Gangeshwar Prasad, J.
1. The following question has been referred to this Division Bench for answer :
'Can the propriety of an order of the Authority under the Payment of Wages Act admitting an application under Section 15(2) after the expiry of the prescribed period of six months be raised in an appeal by an employer against a direction under Section 15(3) of the Act.'
2. The question arose in two connectedcivil revisions which came up for hearingbefore Mathur J. The learned Judge did notnote any conflict in decisions relating directlyto the question, but he found a conflict in decisions on a matter having a vital bearing onit, and he thought it necessary that the conflict be resolved. He accordingly directed thatthe papers be laid before the Hon'ble the ChiefJustice for referring the question to a largerBench. That is how the question has beenreferred to this Bench.
3. In his order for reference Mathur, J. mentioned , two cases arising under the PAYment of Wages Act; Prem Narayan Amritlal Verma v. The Divisional Traffic Manager : (1953)IILLJ334Bom decided by Chagla, C. J.and Civil Revn. No. 603 of 1961 of this Court decided by Manchanda, J, In the former case it was held that the order of the Authority condoning delay in the making of an application under Section 15(2) of the Payment of Wages Act could not be challenged in appeal against a direction made under Section 15(3) of the Act. The latter case dealt with a situation in which the Authority had found that the application made under Section 15(2) of the Act was within lime and it was held by Manchanda, J. that the application having been found to be within time and in any event the delay in making the application having been condoned the order passed by the Authority in this respect could not be the subject matter of an appeal or be questioned in an appeal under Section 17 of the Act. The view taken in these cases on the question under reference was, therefore, the same.
After mentioning these cases, however, Mathur, J. proceeded to observe that it was settled law that the delay in making an application under Section 15(2) of the Payment of Wages Act could be condoned only on grounds similar to those contemplated by Section 5 of the Limitation Act and that led to the consideration of the question whether the condonation of delay under Section 5 of the Limitation Act could be challenged in second appeal against the decree passed in the First appeal, and since there was a conflict in decisions on the aforesaid question and on similar questions arising under other statutory provisions analogous to Section 5 of the Limitation Act the conflict should be resolved. Obviously, the learned Judge was of the opinion that resolution of this conflict was necessary for answering the question under reference We may, with respect, mention that in Sheo Prasad v. Addl. District Judge Moradabad 0043/1962 : AIR1962All144 Oak, J. expressed disagreement with the view of Chagla, C. J. in : (1953)IILLJ334Bom (Supra) and held that it is open to the appellate authority to enter into the question whether the Claim Commissioner was justified in condoning the delay under Section 15(2) of the Payment of Wages Act. It is evident that this view is also opposed to the view taken by Manchanda, J, in the aforesaid civil revision of this Court. There is thus a conflict even in decisions relating directly to the question under reference. It appears that 0043/1962 : AIR1962All144 (Supra) was not cited before Mathur. J., even as it was not cited before us.
4. The relevant provisions of the Payment of Wages Act, hereinafter referred to as the Act, are as follows:
'Section 15(1) .. .. ..
(2) Where contrary to the provisions of this Act any deduction has been made from the wages of an employed person, or any payment of wages has been delayed, such person himself, or any legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on his behalf, or any Inspector under this Act, or any other person acting with the permission of the authority appointed under Sub-section (1), may apply to such authority for a direction under Sub-section (3):
Provided that every such application shall be presented within six months from the date on which the deduction from the wages was made or from the date on which the payment of the wages was due to be made, as the case may be:
Provided further that any application may be admitted after the said period of six months when the applicant satisfies the authority that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within such period.
3. When any application under Sub-section (2) is entertained, the authority shall hear the applicant and the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages under Section 3, or give them an opportunity of being heard, and, after such further inquiry (if any) as may be necessary, may, without prejudice to any other penalty to which such employer or other person is liable under this Act direct the refund to the employed person of the amount deducted or the payment of the delayed wages together with the payment of such compensation as the authority may think fit, not exceeding ten times the amount deducted in the former case and not exceeding ten rupees in the latter:
17.(1) An appeal against an order dismissing either wholly or in part an application made under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, or against a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of that section may be preferred, within thirty days of the date on which the order or direction was made, in a Presidency-town before the Court of Small Causes and elsewhere before the District Court-
(a) by the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages under section 3, if the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation exceeds three hundred rupees, or
(b) by an employed person or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on his behalf, if the total amount of wages claimed to have been withheld from the employed person or from the unpaid group to which the employed person belonged exceeds fifty rupees, or
(c) by any person directed to pay a penalty under Sub-section (4) of Section 15.
(2) Save as provided in Sub-section (1), any order dismissing either wholly or in part an application made under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, or a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of that section shall be final'.
5. It is necessary to mention that Section 17 of the Act was amended by the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Act, 1957 and it has been quoted above as it stands after the amendment. The words 'An appeal against an order dismissing either wholly or in part an application made under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, or against a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of that section' in Section 17(1) AS It stands after the amendment were Substituted for the words 'An appeal against a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Subsection (4) of Section 15'. It would thus be seen that prior to the amendment Section 17 did not provide for an appeal by the employee against an order dismissing either wholly or in part an application made by him under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, and an appeal lay only against a direction made under Subsection (3) or (4) of Section 16. As a result of the amendment Section 17 now provides also for an appeal by an employee against an order dismissing either wholly or in part an application made by him under Sub-section (2) of Section 15. : (1953)IILLJ334Bom (Supra) was decided before the amendment and Civil Revn. No. 603 of 1961 (All) too, although decided after the amendment, dealt with Section 17 as it stood before the amendment. This feature of these two cases does not, however, mate any difference so far as the question under consideration is concerned, because the amendment has brought about no change in Section 17 of the Act in regard to an appeal by the employer.
6. The basis on which these decisions have proceeded is that as Section 17 of the Act provides for an appeal only from a direction made by the Authority under Sub-section (3) or (4) of Section 16 and does not provide for an appeal from an order of condonation of delay passed under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, such an order is not subject to interference in appeal preferred against a direction made under Sub-section (3) of Section 15. The obvious presupposition in this reasoning is that if no appeal is maintainable against a particular order passed in a proceeding the correctness of that order cannot be challenged in appeal against the final order in which the proceeding terminates. This presupposition, we say with great respect, is not correct.
7. The appeal ability of an order passed in the course of a proceeding and the liability of that order to be challenged in appeal from the ultimate order in which that proceeding ends are two distinct things, From the mere fact that the former order is not itself subject to appeal it does not follow that there is a finality about it and it enjoys an immunity from challenge even though the latter order is subject to appeal. A person who is adversely affected by the final order in a proceeding against him is entitled in an appeal against the final order to question the correctness of every order which formed a necessary step in the making of the final order, unless he is precluded under the statute from doing so. In this connection we can do no better than quote the observations of the Privy Council in Maharaja Moheshur Singh v. Bengal Government. (1857-59). 7 Moo Ind. App, 283 (P.C.).
'We are not aware of any law or Regulation prevailing in India which renders it imperative upon the suitor to appeal from every interlocutory order by which he may conceive himself aggrieved, under the penalty, if be does not do so, of forfeiting for ever the benefit of the consideration of the Appellate Court. No authority or precedent has been cited in support of such a proposition, and we cannot conceive that anything would be more detrimental to the expeditious administration of justice than the establishment of a rule which would impose upon the suitor the necessity of 90 appealing; whereby on the one hand he might be harassed with endless expense and delay, and on the other inflict upon his opponent similar calamities.'
We may also refer to the following passage from American Jurisprudence Volume 5 page 298 (1962 edition):
'In the absence of special statutory rules or provisions governing appeals from interlocutory orders, the view ordinarily taken is that all interlocutory or intermediate decisions involving the merits of the case and made during the course of the litigation are reviewable on appeal from the final decision if they necessarily affect the final decision.'
8. It is true that the order condoning delay in the making of an application under Section 15(2) of the Act is not appealable as such, but that does not lead to the conclusion that a challenge to the correctness of the order is barred on that account, A proceeding under, the Act is essentially one that requires simplicity of procedure and expeditious disposal. A provision for an independent appeal from the order condoning delay would have tended to cause delay and multiplicity of proceedings, and in view of the appeal provided against the final order passed under Section 15(3) such a provision was wholly unnecessary. The absence of a provision for an appeal against such an order does not, therefore, indicate that a finality has been conferred upon if The employer is not affected by such an order unless a direction is eventually made against him under Section 15(3) and since the direction has been made appealable it is open to him to prove the incorrectness of every thing that has led to the direction, in the appeal against the direction. Whether a particular interlocutory or intermediate order was or was not proper and whether a discretion vested in the Authority should or should not have been exercised in the circumstances of the case may be matters in which the appellate authority will not ordinarily interfere, but the power to interfere appears to us ,to be inherent in the power to hear an appeal from a direction issued under Section 15(3).
9. Further, the nature of an order condoning delay in the filing of an application under Section 15(2) is such that it may be said to constitute the very foundation of the direction which may be made under Section 16(3). It is the condonation of delay in an application filed beyond time that gives to the Authority the power to issue a direction, and the order condoning delay is as such not a mere interlocutory order but an order which is the very basis of the direction and is fundamental to it. The right to appeal against the direction, therefore necessarily carries, with it and has implicit in it the right to challenge the Order of condonation of delay. It is no doubt true that a right of appeal is not an inherent right attaching to a legal proceeding and it has to be expressly given by statute, but the view that we have taken of the question before us does not in any manner run counter to the above principle.
10. The learned counsel for the employee has placed reliance upon the observation of Chagla.C. J. that the stage at which the question of limitation can be considered is a stage which is antecedent to the hearing contemplated by Section 15(3) and the question of limitation must be finally disposed of under Section 15(2) before the Authority launches upon the hearing provided for under Sub-section (3). This may be so, but it does not, in our opinion, lead to the result that the condonation of delay is not liable to be questioned in appeal from the direction made under Section 15(3). The question of limitation will certainly be disposed of finally by the Authority so far as the proceeding before it is concerned, but there is no finality attached to the disposal in the sense that it is not liable to be questioned in appeal from a direction made under Sub-section (3). A proceeding started on a belated application may have two stages in its disposal by the Authority but the two stages are nevertheless continuous and in case of condonation the result of the first stage is carried forward and merges in the direction at the second stage. This division of stages cannot, in our opinion, furnish any basis for holding that the order condoning delay is not subject to question in appeal from the direction although the direction could not have been possible without the condonation. Section 17(2) appears to be very significant in this connection. The legislature has taken care to expressly lay down what acts of the Authority under Section 15 would be final subject to an appeal under Section 17(1). If an absolute finality had been intended to be given to an order condoning delay under Section 15(2) the legislature would have also laid down that the order condoning delay shall not be called in question in any manner.
11. It may also be noted that condonation of delay under the second proviso to Section 15(2) has not been described by the Act as an order, we do not mean to say that it is not an order; admission of a belated application under the power conferred by the proviso is an order. What we mean to say is that condonation of delay or admission of an application filed beyond time has not been characterised as an order and this may be suggestion of the fact that the condonation or admission has not been treated as an order which remains separate and dissociated from the direction made under Section 15(3) The direction which may ultimately be made on an application under Section 15(2) of the Act has been made appealable, and that alone is quite sufficient to make every step taken by the Authority at an intermediate stage in the proceeding liable to be questioned in appeal preferred against the direction.
12. For the reasons discussed above wefind ourselves unable to accept the view takenby Chagla, C. J. in AIR 1964 Bom. 78 and by Manchanda, J. in Civil Revision No. 803 of 1961 (All.) on the question which has been referred to us. In our opinion the true legalposition, if we may say so with respect, wasstated by Oak, J. in 0043/1962 : AIR1962All144 (Supra) where he observed as follows:
'It is true that Section 17 expressly refersto Sub-sections (3) and (4) of Section 15 only. Section 17 makes no reference to Sub-section (2) at all. But I do not see why in dealing with an appeal against an order under Sub-section (3), it should not be open to the appellant to satisfythe appellate court that in the first instance,the Claims Commissioner should not have entertained the claim at all, as it was time barred.There is nothing in Section 17 to indicate that, in dealing with an appeal under Section 17, the appellate authority has to accept a decision under Sub-section (2) of Section 15 made by a ClaimsCommissioner as final. The provision in Section 17 is similar to the provision in the C.P.C, forappeals against decrees. According to Section 107 C.P.C., the appellate court has all powers ofthe trial court. I do not see why that principleshould not be applied with equal force to appeals under Section 17 of the Act. In my opinion,although Section 17 makes no reference to Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the Act, it is open to theDistrict Court to enter into the question whether the Claims Commissioner was justifiedin condoning the delay under the second proviso to Sub-section (2) of Section 16'.
13. We may now turn to cases dealing with analogous provisions in some, other statutes. In Sitaram Ramcharan v. M.N. Nagrashana : (1960)ILLJ29SC their Lordships of the Supreme Court observed that the second proviso to Section 15(2) of the Act is in substance similar to the provision in Section 5 of the Limitation Act'. We may, therefore, derive help from cases dealing with the question whether the admission under Section 6 of the Limitation Act of an appeal filed after the period of limitation can be challenged in second appeal from the decree passed in the appeal so admitted. This question was directly the subject matter of a Full Bench decision in this Court in Bechi v. Ahsanullah Khan, (1890) ILR 12 All. 461 (FB), where it was held that the fact that a subordinate court has decided that a suit or appeal before it was brought within time or that there was sufficient cause, within the meaning of Section 6 of the Limitation Act, for the appellant in that court not presenting the appeal within the period of limitation prescribed, does not preclude the High Court from considering that decision in appeal. We may quote the following observation of Mahmood, J. from that decision:
'This being so, it seems to me to follow that it is the duty of the second appellate Court to see whether the duty thus Cast upon the Judge of the Lower Appellate Court has been properly discharged by Win, and to interfere, if by a wrong, improper and judicially unsound exercise of discretion under Section 6 of the Act, he has admitted an appeal which was barred by limitation. To hold otherwise would be to confer an amount of finality and conclusiveness upon the adjudications of District Judges in this respect which the law could never have intended, for the logical result of such a view would be to paralyze the hands of this Court, even in a case where the Lower Appellate Court by a grossly improper and unsound exercise of directions under Section 5 of the Act had admitted, and 'heard, and determined an appeal which had for a century or more been barred by limitation,'
We have neither been referred to nor have we ourselves been able to find any case in which a contrary view has been taken since this Full Bench decision was pronounced. This authority is sufficient to dispose of the analogous question whether an order admitting an appeal under Section 5 of the Limitation Act can be challenged in second appeal against the final decree passed in the appeal in which the order was made and it fortifies us in the answer that we propose to give to the question under reference. As instances of cases in which an opinion similar to that expressed in this Full Bench decision we may mention Chunder Doss v. Boshoon Lall (1882) ILR 8 Cal. 251 and Nrisingha Charan Nandy v. Trigunand AIR 1938 Pat. 413.
14. In Hafiz Mohammad Ismail v. Shafaat Husajn : AIR1951All614 , a case mentioned by Mathur, J. in his order for reference, Mootham, J. (as he then was) had before him an application for revision against a summary dismissal of an application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act and the question raised was whether there was a 'case decided' within the meaning of Section 116 C.P.C. Obviously, therefore, the question was different from the one with which we are at present concerned and none of the decisions referred to in that case bears on the present controversy. Those decisions involved questions relating to Sections 105 and 115 and Order IX of the C.P.C. and an examination of those decisions and an attempt to resolve such conflict as may exist in them would take us very far away from the provisions of the Act in quest of analogies. Further, cases proceeding strictly upon the terms of the C.P.C. and not upon general principles cannot determine the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Act in view of the fact that the C.P.C. has a very limited application to proceedings under the Act.
We, however, think it necessary to say something in regard to an observation made by Mootham, J. After referring to Section 105(1) of the C.P.C. under which an order can be questioned in appeal if it is an order affecting the decision of the case the learned Judge observed:.... It appears to me that an order under Section, 5 Limitation Act determiningas to whether the appellant had sufficient causefor not preferring his appeal within, the statutory period has no relation to the merits of theappeal itself.
With great respect, we are unable to subscribe to this view. A decision which has the effect of reviving a right or a remedy which, but for that decision, would no longer be enforceable must, in our opinion, be regarded as affecting the merits of the case. In fact the question whether a claim at law is or is not within time is always a question relating to the merits of the claim, because it goes to the very root of it and pertains to the first and the most essential condition of its being recognized or entertained. Reference in this connection may be made to the Division Bench case of Mohammad Najibuzzaman v Sheo Shanker AIR 1943 Oudh 288 In that case a written statement by a claimant in proceedings under the U.P Encumbered Estates Act was presented before the Special Judge beyond the prescribed limit of time. The Special Judge had however, the power under the provisions of the U.P. Encumbered Estates Act to entertain a written statement presented beyond time if he was satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not presenting it in time, and he accepted the written statement. The question before the Oudh Chief Justice in appeal against the decree of the Special Judge was whether the order of the Special Judge accepting the written statement could be questioned. It was held that the order could be questioned and with reference to Section 105 C.P.C. it was observed that 'whether a claim is barred or not is a decision of the case on the merits.' It may be noted that it was also argued in that case that the order entertaining the claim was appealable but had not been appealed against and was, therefore, not liable to be challenged in appeal from the final decree. This decision is in accord with the Full Bench decision in (1890) ILR 12 All. 461 (F.B.) (Supra).
15. On a consideration of the relevantprovisions of the Payment of Wages Act andthe authorities it seems clear to us that thepropriety of an order of the Authority admitting an application under the second provisoto Section 15(2) of the Payment of WagesAct after the prescribed period of six monthscan be challenged in an appeal brought by theemployer against a direction made under Section 15(3) of the Act. Our answer to the question referred to us is accordingly in the affirmative.