C.S.P. Singh, J.
1. An application under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act was made by respondents Nos. 2 to 51 claiming payment of wages from the petitioners Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. They claimed that their wages falling under the various heads had fallen due and that the petitioners were not paying the same. Subsequent thereto, an application under Section 17A of the Payment of Wages Act was also filed by the employees, and they requested that five items of property said to belong to their employers be attached, on the ground that the employers had illegally closed the factory and had thrown out the employees from employment and that they were trying to transfer, dispose of or remove the assets so as to evade payments.
2. The employers filed objections to the aforesaid application for attachment and denied the allegations contained therein. In paragraph 8 of their objection (Annexure 'E' to the petition), it was stated that inasmuch as there was no specification of the actual acts committed by the employers of removal of property, etc., there was nothing on the record to enable the respondent No. 1 to come to the conclusion that an attachment under Section 17A was warranted. The respondent No. 1 by his order dated 25-2-1972 directed the petitioners not to transfer, dispose of, remove or pilfer (1) T. M. Industries Factory at Unit A-2 and A-3, Industrial Estate, Laharatara P. S.Dasaswamedh, Varanasi with all the fixtures and machineries, (2) Stores of T. M. Industries at Shed No. 1-A, Industrial Estate, Laharatara P. S. Dasaswamedh, (3) Piyuth Ice Factory also known as Tribeni Motor Car Co., and Ice Factory, Porade Koathi, Varanasi Cantonment, Varanasi, (4) Ambassador Car No. UPL 9665 and (5) Fiat Car No. UPL 4472, and he also directed the petitioners to furnish security to the tune of Rs. 1,93,194.13., the total amount claimed by the workmen by the 6th March, 1972. The petitioners have challenged this order by way of this writ petition.
3. Counsel for the petitioners has urged that the various amounts claimed by the workmen except the one relating to arrears of wages did not fall within the definition of the word 'wages' as defined under the Act, and as such the respondent No. 1 had no jurisdiction to proceed in the matter or to pass any order of attachment. Secondly, it is contended that the order attaching the properties is nut in conformity with the provisions of the Act, and that no reason for directing attachment has been given.
4. So far as the first contention is concerned, it will not be appropriate to decide it at this stage, for neither has any written statement been filed in the case on behalf of the employers nor any evidence led by the parties, nor any issue framed by respondent No. 1 as to whether he has jurisdiction to decide the claim of the workmen. The proper stage for challenging jurisdiction of respondent No. 1 would be after an appropriate issue regarding jurisdiction has been framed, and both parties have led evidence on the issue (See Management of Express Newspaper (P.) Ltd. v. Workers : (1962)IILLJ227SC . In these circumstances, it is not appropriate at this stage to decide the question as to whether respondent No. 1 has jurisdiction to decide the dispute between the parties.
5. Second contention, however, succeeds. The authority constituted under the Act can pass an order of attachment under Section 17A of the Act for attachment of so much of the property of the employer as is sufficient to satisfy the amount which may be payable under its direction. It has as such to ascertain first the value of the property, and then can order attachment only of such property as would be sufficient to meet the demand. In the present case, it appears that the entire asset of the employers have been attached for a claim of Rs. 1,93,194.13 made by the workmen. No finding has been recorded as to whether the property in respect of which the directions have been issued is of a value lesser or greater than the amount claimed. Such a blanket order is not warranted by the terms of the section. This apart, the authority deciding the application under Section 15 of the Act exercises a quasi-judicial function, and as such has to give reasons for its order. In the present case, no reasons at all have been given by it for its conclusion that the petitioners were evading payment to the workmen, and were trying to transfer, dispose of and remove their assets. It was a clear error of law on the part of respondent No. 1 to reach this conclusion without giving any reasons. The impugned order as such cannot be sustained and has to be quashed. Before disposing of an application under Section 17A of the Act, the respondent No. 1 has to ascertainprima facie the amount that may be payable to the workman, and as, in the present case, the employers have taken up the stand that certain amounts claimed by the workmen cannot be the subject-matter of an application under Section 15 of the Act, it was necessary for it to decide as to whether the entire claim made by the workmen isentertainable under Section 15 of the Act. In the circumstances, it was not appropriate for the respondent No. 1 to have passed an attachment order for securing the payment of the entire amount claimed without first deciding as to whether all the items claimed by the workmen came within the purview of Section 15 of the Act.
6. Counsel for the respondents has expressed the apprehension that if the attachment order is quashed, the employer may remove or transfer their assets. This apprehension has, however, been set at rest by the undertaking given by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that they will not transfer or remove any of their immovable assets till such time the application under Section 17A of the Act is not disposed of.
7. The petition is accordingly allowed. The order of respondent No. 1 dated 25-2-1972 is quashed. The respondent No. 1 shall decide the application afresh in the light of the observations made in the judgment and in accordance with the law. Parties shall bear their own costs.