1. The petitioners in the several Writ Petitions are Bidi Manufacturers in the Telangana area of the State of Andhra Pradesh. All of them question the validity of G. O. Ms. No. 1617 Home (Labour II) dated 23-7-1966 by which the Government of Andhra Pradesh revised the minimum rates of wages of workers engaged in Bidi Manufactory. The facts necessary for the disposal of these writ petitions are as hereunder:
G. O. Ms. No. 659 dated 22-3-1965 containing a draft proposal to revise, minimum rates of wages of workers, employed in Tobacco (including Bidi making ) Manufactory in the manner mentioned in the Schedule was published in the Andhra Pradesh Gazette on 24-3-1965 and by the same notification the Government invited all persons affected to make their representations before minimum Wages Act. The Schedule in so 1-6-1965 as required by Sec. 5(1)(b) of the far as it is relevant was as follows:
'SCHEDULE.SL.No.Category of WorkersAll inclusive minimum rates.Daily Monthly123II* * *Bidi Manufacture (including Gharkatha)1. For rolling 1,000 bidis in Urban areas2. For rolling 1,000 bidis in Rural areas* * *Rs. P. Rs.P.* * *2-001-85* * * Note: (1) For the purpose of this Notification, urban areas shall consist of Corporations, all District Head Quarters' Towns, Municipalities under the District Municipalities Act, City and Town Municipalities in the Telangana Region, and the rural areas consist of the rest of the State.'
Some time after the publication of this notification the Government of Andhra Pradesh constituted as Advisory Board in accordance with the provisions of Sec. 7 of the Act. The Board consisted of six independent members (independent meaning non-official and not belonging to the category of employers or employees, Vide AIR 1965 Andh Pra 128), six representatives of employers and six representatives of employees. Among the representatives of the employers was Sri Bansilal S. Patel, President of the Bidi Manufacturers and Tobacco Merchants Association Nizamabad. After consulting the Advisory Board and considering the objections received from the employers and the organizations of employees the Government was of the view that the adoption of a uniform rate not commensurate with labour and time involved, would adversly affect the Bidi industry in Andhra area, and therefore the rates notified by G. O. Ms. No. 659 required to be altered. The Government was advised that a fresh notification was necessary under Section 5(1)(b) of the Act. Accordingly, the Government published fresh draft proposals (G. O. Ms. No. 331, dated 26-2-1966) in the Andhra Pradesh Gazette and invited representations from all persons before 5-5-1966. The Schedule to the notification was as follows:
'THE SCHEDULE'________________________________________________________________________________Sl. No. Category of Workers All inclusive minimum rates. ________________________________________________________________________________Daily Monthly ________________________________________________________________________________1. 2. 3.________________________________________________________________________________Bidi Manufactory (Including Gharkatha) Rs. P. Rs. P. 1. Rolling bidis (a) Andhra area:(I) For rolling 1,000 big size Zadi Bidis in Urban areas 2-00(ii) For rolling 1,000 big size Zadi Bidis in Rural areas 1- 85(iii) For rolling 1,000 big size Zadi Bidis in Urban areas 1- 92(iv) For rolling 1,000 medium size Zadi Bidis in Rural areas 1-77(v) For rolling 1,000 sada bidis in Urban areas 1- 62(vi) For rolling 1,000 sada bidis in Rural areas 1-48(b) Telangana area:(I) For rolling 1,000 bidis in Urban areas (including Gharkatha) 2-00(ii) For rolling 1,000 bidis in Rural areas 1-85* * * * * * *__________________________________________________________________________________ Note: (1) For the purpose of this notification urban areas shall consist of Corporations, all Municipalities under the Andhra Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1965 and Taluk Headquarters not being Municipalities and rural areas consist of the rest of the State'.
Thereafter, after considering the representations received and after consulting the Advisory Board the Government published the final Minimum Rates of wages in accordance with the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Minimum Wages Act. The Schedule to the notification is as follows:
'SCHEDULE_________________________________________________________________________________Sl. No. Category of Workers All inclusive minimum rates_________________________________________________________________________________Daily Monthly---------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. 2. 3.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rs. P. Rs. P. Bidi Manufactory(Including Gharkatha)1. Rolling Bidies(a) Andhra Area: (i) For rolling 1,000 big size Zadi Bidies in Urban areas. 2-04(ii) For rolling 1,000 big size Zadi Bidies in Rural areas 1-80(iii)For rolling 1,000 medium size Zadi Bidies in Urban Areas 1-96(iv) For rolling 1,000 medium size Zadi Bidies in Rural Areas 1-82(v ) For rolling 1,000 Sada Bidies in Urban Areas. 1-66(vi) For rolling 1,000 Sada Bidies in Rural areas. 1-51(b) Telangana Area:(I) For rolling 1000 bidies in Urban areas (including Gharkatha). 2-04(ii) For rolling 1000 bidies in Rural areas 1-89__________________________________________________________________________________ Note: For the purpose of this notification, Urban areas shall consist of Corporations, all Municipalities under the Andhra Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1965 and Taluk Headquarters not being Municipalities and rural areas consist of the rest of the State' It is this notification that is now impugned by various Bidi Manufacturers, in these Writ Petitions.
2. Sri. S. Krishna, learned Counsel for the petitioners has raised several contentions before me and I will deal with them one by one.
3. The first submission of the learned Counsel is that the notification is void because it purports to divide the State into two zones, 'Andhra Area' and 'Telengana Area' According to the learned Counsel such division into zones is not authorised by Section 3 of the Minimum Wages Act, Section 3 in so far as it is material for the disposal of these petitions is as follows:
'3. (1) The appropriate Government shall, in the manner here-in-after provided,
(a) fix the minimum rates of wages payable to employees employed in an employment specified in Part I or Part II of the Schedule and in an employment added to either part by notification under Section 27:Provided that the appropriate Government may, in respect of employees employed in an employment specified in Part II of the Schedule, instead of fixing minimum rates of wages under this clause for the whole state, fix such rates for a part of any specified class or classes of such employment in the whole State or part thereof:
(b) review at such intervals as it may think fit, such intervals not exceeding five years, the minimum rates of wages of fixed and revise the minimum rates, if necessary:
Provided that where for any reasons the appropriate Government has not reviewed the minimum rates of wages fixed by it in respect of any scheduled employment within an interval of five years, nothing contained in this clause shall be deemed to prevent it from reviewing the minimum rates after the expiry of the said period of five years and revising them, if necessary, and until they are so revised the minimum rates in force immediately before the expiry of the said period of five years shall continue in force.
x x x x x x
(3) In fixing or revising minimum rates of wages under this section,
(a) different minimum rates of wages may be fixed for
(I) different scheduled employment;
(ii) different classes of work in the same scheduled employment.
(iii) Adults, adolescents, children and apprentices;
(iv) different localities.'
4. Relying upon the proviso to S. 3(1)(a) Sri Krishna submits that rates of minimum wages can be fixed for parts of the State only if the employment is of the kind specified in Part II of the Schedule. But in the case of employments specified in Part I of the Schedule, like bidi making , uniform rates of minimum wages must be for the entire State or not at all. That, however, does not appear to be the meaning of the proviso. What the proviso means is that in the case of employments specified in Part II of the Schedule the minimum rates of wages need not be fixed for the entire State. Parts of the State may be left out altogether. In the case of employments specified in Part I, the minimum rates of wages must be fixed for the entire State, no part of the State being, omitted. This does not mean that the rates to be fixed should be uniform. What is necessary is that minimum rates of wages should be fixed for every part of the State without any omission. Sec. 3(3)(a)(iv) expressly provides for the fixation of different minimum rates of wages for different localities. According to the learned Counsel to the words 'different localities' do not authorise the Government to divide the State into zones but authorise the Government to divide the State into Urban and Rural areas and other such divisions. There is no warrant for this argument. The Supreme Court in Bhikusa Yamasa Kshatriya v. Sangammer Akola Taluka Bidi Kamgar Union, : (1962)IILLJ736SC upheld the validity of a similar notification dividing the State of Maharashtra into various zones and rejected the plea that Section 3(3)(iv) under which the notification was made violated the fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(f). Shah, J., observed:
'But it is urged that in enacting Sec. 3(3)(iv) which conferred upon the State authority to fix varying minimum rates of wages for different localities, the legislature gave no indication of the matters to be taken into account for that purpose, and entrusted the State with arbitrary and uncontrolled power, exercise whereof was likely to result in discriminatory treatment between different employers carrying on the same business in contiguous localities. The Act undoubtedly confers authority upon the appropriate Government to issue notifications fixing and revising rates of minimum wages in respect of diverse industries for the whole or part of the State. Having regard to the diversity of conditions prevailing and the number of industries covered by the Act the Legislature could obviously not fix uniform minimum rates of wages for all scheduled industries, or for all localities in respect of individual industries. Working out detailed provisions relating to the minimum rates the advisability of fixing rates for different industries, ascertainment of localities in which they were to be applied and the time when they were to be effective, and fixation of time rate, piece rate, or guaranteed time rate had from the very nature of the legislation to be delegated to some authority. In considering the minimum rates of wages for a locality diverse factors such as basic rates of wage, special allowance, economic climate of the locality, necessity to prevent exploitation having regard to the absence of organisation amongst the workers, general economic condition of the industrial development in the area, adequacy of wages paid, and earnings in other comparable employments and similar other matters would have to be taken into account. Manifestly the Legislature could not ascertain whether it was expedient to fix minimum wages in respect of each scheduled industry of the entire territory or for a part thereof and whether uniform or varying rates should be fixed having regard to the conditions prevailing in different localities. Again of necessity, different rates had to be fixed in respect of the work performed by adults, adolescents, children and apprentices.'
There is no force in the first contention of Sri Krishna.
5. It is next submitted that having proposed in the draft proposals dated 26-2-1966 that the minimum wages would be fixed at Rs. 2 and Rs. 1-85 for Urban and Rural areas in Telangana area the Government was not justified in fixing the minimum rates of wages finally as Rs. 2-09 and Rs. 1-88 respectively for Urban and Rural areas of Telangana area. According to the petitioners if the Government wanted to enhance the rates mentioned in the draft proposals there must be another notification and another opportunity given to the petitioners to make representations against the variation. I am unable to agree with this contention either. Draft proposals are only tentative and representations are received not merely from the employers but also from the employees. In the ordinary course of events the employer must expect the employees to make representations for enhanced minimum wages just as the employees may expect that the employers would make representations for reduced minimum wages. Any representations made by the parties must contemplate and take into account possible enhancement or reduction. It may be mentioned here that the minimum rates which were finally fixed were the rates unanimously approved by the Advisory Board, which included the representatives of the employers among whom was the President of the Bidi Manufacturers and Tobacco Merchants' Association, Nizamabad.
6. The next submission on behalf of the petitioners is that the Advisory Board which made its recommendations to the Government never made any independent enquiries of its own by visiting centres of Bidi Industry or by issuing questionnaires. The Advisory Board consisted of representatives of both employers and employees who may be presumed to know the general condition of industry and labour in the State. It also consisted of experts like the Head of the Economics Department of the Osmania University and the Head of the Social Studies Department of the Andhra University. Full information was made available to the Board by the Government who had gathered statistics from its various District Officers. It was wholly unnecessary for the Advisory Board to go about from place to place making enquiries when in fact all necessary information was readily available from the Government. There is no force in the submission that the Board should have made its own independent enquiries.
7. Another submission of the petitioner is that the Advisory Board and the Government did not take into account relevant considerations like the cost of living index and the capacity of the employer to pay. The increase of the minimum rates of wages is solely due to the increase in the cost of living. There is no substance in the statement that the cost of living index has not been taken into account. What the petitioner submitted is that though the cost of living indices in towns in Andhra area are nearly double the indices in towns in the Telangana area same rates have been fixed for rolling big size Zadi bidis in Urban areas in Andhra region and for rolling bidis in Urban areas in the Telangana region. It is explained by the Government that taking into account the rise in the cost of living the Government has enhanced the minimum rates of wages uniformly by 21 per cent. over the previous minimum rates of wages. It is possible for the workers in Andhra area to make a grievance of the fact that a uniform rate of wages has been fixed. But I do not see how the employers of Telangana Area can have a grievance. There is no substance either in the contention that the Government and the Board have not taken into account the capacity of the employers to pay minimum rates of wages. Though in Express Newspaper Ltd. v. Union of India, : (1961)ILLJ339SC , there is an observation in the judgment of Bhagwati J., that the minimum wage thus contemplated postulates the capacity of the industry to pay and no fixation of wages which ignores this essential factor of the capacity of the industry to pay could ever be supported, in U. Unichoyi v. State of Kerala, : (1961)ILLJ631SC , the Supreme Court has explained this observation as referring to a statutory wage structure of the kind contemplated by Sec. 9 of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1955, Gajendragadkar J. who delivered the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court held:
'We feel no hesitation in rejecting the argument that because the Act prescribes minimum wage rates it is necessary that the capacity of the employer to bear the burden of the said wage structure must be considered. The attack against the validity of the notification made on this ground must therefore fail.'
8. The last submission of Sri Krishna is that there was a settlement between employers and employees which had the force of an award and therefore the Government had no jurisdiction to fix the minimum wages. But the very settlement relied upon by the petitioners states that it is to be in force till minimum rates of wages are fixed under the Act. This argument is therefore wholly without substance.
9. In view of the above discussion all the Writ Petitions are dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100 in each.
10. Petition dismissed.