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Labour Enforcement Officer (Central) Govt. of India Vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in1978CriLJ1007
AppellantLabour Enforcement Officer (Central) Govt. of India
RespondentThe State of Andhra Pradesh and anr.
Excerpt:
.....accused on the ground that the accused is an unlicensed contractor and therefore, the rules of the act do not apply to him. therefore, it cannot be said that the act as well as the rules apply only to licensed contractors and not to other contractors......notice any provisions either under the act or under the rules to the effect that the act and the rules apply only to a licensed contractor and not to an ordinary contractor. the whole scheme of the act is to regulate the employment of contract labour and to provide for its abolition in certain circumstances. therefore, it cannot be said that the act as well as the rules apply only to licensed contractors and not to other contractors. in a given case, a contractor who engages a contract labour without holding a licence, shall be punishable not only under section 23 but also under section 24 for contravention of the rules. a licensed contractor if he contravenes any conditions of the licence or rules, he shall be punishable not only under section 23 but also under section 24. likewise,.....
Judgment:

Jayachandra Reddy, J.

1. The question that falls for consideration in all these 4 cases is whether the provisions of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. 1970 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) and the Rules made thereunder apply only to a licensed contractor or to every contractor as defined in Section 2(1)(c) of the Act. To appreciate this point, it becomes necessary to state a few facts.

2. In all these criminal revision cases, the Labour Enforcement Officer (Central), Government of India, Vijayawada-2 is the petitioner and the 2nd respondent is the contractor. On 24-9-1975 the Enforcement Officer Inspected the establishment of the accused-respondent and found that there was contravention of Rules 71, 79 and 81 and some other provisions. It was also noticed that the accused was carrying on the contract work without a licence; as many as six cases were filed in the Court. The learned Magistrate, Chirala convicted the accused in one of the cases for the offences of carrying on the contract work without a licence and the conviction was recorded under Section 23. In another case, the contravention was for failure to deposit a sum of Rs. 35/- in respect of each of the labour engaged on contract basis. In the other 4 cases, as already mentioned, it is alleged that the contractor contravened certain provisions like the Rules 71, 79 and 81, In the 4 cases, out of which the present criminal appeals are filed, the learned Magistrate acquitted the accused on the ground that the accused is an unlicensed contractor and therefore, the Rules of the Act do not apply to him. In other words, it is held by the learned Magistrate that the Rules of the Act apply only to a licensed contractor and when the accused is not licensed contractor, there is no question of the contravention of the rules of the Act. It is this finding that is challenged In these criminal revisions.

3. Sri Subrahmanya Reddy, the learned Standing counsel for the Central Government contends that the Act applies to all contractors and every contractor is under an obligation to observe the rules made under the Act. Section 4(b) lays down that the Act applies to every contractor who employs or who employed on any day of the preceding twelve months twenty or more workmen. Section 2(1)(c) defines 'contractor' in relation to an establishment, means a person who undertakes to produce a given result for the establishment, other than a mere supply of goods or articles of manufacture to such establishment, through contract labour or who supplies contract labour for any work of the establishment and includes a sub-contractor. Section 12 lays down that no contractor to whom this Act applies, shall undertake or execute any work through contract labour except under and in accordance with a licence issued in that behalf by the licensing officer, Section 13 provides for granting of licences subject to certain conditions. Section 23 is a penal provision and lays down that 'whoever contravenes any provision of this Act or of any rules made thereunder, prohibiting, restricting or regulating the employment of contract-labour, or contravenes any condition of a licence granted under this Act, shall be punishable.' Section 24 is another penal provision which governs other offences not covered by Section 23 and is in the nature of the residuary provision. It lays down that 'if any person contravens any of the provisions of this Act or of any rules made thereunder for which no other penalty Is elsewhere provided, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both. Section 29 requires that 'every principal employer and every contractor shall maintain such registers and records giving such particulars of contract labour etc.' Section 35 gives powers to the appropriate Government to make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act. This In general is the scheme of the Act,

4. As already mentioned, Section 4(b) lays down that the Act applies to every contractor. Section 2(1)(c) which defines the 'Contractor' does not lay down that the contractor means only a licensed contractor. Similarly, Section 12 prohibits a contractor from carrying out any work through contract labour without a licence. Likewise, Sections 23 and 24 do not lay down that those penal provisions apply only to the licensed contractors. Under Section 23, whoever contravenes any provision of this Act Is punishable. Similarly, under Section 24, if any person contravenes any of the provisions of this Act, he shall be punishable. Section 29 again in general lays down that every contractor shall maintain some registers. Section 35 does not show that the rules made thereunder, apply only to the licensed contractors. Rules 71, 79 80 and 81 are in respect of displaying certain notices and an abstract of the Act and Rules showing the rate of wages, hours of work etc. These Rules contain what is contemplated under Section 29 of the Act. As already mentioned the provisions of Section 29 do not disclose that they apply only to a licensed contractor. The learned Counsel for the respondents could not bring to my notice any provisions either under the Act or under the Rules to the effect that the Act and the Rules apply only to a licensed contractor and not to an ordinary contractor. The whole scheme of the Act is to regulate the employment of contract labour and to provide for its abolition in certain circumstances. Therefore, It cannot be said that the Act as well as the Rules apply only to licensed contractors and not to other contractors. In a given case, a contractor who engages a contract labour without holding a licence, shall be punishable not only under Section 23 but also under Section 24 for contravention of the Rules. A licensed contractor if he contravenes any conditions of the licence or Rules, he shall be punishable not only under Section 23 but also under Section 24. Likewise, an unlicensed contractor also shall be liable under Sections 23 and 24 for engaging contract labour without a licence and also for contravention of any of the Rules. In these circumstances, the finding of the lower Court that the Rules and the Act apply only to licensed contractors is not correct.

5. The question is whether these matters should be remitted to the Court below for being disposed of on merits, The plea of the accused throughout has been that he has engaged in all less than 20 persons. That apart, he has already been convicted under Section 23 for contravention of the provisions of the Act, namely, that he engaged contract labour without a licence, Section 24 again contemplates that if any person contravenes any of the provisions of this Act or of any Rules made thereunder, he shall be punishable.

6. Having regard to the particular facts of this case, namely, that the accused has already been convicted for contravention of the provisions of the Act, I do not think, these are fit cases for being remitted to the lower court for fresh disposal on any other aspects. Further, the offences are said to have taken place on 24-9-1975. So I do not think that at this distant of time, the accused should be subjected to the hardship of undergoing the trial. Subject to the above observations, the appeals are dismissed.


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