1. The petitioner in this application under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution prays for the issue of a writ of certiorari for quashing an order dated 26th November 1964 of the authority under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, directing the petitioner to pay to its drivers and conductors the difference in wages actually paid to them for the period from 1st January 1959 to 30th June 1962 and the wages payable to them under the Madhya Pradesh Minimum Wages Fixation Act, 1962. The directions were made by the Authority on applications presented to it by the Minimum Wages Inspector. The Authority, after holding the applicant liable for the payment of Rs. 14,167.67 to its employees, further directed that the applicant shall pay 'simple interest as compensation at 6 per cent per annum on the above amount from the date of this (its) judgment to the date of payment or deposit in Court'.
2. The decision of the Authority under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, with regard to payment of difference in wages actually paid and payable to the drivers and conductors for the period from 1st January 1959 to 30th June 1962 was assailed before us on grounds similar to those urged in Anand Transport Co. (P.) Ltd., Raipur v. Shrikrishnadas Shah, Misc. Petn. No. 636 of 1964, dated 23-7-1965 (Madh Pra). In Anand Transport Co's Case, Misc. Petn. No. 636 of 1964, dated 23-7-1965 (Madh Pra) (supra) also, the Authority passed an order directing the Company to pay to its drivers and conductors the difference in wages actually paid to them for the period from 1st February 1961 to 30th June 1962 and the wages payable to them under the Madhya Pradesh Minimum Wages Fixation Act, 1962. We negatived all the contentions which were raised in that case. Following that decision, the order passed by the Authority in so far as it directs payment by the petitioner to its drivers and conductors of the aforesaid difference in wages must be upheld.
3. The direction of the Authority that the petitioner should pay on Rs. 14,167.67 simple interest as compensation at the rate of 6 per cent per annum from the date of its order, namely, 26th November 1964, till the date of payment or deposit of the amount in Court cannot, however, be sustained. The scheme of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, and the language of Section 20 abundantly shows that Section 20 relates to claims arising out of contravention in the past by the employer of the statutory obligation to pay wages imposed upon him by Section 12(1) of the Act. What can be claimed under Section 20 is that something which accrued to an employee and which the employer failed to pay in contravention of this obligation. Section 20 is thus concerned with past claims and not future claims. When an application under Sub-section (2) of Section 20 is made before the Authority, it is for a direction for payment to the employee of certain wages which the employer was bound by virtue of statutory obligation under Section 12(1) to pay and which he failed to pay. Sub-section (3) deals with directions which the Authority can make on an application entertained by it under Sub-section (2). That sub-section provides for directions for the payment not only of the difference between the wages actually paid and the minimum wages payable but also of compensation for non-payment in time by the employer of the statutory wages The award of compensation is in the discretion of the Authority and it cannot exceed ten times the amount by which the minimum wages payable to the employee exceeded the amount actually paid.
It is plain enough that the compensation which the Authority in its discretion can award to an employee is for the employer's failure in the past to pay the difference between the wages actually paid to an employee and the wages to which he was entitled. It follows, therefore, that compensation in the form of interest on the amount of difference found due cannot be awarded in respect of any period not covered by the period during which the employer failed to carry out his statutory obligation under Section 12(1) of the Act, and which failure gave a right to the employee to make a claim under Section 20. The Authority had, therefore, no power to award interest on the amount of Rs. 14,167.67 at the rate that it did from the dale of its order till the date of payment or deposit in Court of the amount. That no compensation in the form of future interest can be allowed becomes clear from the provision in Section 20(3) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, namely, 'the Authority may direct payment of such compensation in cases where the excess or the amount due is paid by the employer to the employee before the disposal of the application'. The power given to the Authority to make a direction for payment of compensation even in cases where the statutory wages due are paid by the employer to the employee before the disposal of the employee's application preferred under Section 20(2) abundantly shows that compensation spoken of in Sub-section (3) is paid for the withholding in full or in part of the wages due in the past and not for the delay, after the making of a direction by the Authority, on the employer's part in paying the amount for the payment of which be has been held liable. In our opinion the direction made by the Authority with regard to payment of interest was contrary to Section 20(3) and must be quashed.
4. For the above reasons, this petition is allowed in part and the direction container in the order dated 26th November 1964 for the payment by the petitioner of interest on Rs. 14,167.67 as compensation is quashed. In the circumstances of the case, we make no order about costs of this petition. The out standing amount of the security deposit shallbe refunded to the petitioner.