1. One Fazal Husain, a railway employee, was retrenched in 1931, but in 1911 the Railway Board re-instated him. He was, however, given a lower grade-- that of permanent way mistry and posted to Sitapur.
2. On 21st September 1943, Mr. Mathur, General-Secretary o the National Federation of Railwaymen, an unregistered union, with the written consent of Fazal Husain, applied under Section 15(2), Payment of Wages Act, to the authority appointed under that Act for the Sitapur area, for permission to present an application and to act on behalf of Fazal Husain in a matter of a so-called deduction in his wages.
3. Mr. R. B. Pradhan, who was then performing the functions of the authority, by his order of the same date, granted the necessary permission, whereupon Mr. Mathur immediately presented an application, on behlaf of Fazal Husain, under Section 15(3) of the Act. In this application it was claimed that a sum of Rs. 252-11-0 had been wrongly deducted from the salary of Fazal Husain for various periods between 28th March 1941, and 14th September 1942. Compensation amounting to ten times the amount was also claimed.
4. Notice of this application was issued to the East Indian Railway administration, the opposite-party, and 16th November 1942 was fixed for the final disposal of the case. On that date an adjournment was granted at the request of the opposite party. In the meanwhile Mr. Kailash Chandra took over the functions of the authority and, on 18th December 1942, the rail way administration filed its written statement before him and took numerous defences to the claim, one of which was that Mr. Mathur was not entitled to make the application. On the same day the opposite party also filed an application by which it was prayed that the permission granted to Mr. Mathur under Section 15(2) of the Act be revoked. Mr. Kailash Chandra, acting under Section 151, Civil P. C., made an order revoking the permission.
5. Dissatisfied with this order, Mr. Mathur applied to the Chief Court of Avadh under Section 115, Civil P. C., urging that the action of Mr. Kailash Chandra was unjustified, improper and ultra vires.
6. When the application came up for hearing before our learned brother, Ghulam Hasan J., a preliminary objection to its maintainability was taken by the opposite party on the ground that the authority whose order was challenged was not a Court subordinate to the High Court. Since, on this point the reported decisions showed that there existed a difference of opinion between various High Courts and the matter is one of considerable public importance our learn, ed brother recommended that a Full Bench should be constituted to decide the. case. Upon this recommendation the Hon'ble the Chief Justice has been pleased to constitute the present Full Bench.
7. We have heard Mr. Mathur in person and also the learned counsel for the opposite party. Both of them have placed the relevant authorities before us. We have derived considerable assistance from their arguments but, as we have come to the conclusion that the preliminary objection must prevail, we did not hear arguments on the merits.
8. The only point for consideration, there, fore, is whether the authority invested with jurisdiction under the Payment of Wages Act is a 'Court' within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P. C. Before we consider the divergent authorities we shall consider the relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and other enactments, bearing on this point.
9. Section 115, Civil P. C., only, permits the High Court to entertain an application in revision from the decision of any Court 'subordinate to such High Court'. Section 3 of the Code gives the gradation of Courts as follows :
'For the purposes of the Code, the District Court is subordinate to the High Court, and every Civil Court of a grade inferior to that of a District Court and every Court of Small Causes is subordinate to the High Court and the District Court.'
10. We have thus to determine whether the authority empowered under the Payment of Wages Act can be designated a civil Court.
11. The word 'Court' is not a term of art having a fixed meaning : it indicates a large number of entirely divergent things. So far as a Court of law, in the wider sense of the word, is concerned, the tests laid down by the Acting Chief Justice in Works Manager, Carriage and Wagon Shops, Mogalpura v. K.G. Hashmat, A. I. R. (33) 1946 Lab. 316 at page 318 : (I. L. R. (1947) Lah. 1 F. B.), might well be applied, and it might be held that any person or body of persons, called upon to decide any question of right in accordance with judicial principles and which is a 'tribunal which exercises jurisdiction by reason of the sanction of the law' is a Court. It does not, however, follow from this that every such tribunal is a Court of civil jurisdiction, to which alone Section 115, Civil P. C., applies. There is a large variety of such tribunals, e. g., the revenue and rent Courts, the criminal Courts, Commissioners for the trial of election petitions and special Courts, such as those of Special Judges under the U. P. Encumbered Estates Act. It cannot be predicated of such Courts that they are subject to the powers vested in High Courts by reason of Section 115, Civil P. C.
12. As a matter of fact, the question as to what are and what are not civil Courts falls to be determined under two enactments relating to the constitution of civil Courts in the Province: they are the Bengal, Assam and Agra Civil Courts Act and the Oudh Courts Act. Section 3 of the former Act which occurs in chap. II, headed 'Constitution of Civil Courts' reads as follows :
'There shall be the following classes of civil Courts under the Act, namely, '(1) The Court of the District Judge; (2) The Court of the Additional Judge; (3) The Court of the Civil Judge ; and (4) The Court of the Munsif.'
Section 21 of the Oudh Courts Act, which is to be found in chap. III, headed 'Subordinate Civil Courts' is as follows:
'Besides the Chief Court, the Courts of Small Causes established under the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887, and the Courts established under any other enactment for the time being in force, there shall be four grades of civil Courts in Oudh, namely, '(1) The Court of the District Judge; (2) The Court of Additional Judge; (3) The Court of the Civil Judge; and (4) The Court of the Munsif.'
13. Thus, while the law prevailing in the Agra Province limits the civil Courts to the passes enumerated in the Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act, the Oudh Act permits the creation of such Courts by other enactments. Since, in spite of the provisions of the United Provinces High Courts (Amalgamation) Order 1948, the provisions of Section 21, Oudh Courts Act remain in force and determine the status and gradation of Courts, we will proceed to consider whether the Payment of Wages Act, does purport to create civil Courts.
14. Section 15(1), Payment of Wages Act provides in the following words for the appointment of an authority under the Act ;
'The Provincial Government may by notification in the official Gazette, appoint any Commissioner for workmen's compensation or other officer with the experience of a Judge of a civil Court or a stipendiary Magistrate to be the authority to hear and decide ...'
(In the present case it is a stipendiary Magistrate who has been appointed.)
15. Thereafter the person appointed, is throughout referred to in the Act as the 'authority' and not as the 'Court'--vide in particular Sections 19 and 21. But the conclusive test is provided by Section 22 which excludes the jurisdiction of 'Courts' in respect of matters entrusted to the jurisdiction of the authority under Section 15. If the Legislature intended to constitute that authority into a 'Court' those words would lead to an impasse and the jurisdiction of the authority would also be excluded, which would make the whole Act absurd. In such a state of affairs, we would at least expect to find some such saving words as 'except as otherwise provided by this Act' in Section 22 but such words are not to be found. Clearly, therefore, the Legislature intended that the authority constituted under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act should not be a Court.
16. The only provision of the Act upon which reliance could be placed for the proposition that the authority constituted under Section 15 of the Act is a Court is that Section 18 of the Act directs that, it should have certain powers of civil Courts and that it should be treated as a civil Court for the purpose of Section 198 and chap. XXXV, Criminal P. C. Neither of these considerations, even when taken together, would, lead to the inference that the authority is a civil Court.
17. It is significant to note that all the powers of civil Courts are not conferred on the authority nor is its procedure to be governed by the Code of Civil Procedure. In fact, in the matter of execution, the procedure is to be that of criminal Courts. Further, the mere fact that the Legislature, instead of re-enacting the relevant provisions of the Code, simply incorporated them in the new law by reference could not mean that it was intended to consitute the autority into a Court. The Code of Civil Procedure regulates' the procedure not only of civil Courts but of other authorities as well. Section 5, Civil P. C. contemplates that it might be made applicable to revenue Courts also and it has in fact been made so applicable, with certain modifications, by the U. P. Tenancy Act but for this reason the Courts constituted under that Act do not be-come civil Courts.
18. With regard to Section 195, and chap. XXXV, Criminal P. C., they deal with offences against Courts and civil, revenue and criminal Courts are specifically mentioned. In order to give the authority constituted under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act the privileges conferred upon Courts by these provisions of the Criminal P. C., it had to be included in one of the three categories and the most natural category in which to include it is that of civil Courts but that does not make it a civil Court.
19. Reliance was also placed upon the fact that in the forms appended to the Bales framed by the Government the heading is 'In the Court of the Authority'. It was contended that this indicated that the authority was to be treated as a Court. Firstly, it must be remembered that the rules made under an enactment cannot have the effect of altering the scope of the enactment. Secondly, at the most, that is the interpretation placed by the Government on the meaning of the Statute and the Courts are not bound by such interpretation. Thirdly, as has already been said, in the wide sense of the word, the authority may also be described as a Court.
20. In Triloki Nath v. Krishna Sugar Mills Ltd., Saharanpur : AIR1946All276 a Bench of the Allahabad High Court held--though there is very little discussion of the reasons--that the authority constituted under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act is not a Court subordinate to the High Court.
21. In Turabali v. V. Sorabji, A. I. R. (31) 1944 Nag. 288 : (I. L. R. (1944) Nag. 531) Bose J. went to the extent of holding that even if an authority constituted under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act is deemed to be a civil Court, it is not a Court subordinate to the High Court and that consequently no revision lies.
22. In Masoon Ali Khan v. Ali Ahmed Khan : AIR1933All764 the question involved was whether an 'election Court' constituted under Section 20, District Board's Act could be held to be a Court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P. C. In that case, Section 20(1) of the Act conferred upon the election tribunal, which was called 'Court' in the enactment itself all the powers and privileges of a civil Court. The per-son appointed was the District Judge ; yet in dealing with a revision the learned Judges com-posing the Bench held that no revision lay because the District Judge, presiding over an election tribunal, was not a Court subordinate to the High Court under Section 115, Civil P. C. In dealing with the matter Mukerji J. says:
'It matters little who presides over an election Court, bat the person who presides will have the powers and privileges of a Judge of a civil Court. This means that be is not to be a civil Court but will have the powers and privileges of a civil Court, though not the status. In this view the District Judge has only the powers and privileges of a Judge of a civil Court but otherwise he is not a civil Court..... To use a well-known phrase, he has to preside over the election Court as a persona designata and not as a Court.'
The reasoning of Bennet J. was the same. Although the decision related to the interpretation of a different enactment, the same principle will apply.
23. Similarly in Bishambhar Nath v. Achal Singh : AIR1932All651 it was held that a Collector or other officer hearing an appeal under Section 318, U. P. Municipalities Act is not a Court subordinate to the High Court and no revision under Section 115, Civil P. C., lies from his orders.
24. In Baburao Prahlad v. Hariharrao Kashinathrao A. I. R. (26) 1939 Bom. 279 : (183 I. C. 556), it was laid down that if functions are exercised by an authority as persona designata and not in the exercise of its ordinary powers as a Court even though that authority might be the presiding officer of a civil Court, it cannot be said that that authority is a Court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P. C.
25. Finally we have a very recent decision of a Full Bench of the Lahore High Court reported in Sultan Ali v. Nur Hussain, A. I. E. (36) 1949 Lah. 131: (50 Cr. L. J. 698 F. B.). In that case the question involved was whether election petition Commissioners constituted a Court subordinate to the High Court. In discussing the principles involved Munir Ag. C. J., with whom Khurshid Zaman J., concurred says, at p. 161 :
'I cannot accept the broad and unqualified proposition that once it is held that an officer, authority or functionary is exercising the functions of a Court in relation to rights that may be called 'civil' that officer, authority or functionary must be held to be subordinate to High Court. The result of any such finding would be that all Courts which adjudicate upon the civil rights of subjects whether in cases between the subjects themselves or between the State and the subject will be subordinate to the High Court and this will bring within the sphere of subordination not only the revenue Courts which admittedly decide civil disputes between the parties, but also the income-tax authorities which determine the subjects' liability to the State. One clear indication of subordination has always been held to be that the Court whose subordination is in question is subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court. A Court may also be subordinate to the High Court even qua matters which are not subject to the High Court's appellate power if those matters have been entrusted for adjudication to an admittedly subordinate Court as a Court and not to the presiding officer of such Court as persona designata.'
The learned acting Chief Justice held that election petition Commissioners were not a Court subordinate to the High Court. The same reasoning will apply to the present case. In the case to which we have just referred no reference was made to another Full Bench case of the same Court upon which the petitioner placed the greatest reliance and about which there can be no doubt that it fully supports his contention. This is the case of Works Manager, Carriage and Wagon Shops, Mogalpura v. K. G. Hashmat, A. I. R. (33) 1946 Lah. 316 : (I. L. R. (1947) Lah. 1 F. B.). In that case it was held that the authority constituted under Section 15(1), Payment of Wages Act was a Court exercising civil judicial functions and was consequently subordinate to the High Court.
26. The learned acting Chief Justice first lays down the test which we have already quoted for determining whether a tribunal may be called a Court or not. He then proceeds to hold that it is open to the sovereign power to delegate its judicial functions either to civil Courts or to special tribunals; that the jurisdiction of civil Courts is barred under Section 22, Payment of Wages Act: and that in place of the civil Court the sovereign power has created a special tribunal under Section 15 of the Act. In spite of these conclusions, however, he proceeds to hold on the basis of the decision of a Full Bench of the Patna High Court in Mt. Dirji v. Sm. Goalin A. I. R. (28) 1941 pat. 65 : (20 pat. 373 F. B.), relating to the Workmen's Compensation Act, that what he has already referred to as a Special Tribunal as distinct from a civil Court, is a civil Court subordinate to the High Court. The line of reasoning by which the conclusion is arrived at is not clear and the eventual result is in contradiction to the findings given in an earlier part of the judgment.
27. A very great difference exists between the Workmen's Compensation Act and the Payment of Wages Act, inasmuch as the former Act provides for an appeal from certain orders of the Commissioner appointed under the Act to the High Court, while the latter does not provide for any such appeal. Thus, under the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Commissioner is a Court subordinate to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court and can well be held to be a Court subordinate to the High Court for the purposes of Section 115, Civil P. C.
28. The reason for the decision in Mt. Dirji v. Sm. Goalin, (A.I.R. (28) 1941 pat. 65 : 20 Pat. 373 (F.B.)) is made very clear in another case of the Patna High Court arising out of the Workmen's Compensation Act. In Mt. Dirji v. Sm. Goalin, A. I. R. (29) 1942 pat. 33 : (21 Pat. 173) Agarwala J. who dictated the principal judgment says :
'The first question which then arose was whether the Commissioner is a Court. This question was referred to a Full Bench and it has been decided that the Commissioner is a Court. The learned Advocate for the opposite party now contends that even though the Commissioner be a Court he is not a Court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P. C. A Court over which the High Court has appellate jurisdiction is subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court: Balkrishna Daji v. Collector of Bombay Suburban, 47 Bom. 699 at p. 701: (A.I.R. (10) 1923 Bom. 290). Section 30, Workmen's Compensation Act, provides for an appeal to the High Court where the amount in dispute is over Rs. 300. The Commissioner is, therefore, subject to the appellate jurisdiction of this Court and is subordinate to the High Court.'
The learned Judges of the Lahore High Court in deciding Works Manager, Carriage and Wagon Shops, Mogalpura v. K. G. Hashmat, A. I. R. (33) 1946 Lah. 816 : (I. L. R. (1947) Lah. 1 F.B.) entirely lost sight of this distinction and we are unable to agree with the result at which they arrived.
29. In Shrinivas Laxmanrao v. Supdt. Government Printing Press, Nagpur, A.I.R. (32) 1945 Nag. 94 : (I.L.R. (1944) Nag. 540) also a revision was entertained by the High Court in a matter in which no appeal lay to the District Court under Section 17, Payment of Wages Act because the valuation was not high enough. In that case, however, no question was raised that the authority (who happened to be a Subordinate Judge) was not subordinate to the High Court. The only plea taken was that no revision lay because Section 17(2) of the Act gave finality to such orders. This plea was overruled. This case is, therefore, of no assistance in deciding the question which has now arisen for decision.
30. In Arvind Mills Ltd. v. K.R. Gadgil A. I. R. (28) 1941 Bom. 26 : (192 I. C. 528) the Bombay High Court entertained applications in revision against the orders of a District Court under Section 17 of the Act, No objection was taken to the maintainablity of the applications and some distinction also exists because, in view of the wording of Sections 19 and 21, Payment of Wages Act, it is possible to hold that a District Court acting under Section 17 is a Court exercising its normal functions as such Court and is consequently subordinate to the High Court.
31. The next contention of the petitioner was that an appeal lay to the District Court, which was a Court subordinate to the High Court, and that consequently an application under Section 115, Civil P. C., is maintainable. This line of argument is negatived by the decision of the majority in the Full Bench case of Gaya Prasad v. Kalap Nath, A. I. R. (16) 1929 oudh 389 : (4 Luck. 539 F. B.) in which it was laid down that an application under Section 115, Civil P. C., was not maintainable even against the decision of a District Judge exercising jurisdiction under the Oudh Rent Act. This view has been followed in Sankata Prasad v. Sm. Bam Kushi Devi, A.I.R. (34) 1947 oudh 232 : (22 Luck. 207). A fortiori no application in revision would be maintainable from the decision of the subordinate Court and that is why a special provision allowing a revision application to the High Court from certain decisions of subordinate revenue Courts has had to be incorporated in the U. P. Tenancy Act (vide Section 276). This contention too cannot, therefore, prevail.
32. The next argument was that when any inferior Court exercises a jurisdiction not vested in it the High Court is empowered to interfere in revision. Reliance was placed for this proposition upon Vensimal Tarachand v. Karachi District Local Board, A. I. R. (35) 1948 sind 116 : (I. L. R. (1947) Kar. 117). In that case the Chief Judge, Small Cause Court had exercised a jurisdiction which he purported to derive from a special enactment but which was in fact not derived from that law. It was held that the High Court could interfere under Section 115, Civil P. C. This view is at variance with the view which two of us expressed in Sankata Prasad v. Sm. Bam Kushi Devi, A. I. R. (34) 1947 oudh 232 : (22 Luck. 207) and we refer the latter decision. Before the High Court can interfere it must itself have jurisdiction to entertain the revision and this it can only do if the Court against whose decision the revision application is preferred is a Court subordinate to the High Court.
33. Finally it was urged that, at any rate, this Court can interfere in exercise of the powers conferred on it by Section 224, Government of India Act. That section is limited to control only over Courts subject to the High Courts appellate jurisdiction. The authority created under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act is not subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the Court. This section, therefore, does not give the High Court jurisdiction to interfere with the orders of the authority. The position is still further clarified by Sub-section (2) of Section 224.
34. We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that this application is not maintainable. We accordingly dismiss it.
35. At the close of arguments the petitioner prayed for the grant of a certificate under Section 205, Government of India Act. No question as to the interpretation of the Constitution Act, however, arises and consequently Section 205 does not justify the grant of a certificate and we do not grant it.