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The Manager, Warrangal Branch, Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society, Warrangal Vs. the Authority Under Minimum Wages Act Warrangal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 60008 of 78
Judge
Reported in1984(2)ALT123; (1986)ILLJ355AP
ActsMinimum Wages Act, 1948 - Sections 20(2), 20(3) and 25
AppellantThe Manager, Warrangal Branch, Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society, Warrangal
RespondentThe Authority Under Minimum Wages Act Warrangal and ors.
Excerpt:
labour and industrial - compensation - sections 20 (2), 20 (3) and 25 of minimum wages act, 1948 - petitioner was co-operative society entered into valid agreement with its worker fixing wages at rate lower than rates prescribed by go - subsequently some of workers filed application before appropriate authority seeking wages as per go - application allowed in favour of workers by authority and compensation awarded - writ petition challenging award passed by authority - agreement entered upon after seeking permission of labour commissioner - permission granted by labour commissioner after considering relevant matters - labour court was satisfied that payment of wages proposed by agreement was in accordance with scheme prescribed by go - petitioner not being a profit motive management is.....1. the petitioner herein seeks a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the respondent in m.w. case no. 11/76 dated 30th june, 1978. the facts may be briefly stated : the andhra pradesh handloom weavers co-operative society, the petitioner herein, has been established to organise handloom weavers into co-operatives. small handloom weavers were formed into a society, and the head office was located at hyderabad. the petitioner established various model weaving centres, and the activities of the branches are co-ordinated by the petitioner-society. one of the branches was located at warangal. the controversy in the present case relates to warangal branch. the warangal branch of model weaving centre employed a number of weavers. an application was filed on 31st december, 1973 before the.....
Judgment:

1. The petitioner herein seeks a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the respondent in M.W. Case No. 11/76 dated 30th June, 1978. The facts may be briefly stated : The Andhra Pradesh Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society, the petitioner herein, has been established to organise handloom weavers into co-operatives. Small handloom weavers were formed into a society, and the Head Office was located at Hyderabad. The petitioner established various model weaving centres, and the activities of the branches are co-ordinated by the petitioner-society. One of the branches was located at Warangal. The controversy in the present case relates to Warangal branch. The Warangal branch of model weaving centre employed a number of weavers. An application was filed on 31st December, 1973 before the respondent by A. Ramulu and sixty-seven others represented by one Sri M. Krishnamurthy, claiming that the petitioner had not paid the required minimum wages as per G.O. Ms. No. 799, Employment, S.W. (T) Department dated 16th September, 1975 as amended by G.O. Rt. No. 104 dated 5th February, 1976. The application was signed on behalf of all the applicants by Sri M. Krishnamurthy, and filed under S. 20(2) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (the Act for Short). Thereupon, the respondent conducted the necessary enquiry. During the course of the enquiry, the petitioner raised several pleas objecting to the maintainability of the petition, and also resisted the application on merits. As a result of the enquiry, it was found that some of the persons mentioned as employees were not really the employees of the petitioner, and several others were paid wages in excess of the minimum wage prescribed by the aforesaid Government Orders. Eventually, twentynine persons were identified as workmen to whom the minimum wage paid fell short of the wage prescribed by the aforesaid Government Orders. The orders passed by the respondent confined only to those twentynine persons although the application was filed in respect of sixty-eight persons initially. The respondent rejected the contention of the petitioner that the application filed was not maintainable. This objection appears to have been taken on the ground that the applications did not sign individually the application filed. The respondent pointed out that it was not necessary that the workmen should themselves sign the application under S. 20(2) of the Act, and it was permissible for a legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade Union, authorised in writing to act on behalf of the workmen to file an application claiming the payment of minimum wage. The respondent held that the fact that the workmen did not individually sign the application form did not affect the maintainability of the application filed. The respondent did not also accept the contention that the workmen did not authorise Sri M. Krishnamurthy to file the application in question. After consideration of the case on merit the respondent held that in respect of twenty-nine persons who are finally identified, the wages paid by the petitioner fell short of the minimum wage prescribed by the Government under the aforesaid Government Orders. The respondent annexed a detailed statement to the order quantifying the difference in the amount of minimum wage paid. According to that quantification, in respect of the twenty-nine workmen, the minimum wage short paid was ascertained as Rs. 7,290-26 ps. The respondent also directed that compensation equal to five times the difference above referred to, should be paid by the petitioner. Accordingly, the compensation payable was determined at Rs. 36,451-30 ps. In the aggregate, the amount payable by way of difference in the minimum wage and the compensation was determined by the respondent at Rs. 43,741-56 ps. and the petitioner was directed to make the payment accordingly. It is this order of the respondent that has been questioned in this Writ Petition.

2. The learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner, Sri M. Surendra Rao, reiterated his submissions which were already urged before the respondent. Firstly, he contended that the petition filed by Sri M. Krishnamurthy on behalf of sixty-eight workers is not valid, and therefore, the respondent should not have assumed jurisdiction to make an enquiry and pass order pursuant to the application made by Sri M. Krishnamurthy on behalf of sixty-eight workmen. It is pointed out that on behalf of the workmen, A Ramulu whose name appears as the first applicant, was examined. This persons was examined by the applicants to support the claim made claiming that the petitioner did not pay the minimum wage. The said Ramulu deposed before the respondent that the petitioner paid the minimum wage as required by the Act, and he had no claim against the petitioner for payment of any wage. The learned Counsel therefore contends that even the evidence led by the group of applicant did not support the claim that the petitioner did not pay the minimum wage. It was also pointed out that the applicant produced seven more workmen, and some of them stated that they did not know Krishnamurthy who filed the application before the respondent while some others stated that they knew Krishnamurthy; all of them however stated that they received the minimum wage, and they had no claims whatsoever against the petitioner. They further stated that they did not authorise Sri M. Krishnamurthy to file an application before the respondent. The petitioner also produced the Supervisor and the Accountant (M. Sivayya and M. Chandrayya) dealing with the payment of wages, and both the Supervisor as well as the Accountant testified the fact that the petitioner paid the minimum wage prescribed by the orders above cited. The learned Counsel contends that in view of the above testimony, the respondent should have considered the fundamental question, whether the petition filed before him was filed by a person competent to file the same under S. 20(2) of the Act. It was also claimed that the petitioner was paying the wages in accordance with the agreement entered into with the workmen on 2nd September, 1976, that is to say after the passing of the aforesaid orders by the Government fixing the minimum wage. It is submitted that several workmen felt that the minimum wage prescribed under the aforesaid Government Orders would affect them prejudicial, and, consequently, the petitioner and the representatives of the workmen referred the matter to the Commissioner of Labour, and after protracted consideration, it was felt that the wages being paid by the petitioner were not less than the minimum wage prescribed by the aforesaid orders. It is stated that the matter was also represented to the Labour Minister, and after a comprehensive discussion, the parties came to an arrangement, and the workmen representatives filed a letter before the Secretary, Labour Department, that payment of wages then existing would cover the payment of minimum wage prescribed by the Government Orders dated 16th September, 1975 and 5th February, 1976. Following the agreement reached with the good offices of the Government, an agreement was executed on 2nd September, 1976 which was signed by the representatives of the workmen specifying the rates at which the wages should be paid. The learned Counsel contends that the payment of wages according to this agreement was not below the rate prescribed as minimum wage by the aforesaid two Government Orders. It is therefore submitted that on merits also the respondent was in error in coming to the conclusion that there was any short fall in the payment of minimum wages.

3. Finally it is contended that the twentynine persons finally identified as the workmen to whom minimum wages were not paid, included the eight persons who appreared before the respondent and admitted that they had no claims against the petitioner. Even so, the respondent held that are entitled to the payment of the alleged short-fall, and granted such payment as well as compensation to these eight persons. The learned Counsel contends that the finding of the respondent that there was short-fall in the payment of minimum wages payable to these eight persons was erroneous, and consequently the direction to pay to these eight persons the alleged difference in payment of minimum wage together with the compensation was unwarranted. The learned Counsel for the petitioner also endeavoured to show with reference to the statistics that the over all amount of wages paid to the workmen is not less than the minimum wage prescribed, although the wage paid to the workers for weft fell short of the wage prescribed by the aforesaid Government Orders for work in that department. It was pointed out that the petitioner was paying greater wages for bobbins winding, pirn winding, warping and drafting, so that the aggregate of wages paid to the workmen was in accordance with the Government Orders specified above. It was pointed out that this aspect was considered by the Government when representations were made by the workmen after the receipt of the aforesaid Government Orders. Thus, on merits also, the learned counsel for the petitioner contends, that there was no case for holding that the petitioner had been paying less than the minimum wages. It is also submitted that in any event the respondent did not exercise discretion judiciously in granting compensation, especially when the workmen themselves did not claim any compensation in the application filed by them. It is pointed out that in the application filed, against the column claiming compensation, the workmen showed 'nil' so that the respondent should have realised that the workmen were not claiming any compensation. In the absence of any claim, contends the learned Counsel for the petitioner, there was no justification for the grant of compensation equal to five times the amount of minimum wages. On the above grounds, the Order of the respondent had been assailed.

4. The learned Government Pleader representing the first respondent supported the orders passed determining the amount of minimum wages as well as the compensation. The learned counsel also urged that the application filed by Sri M. Krishnamurthy was valid, and the respondent was right in acting on the application filed under S. 20(2) of the Act. It is appropriate to mention at this stage that in the writ petition as originally filed, there were only two respondents. The first respondent was the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act and the second respondent was M. Krishnamurthy representing all the workmen who filed the application before the Authority under the Minimum Wages. After filing the Writ Petition, the petitioner took steps to implead all the twnetynin workmen separately. After the workmen were impleaded as parties, M/s. Krovvidi Narasimham and D. S. R. Varma entered appearance on behalf of twentytwo out of twentynine workmen. Although notices were served on the remaining seven workmen, they remained ex parle. It must be mentioned that M. Krishnamurthy who is respondent No. 2 to this writ petition, did not choose to file a counter, or be represented by a counsel. He did not come before this Court to assert that he had competency to file the petition. Representing the twentytwo workmen on whose behalf appearance has been filed, Sri D. S. R. Varma urged that the application filed by Krishnamurthy before the respondent was quite in order as he was a trade union leader. It is pointed out that under S. 20(2) of the Act, application need not be filed by the employees themselves, and it is permissible to file a single application by an official of a registered trade union, and, therefore, Krishnamurthy was competent to file the application. The learned Counsel urged that only limited objection was taken before the respondent that Krishnamurthy was not properly authorised by the workmen, and no objection was otherwise taken to the competency of Krishnamurthy to file the application. The learned counsel therefore contended that this Court ought not to consider, at this stage, the competency of Krishnamurthy to file the application except from the point of view of lack of authorisation as alleged by the petitioner. The learned Counsel further contended that the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 entered into between the management and the workmen has no relevancy because the payment of minimum wage in accordance with the Orders of the Government is obligatory, and it is not permissible for the management to contend that pursuant to an agreement, a wage less than the minimum wage was paid to the workmen. Notwithstanding the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976, contends the learned Counsel, the petitioner was under an obligation to pay the minimum wage, and consequently, reference to the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 should be considered to be irrelevant. The learned Counsel also pointed out that foot note 2 to the Government Order would clearly indicate that if in respect of any process the wage being paid by the management was less than the minimum wage, the minimum wage would prevail, and in respect of wage for weft, the wage payable by the petitioner to the workmen was admittedly less than the minimum wage, and, consequently, the Authority was justified in holding that in respect of twentynine persons, the petitioner failed to pay the minimum wages for weft. The learned Counsel also pointed out that it is immaterial that eight persons appeared before the respondent and acknowledged that they had no claims. According to the learned Counsel, S. 25 of the Act is a bar to any such acknowledgment. The learned Counsel points-out that under the provisions of S. 25 of the Act, no workmen can relinquish his claim for payment of minimum wage, and therefore, the respondent was justified in ignoring the statements made by the eight persons who appeared before him and acknowledged that they had no claims against the petitioner. Once the respondent came to the conclusion that minimum wage was not paid in respect of the twentynine people, contends the learned Counsel, it is open to him to discard all other evidence, and proceed to determine the amount of short-fall. The learned Counsel also contended that the respondent gave congent reasons for granting compensation. It is urged that the grant of compensation, is a matter of discretion so far as the respondent is concerned, and this Court ought not to interfere with the discretion exercised by the respondent. It is also pointed out that the respondent had the option to grant compensation equal to ten times the amount of minimum wage, and, in exercise of discretion, the respondent granted compensation equal to five times of the short-fall. It is therefore contended that this Court cannot interfere with the discretion exercised by the respondent. Finally, the learned Counsel urged that is in accordance with the provisions of the Act and should be upheld by this Court.

5. Having given my careful consideration to the submissions made by the learned Counsel, it appears to me that the order passed by the respondent is without jurisdiction, and should be quashed on that ground. S. 20(2) of the Act is relevant for the purpose, and may be extracted for ready reference.

'Where an employee has any claim of the nature referred to in sub-s. (1) the employee himself or any legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on his behalf, or the Inspector, or any person acting with the permission of the Authority for a direction under sub-s. (3).'

6. It is clear from the above that an application need not be filed by an employee himself, and an application can be filed on behalf of the employee, by any legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on behalf of the employee. When an application is filed before the Authority by a person other than the employee, it is at once necessary for the Authority to consider whether the application is properly filed and maintainable. This matter goes to the root of jurisdiction, and the Authority is under an obligation to examine himself the maintainability of the application filed. It is not necessary that some one should make an objection regarding the maintainability of the application on the ground of jurisdiction. If an application, on behalf of sixtyeight workmen is filed, by a person named M. Krishnamurthy, it is necessary for the Authority to enquire and find out whether the said M. Krishnamurthy is an official of a registered trade union. If he fulfils this description, then alone the application filed by him is competent, and the Authority concerned will be justified in entertaining the application. In the present case, there is absolutely no enquiry made into the question whether the above referred Krishnamurthy is an official of a registered trade union competent to file an application on behalf of the various workmen. It is said that he is the President of Adarsha Chenetha Kendra Karmika Sangham. In the first place, there is no indication whether he was such a President of Adarsha Chenetha Kendra Karmika Sangham at the time when the application was filed on 31st December, 1976. The description of the above Krishnamurthy as the President of the Adarsha Chehetha Kendra Karmika Sangham subsequently does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that he was a President of the said Sangham at the relevant time when the application was filed. Even assuming that he was the President, there is no material whatsoever on record to indicate that Adarsha Chenetha Kendra Karmika Sangham is a trade union, and if it is a trade union, it was further necessary for the Authority to investigate into the question whether the said Krishnamurthy an official of the registered trade Union. It is not as if the member of every trade union has competency to file an application before the Authority, but only an official of a registered trade Union has got the competency to do so. It is necessary for the person making the application to show how he fulfils the requirement under S. 20(2) of the Act, and then alone the Authority is competent to entertain the application submitted by him on behalf of various workmen. In the present case, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that first of all the Adarsha Chenetha Kendra Karmika Sangham was a trade union, that it was a registered trade union, and that Krishnamurthy was an official of the said trade union. The authority seems to have assumed that because the application was filed by Krishnamurthy with authorisation of sixty-eight members, he must be held to be competent to file an application under S. 20(2) of the Act. As observed by me already, it was imperative on the part of the Authority to examine and satisfy himself that the application filed by Krishnamurthy was in conformity with the requirements of S. 20(2). Without making any such enquiry, the Authority assumed that the application was filed by a person competent to file, just because he had the authorisation given by sixtyeight workmen. I am unable to accept the contention of the learned counsel representing the workmen, that this Court should not go into this question regarding the competency of Krishnamurthy to file the application. This question goes to the root of the jurisdiction and unless there are materials to show that the persons who made the application before the Authority has competency to do so, the entire exercise will become futile. That the petitioner raised the question of competency of Krishnamurthy to file the application, is not in doubt. In the counter filed by the Authority under Minimum Wages Act, it is stated thus :

'The petitioner management has also raised an objection that the enquiry was conducted by the Authority on an application filed by one Krishnamurthy who is not a worker, but an outsider and that certain workers have disputed the Authority of Krishnamurthy to file an application on their behalf. As per S. 20(2) of the Minimum Wages Act an application can be made to the Authority by the worker himself or any legal practitioner or official of a registered trade union on their behalf. Sri. Krishnamurthy who is alleged to be an outsider is President of Adarsha Chenetha Kendra Karmika Sangham a registered trade union who was authorised by all the workers to take actions in the matter.'

It is clear from the above defence taken in the counter that the Authority was fully conscious and aware of the fact that an objection as regards the jurisdiction was taken before him on the ground that Krishnamurthy was not competent to tile the application. There was no error in the mind of the Authority so far as the ground taken before him was concerned. However, the jurisdiction was justified on the basis that Krishnamurthy was the President of a Karmika Sangham which is a registered trade union. In the first place, there is no material on the basis of which averment is made in the counter that the said Karmika Sangham is a registered trade union. In any event, it is not even contended in the counter that the said Krishnamurthy is an official of the registered trade union at the relevant time when the application was filed. I called upon the learned Government Pleader to place before me the application filed by Krishnamurthy on 31st December, 1976. The learned Government Pleader pleaded his inability to produce that application on the ground that the relevant record is not with him. The order of the respondent does not indicate that upon enquiry derived satisfaction that the said Krishnamurthy was an official of a registered Trade Union, and therefore, competent to file the application under S. 20(2) of the Act. It seems to me that the jurisdiction was assumed by the respondent on an application filed by Krishnamurthy without enquiring into the question whether the said Krishnamurthy was competent to file an application. It must be pointed out that Krishnamurthy was not examined at any stage. It was clear that the Authority assumed that Krishnamurthy was competent because he filed an authorisation given to him by sixty-eight persons, and, therefore, he was competent to sign the application and file it on behalf of all the sixty-eight applicants. I therefore hold that the assumption of jurisdiction by the respondent on the application filed by Krishnamurthy was not in accordance with the provisions contained in S. 20(2) of the Act, and the order passed by the respondent has to be quashed on this preliminary ground itself.

7. Even otherwise, there are sufficient grounds to hold that the order is unsustainable in law. In order to apply S. 20(2) of the Act for the purpose of entertaining an application, the condition precedent is that an employee should have a claim for payment. If the employee himself admits that he had no such claim, I do not understand how the provisions of S. 20(2) of the Act can be applied at all. In this case, A Ramulu, who is the leding workman of the sixtyeight applicants and who was examined on behalf of the workmen, appeared before the respondent, and acknowledged that he was paid the minimum wages, and he had no claim. Thus, the only person examined on behalf of the applicants, betrayed the entire process for filing the application. Apart from the above leading workman, the petitioner produced seven more workmen all of whom admitted that their wages were fully paid, and they had no claim whatsoever against the petitioner. They went to the extent of stating that they never authorised making any claim, and that their signatures were taken on some paper without telling them for what purpose the signatures were taken. They ail admitted that they were not literates. It would appear from the above evidence that eight out of twentynine persons finally identified by the respondent, appeared before the respondent, and stated that had no claim. This should have put the authority on alert to summon some other workmen among the twentynine, and ascertain if they had any claims. It is not denied that the respondent made no such effort. On this contrary, the respondent rushed to the conclusion that the eight persons who appeared before him turned hostile against their own application. This is what the Authority observed dealing with this matter :

'No doubt that a batch of 7 persons included in the claim petition presented themselves on behalf of the employer and deposed that they did not authorise Sri M. Krishnamurthy to file the claim petitions, and nothing was still due to them from the management by way of wages, that the management had paid all the dues on account of minimum wages and that they passed on receipts also to that effect to the management. Sri V. Narasimha Ramulu, another employee pertaining to the same batch held a bold departure and stated that he had authorised Sri M. Krishnamurthy to file the claim petition though added that there were no more dues to be received from the management ........... whatever might be the subsequent developments, it is clear that the claimants can be said to have become hostile to their own applications when once they offered themselves to depose in favour of the respondent-employer......------

Moreover S. 25 of the Act expressly debars any contract or any agreement whereby an employee either relinquishes or reduces his right to the minimum rate of wage accruing to him under this Act in so far as such agreement purports to reduce minimum rate of wages fixed under the Act. Therefore, the present act of the employee is no less than a written contract or agreement designed to relinquish or diminish his own right accruing under the Statute. Therefore, I do not propose to attach any evidential value to depositions of the said workers.'

8. It is strange that a person can be held to turn hostile against himself. It is nobody's case that the persons who appeared before the respondent tried to cause detriment to the interests of the remaining workmen admitting that they received the entire wages. Indeed, the learned Counsel for the workmen advanced this plea that the hostility of the eight persons can be related not to their own application but to cause detriment to the interests of the other workmen. I am unable to accept this logic. If the Authority entertains suspicion that these workmen were induced by the management to speak untruth, that their statements would cause detriment or would jeopardise to the interests of the other workmen, it was open to him to call upon the other workmen before him and swear to the correctness of the fact. He made no such attempt. On the contrary, he rushed to the conclusion that the eight persons who appeared before him turned hostile against their own application, and drew the inference that they must be considered to have relinquished their claims. Relinquishment of a claim arises under law if a person has a legal claim, and does not press to enforce that claim. The workmen who appeared before the respondent acknowledged in unequivocal terms that they were paid the minimum wages according to the orders of the Government, and that they had no claims whatsoever. It may be, the workmen were referring to the over all wages paid by the petitioner and not to different rates of wages fixed by the Government Orders for different branches of activites. Nevertheless, the fact remains that so far as the respondent is concerned, there is no claim within the meaning of S. 20(2) in so far as the eight persons who appeared before him denied any claim for payment of wages. In my opinion, therefore, the respondent was in error in thinking that these eight persons forming part of the twentynine persons who are finally identified, should be granted the difference in minimum wages, and what is more, compensation equal to five times. I find that in the list of twentynine persons annexed to the Order, the difference in wages payable was determined by the respondent, to these eight persons at Rs. 1,786-31 ps. and the corresponding compensation at five times at Rs. 8,931-55 ps. agreegating in all to Rs. 10,717-86 ps. The Authority was clearly in error in directing the payment of the above wages and compensation to the eight persons who, on their own admission, had no claims against the petitioner. In any event, out of the total sum of Rs. 43,741-56 ps. directed to be paid, the sum corresponding to these eight people amounting to Rs. 10,717-86 ps. is clearly uncalled for. For ready reference the particulars of the wages and compensation in respect of these eight persons are given below :

--------------------------------------------------------------Sl. No. in the list Difference Compensationannexed to the order in wages--------------------------------------------------------------3. 56-54 282-705. 354-01 1,770-056. 327-17 1,635-8510. 184-03 920-15 184-03 920-15 17. 9-48 47-4018. 374-30 1,871-5020. 360-26 1,801-3021. 120-52 602-60 120-52 602-60 --------- ----------1,786-31 8,931-55---------------------------------------------------------------

9. Even as regards the claim of the remaining twentynine persons, I am not persuaded to accept the submission that in the absence of any evidence before the Authority who conducted the enquiry under S. 20(2) of the Act, a direction can be issued by the respondent for the payment of wages or compensation to them. It is not denied that none out of the remaining twenty-one persons appeared before the Authority to assert their claim. In my opinion, therefore, even the balance of the claim relating to the twentyone persons amounting to Rs. 33,023-70 ps. cannot be supported. The respondent was clearly in error in directing the payment of wages as well as the compensation to the remaining twentyone persons.

10. Dealing with the question relating to the merits, it is not necessary for me to go into this matter in detail in view of my above findings. It is, however, necessary to state that the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 which was subsequent to the orders of the Government prescribing the minimum wage, was entered into between the petitioner and the workmen with the good offices of the Government. Tje agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 contains recitals that the workmen felt unhappy and dissatisfied that the minimum wage prescribed by the Government in the orders above cited would cause detriment to their interests, and therefore, the workmen as well as the management approached the Labour Commissioner as well as the Minister for Labour to accord permission to enter into an agreement for the payment of the wages as then existing. There is enough indication in the agreement itself that the Labour Commissioner and the Secretary to the Labour Department had looked into the various aspects of the matter, and were satisfied that so far as the payment of wages by the petitioner is concerned, it would be in accord with the Government orders if the wages are paid as specified in the agreement. The agreement leaves no doubt whatsoever on the question that it was arrived at with the full awareness of the wages prescribed by the Government. I am not pursuaded to accept the submission that just because the rate of wages prescribed for weft fell short of the minimum wage prescribed, it is necessary to disregard the over-all wage paid by the petitioner. It is this aspect of the matter that received consideration resulting in the agreement executed on 2nd September, 1976. It is necessary to bear one thing in mind. The petitioner is not a management of the usual kind pocketing the profits for its benefit. It is often said that a private employer exploits the workmen, and, therefore, statutory protection is necessary for the workmen against the exploitation by a private employer. In the present case, the petitioner is a Co-operative Society established for the purpose of protecting the Welfare of the weavers. It is not a case of private employer endeavouring to exploit the interests of the workmen and enjoy the profits. The profits, if any, belong to the workers themselves who constituted into a Co-operative Society. Unfortunately this satutary fact had not been noticed by the respondent, and he proceeded to deal with the matter as if the petitioner is one of the private employers who is anxious to exploit the workmen and reap personal benefit. Once the fact that the petitioner is a co-operative society is borne in mind, the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 would justify in its full effect as protecting the interests of the workers. I am unable, therefore, to accede to the contention of the learned Government pleader as well as the learned Counsel for the workmen that there is any short-fall in the minimum wages even on merits.

11. One comment above the grant of compensation by the respondent. It cannot be denied that S. 20(3) of the Act vests a discretion in the Authority to direct the payment of compensation, and in deserving cases, it can be equal to ten times of the wages. The exercise of the discretion is not left to the caprice of the Authority. It must be exercised judiciously and reasonably. If the facts of given case show that the Authority did not exercise the discretion judiciously, this Court is entitled to interfere with the exercise of discretion. I am unable to accept the contention of the learned Counsel for the workmen that the discretion exercised by the respondent cannot be interfered with by this Court. In considering the grant of compensation, the respondent should have taken due note of the fact that the wages paid to the workmen were on the basis of the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 entered into by the workmen with the good offices of the Government subsequent to the orders passed by the Government fixing the minimum wages. The provisions of S. 25 of the Act seem to have been misunderstood. It is true that the provisions contained in S. 25 of the Act make it clear that an agreement cannot be a bar to determine the correct minimum wage under the Act. The question here is not one of bar under S. 25 of the Act. The question is whether the agreement dated 2nd September, 1976 was canvassed to be a bar for entertaining the claim. It is not contended at any stage that the agreement overrides the minimum wage prescribed by the Government Orders. The workmen candidly admitted that the wage paid to them by the petitioner is not less than the minimum wages prescribed by the Government. That being so, the question of bar and relinquishment for the purpose of S. 25 of the Act do not, in any opinion, arise. The respondent held that compensation equal to five time the difference should be allowed. This is classified as three times for the hardship sustained to the workmen who were entitled for the difference over a period of years, and two times relatable to the 'attitude of the management displaying scant respect and an air of indifference to the statutory notifiction.' It is difficult to subscribe to the views of the respondent that the petitioner had displayed scant respect and an air of indifference to the statutory notification. On the contrary, the events show that after the Orders were passed by the Government, the matter was carried to the notice of the Government and with their assistance an agreement was entered into. I am satisfied even proceeding on the basis that there is a difference in the amount of minimum wage payable to all or any of the twentynine workmen there is no case made out for the grant of compensation under S. 20(3) of the Act. The learned Counsel for the petititoner is quite right in pointing out that in the application made, the workmen did not themselves claim any compensation by expressly indicating that the amount of compensation claimed is 'nil'. It is surprising that notwithstanding the absence of a claim, the respondent should arrogate to himself the duty of awarding compensation allegedly to protect the interests of the workmen. The grant of compensation is wholly uncalled for.

12. For all the above said reasons, I hold that the Order of the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act, Warangal, the first respondent herein, in M.W. Case No. 1176 dated 30th June, 1978, is contrary to the provisions contained under Ss. 20(2) and 20(3) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, and a writ of certiorari shall be issued quashing the said order. The writ petition is allowed, and the first respondent shall bear the costs of the petitioner. Advocate's fee Rs. 300/-


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