1. This appeal is against the order of the acquittal of Mangaldas V. Thakker, Manager, Golden Tobacco Company who was charged with an offence under Section 92 of the Factories Act, 1948. It appears that on 8-7-1956, when the Regional Inspector of Factories, Guntur, went for inspection after 5-30 p.m., he found 823 female workers working in the factory between 5-30 and 6-30 p.m. even though according to the notice displayed' on the Board, the hours of work of female workers were specified from 7-30 a.m. to 11-30 a.m. and 1-30 p.m. to 5-30 p.m. This is said to be a clear contravention of S 63 of the Factories Act of 1948.
He also found that the muster roll maintained was not marked for those workers on the date and this was a contravention of Rule 103 of the Madras Factories Rules framed under the Act. The Manager in defence stated that though the notified hours were as per Ex, P-2, the workers did not come to their work at 7-30 a.m. on account of heavy rain fall and the work in fact had to start from 9 a.m. with the result that in order to make up the full hours for the day, they worked beyond 5-30 p.m. As to the second charge his defence was that the concerned clerk had gone to attend the Stationary Magistrate's Court in obedience to the summons sent to him and the attendence of the workers could not, therefore, be posted in the prescribed register then, though it was entered on a rough paper by another clerk for subsequent posting by the concerned clerk, after his return.
The learned Magistrate, as a result of his enquiry, came to the conclusion that the defence as put forward by the Manager is not only well established but also has not even been denied by the prosecution. P.W. 1, the Inspector himself, admitted that he had not received any complaint from any of the workers that he or she was made to work for more than the prescribed number of hours on that day. He does not categorically deny the fact that the workers attended duty on that day after 9 a.m. due to heavy rain and that is the reason why they were on work beyond 5-30 p.m.
It is not at all the case of the Inspector that the workers had complained in any manner either with regard to the marking of their attendance or to their hours of work. All that is sought to be established by the evidence' is that though the total number of hours of work for the day was not exceeded, in any manner, technically there has been contravention of the Section 63 of the Factories Act and Rule 103 of the Factory Rules.
2. The question is whether such contravention under the circumstances is punishable under the provisions of the Act. The learned Magistrate is of the view that since there was no deliberate contravention of the rule on the part of the accused, there is no mens rea and hence no offence has been committed.
3. The learned Counsel for the accused first of all raised a preliminary objection that having regard to the date of the filing of the complaint as is apparent from page 14 of the printed copy, though the occurrence took place on 8-7-1955 the complaint was filed only on 4-11-1955 I.e., evidently beyond three months from the date of the occurrence and as such the prosecution is hit by the provisions of Section 106 of the Factories Act and that the Court below had, therefore, no jurisdiction to entertain such a complaint. But on a perusal of the original record it appears that the complaint was in fact lodged on 30-9-1955 and it was transferred by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to the file of the Additional First Class Magistrate on 4-11-1955. It follows, therefore, that the complaint was filed within the statutory period and hence no question of limitation would arise.
4. It is then argued that there being no mens rea, the acts complained of cannot constitute an offence. Reliance has been placed on the provision of Section 117 which reads as below:
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act.
Having regard to the wording of the punitive provisions of the Act, mere contravention of the rule may be punishable under rule. However, being a criminal offence, in view of the wording of Section 117, it can be argued that there should be mens rea or criminal intention. The acts complained of do not suggest in any manner any oblique motive or criminal intention The workers were not required to work beyond a period of 8 hours that day. The difficulty in keeping up to the time-table was due to some supervening facts which detained the workers from coming to the factory and starting the work. Naturally the time-table had to start from 9 a.m. instead of 7-30 a.m. The usual interval was granted. The number of hours of work was not exceeded.
So then the action taken was neither detrimental to the interests of the workers nor was a source of unlawful gain for the factory but was in keeping with the principle that the adult workers should not be required to work for more than 8 hours after due interval. Similarly, the entries which have to be made in the register, were not made that very moment. But it was due to the unavoidable absence of the clerk who was summoned to the Court. He could not possibly, attend the Court and make the entries in the register at the same time. A provisional arrangement was, however .made and the entries were made on a rough paper so that these entries may be made according to law in the register concerned after the clerk returned.
5. That the acts of this kind in these circumstances are not punishable is clear from the observations in Ranjit Singh v. Emperor 44 Ct LJ 523: A.I.R. 1943 Oudh 308 (A) and Ranjit Singh v. Emperor 44 Cr. LJ 527 : A.I.R. 1943 Oudh 311; (Bi. Therein it was held that unless there is a deliberate breach of the rule on the part of the occupier or the manager, the case may be covered by Section 81 of the Factories Act, (Corresponding to Section 117 of the present Act). A delay of a few minutes in posting the attendance register could not be a deliberate breach of the rule entailing the punishment as observed at p. 529 (of Cri LJ) : at PP. 312-313 of A.I.R. in the ruling above referred to. The Calcutta High Court observed that the Factories Act affords protection in the matter of prosecution for commission of offence to persons acting in good faith and if the manager had acted in good faith, he will not be liable to punishment for any of the infringement of the provisions with which he is charged.
See Superintendent and Legal Remembrancer, Bengal v, Watson A.I.R. 1934 Cal 730 (C). Section 117 says that no person for anything which he does in good faith or intends to do under the Act can be prosecuted or proceeded against civilly or criminally. The words are wide enough not only to cover the officers or servants of the Government but also the managers. Protection of this kind has been given in other laws But in most of such legal enactments it is limited to the Government Servants and officers only. For example, Section 56 of the Madras Prohibition Act reads as under:
No action shall lie against the Government or against any Prohibition, Police or other Officer, for damages in any civil Court for any act bona fide done or ordered to be done in pursuance of this Act.
Similar are the provisions of Section 17 of the Madras General Sales Tax Act, Section 14 of the Madras Preservation of Private Forests Act of 1949 and Section 40 of the General Excise Act.
6. In all these Acts the protection Is limited to the public servant or Government Officer only but the- Factories Act has a wider application. It concerns all persons who are interested in acting under the said enactment. Having regard to the provisions of Section 61 it is manifest that there are certain duties cast upon the manager and hence while he is in discharge of the said duties, it cannot but be said that the manager is acting under the provisions of the Act. Naturally that is sufficient to attract the provisions of Section 117. Thus Section 117 protects him against all the acts that he has done In good faith. In this view the conclusion of the Court below cannot be said to be wrong so that it may be interfered with in appeal by this Court. I, therefore disallow this appeal.