claimed to be entitled to as a result of an award made by the Industrial Tribunal in the year 1950. The application before the Labour Court was made in the year 1958. The Labour Court allowed the claim of the workmen. Before the Supreme Court it was contended for the employer that the Labour Court could not have allowed the claim of the workmen for wages, made after eight years, as that claim had to be made within one year under the Payment of Wages Act (as modified by a local amendment in the State of Maharashtra) and that the workmen could not get over that period of limitation by making a claim before another Tribunal namely, the Labour Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Labour Court.
(21) However, the Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court took the view that that decision of the Supreme Court does not afford any justification whatsoever for holding that a claim which can be made under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act can also be made under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. But as pointed out by a Bench of Punjab High Court in Tarn Taran Municipality v. State. if the Authorities under the Industrial Disputes Act had no jurisdiction to deal with the claim which could have been determined by the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act, the Supreme Court would have held so and thrown out the claim of the employees on this ground alone that their remedy lay under the Payment of Wages Act. Their Lordships of Madhya Pradesh High Court appear to have overlooked this aspect of the Bombay Gas Co.'s case, : (1963)IILLJ608SC .
(22) We are in respectful agreement with the view taken by the Bench of the Punjab High Court in Tarn Taran Municipality's case, that the decision of the Supreme Court in Bombay Gas Co.'s case, Air 1974 SC 752 supports the view that the Tribunals under the Industrial Disputes Act have jurisdiction to adjudicate upon disputes coming within the scope of that Act despite the fact that such disputes could also be decided under the Minimum Wages Act.
(23) It was next contended by Mr. Gunjal that for enforcing the claims of the employees under S. 20 of the Minimum Wages Act the time limit is 6 months and that a their claims had been barred under the Act, the employees should not be permitted to enforce such claim by merely changing the forum, and that we must hold that the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain such time barred claim.
(24) While the Legislature has provided a time limit for an application under sub-section (1) of Section 33C no such time limit is provided for an application under sub-section (2) of that section. The time limit of 6 months prescribed under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act is only for an application under that section. We do not see how that time limit can have any relevance to an application under Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. The period of limitation prescribed under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act does not destroy the right of the employees but only bars the remedy under that Act.
(25) Rejecting a similar contention n Bombay Gas Co's case. : (1963)IILLJ608SC the Supreme Court stated:
'It seems to us that where the Legislature has made no provision for limitation, it would not be open to the Courts to introduce any such limitation on the ground of fairness or justice. The words of Section 33C(2) are plain and unambiguous and it would be the duty of the Labour Court to give effect to the said provision without consideration of limitation.'
(26)) It was contended by Mr. Gunjal that the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on that part of the claims of the employees which related to any period prior to 28-8-1956, the date of coming into force of the Industrial Disputes (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956 by which Section 33C was inserted in the Industrial Disputes Act. Mr. Gunjal argued that S 33-C has no retrospective operation and hence claims prior to 28-8-1956 cannot be adjudicated upon under that section.
(27) Section 33C does not create any new right. It only creates a forum and confers jurisdiction on it to adjudicate on certain claims and to grant relief. When a special Tribunal is newly constituted and given power to adjudicate upon certain claims and to grant relief, there is no reason why its jurisdiction should not extend to claims that arose before it (the Tribunal) came into existence. The exercise of the jurisdiction by such Tribunal is only prospective and not retrospective. As stated in Maxwell's Interpretation of Statutes (11th Edition) at page 211 a statutes does operate retrospectively merely because a part of the requisites for its action is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing.
(28) Lastly it was contended by Mr. Gunjal that the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the claim of the employees in Application (LCH) No. 138/65 for 'Washing allowance'. he argued that the employees had no right under any contract or conditions or their service to such allowance and any such claim could only have been the subject matter of an Industrial adjudication on a reference under Section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, but the Labour Court could not grant any relief for such a claim. The employees have claimed 'Washing allowance' on the basis of a settlement dated 7-12-1964 between the Municipal Council and its employees. It iw such settlement that gives a right to the employees to claim 'washing allowance'. In view of that settlement, the Labour Court had jurisdiction to adjudicate on that claim under Section 33C(2).
(29) All the contentions of the petitioner fail and we dismiss these petitions. But in the circumstances, we make no order as to costs.
(30) Petition dismissed.