1. The facts of this application under Article 227 of the Constitution of India directed against a decision of the District Judge, Chhindwara, are that the petitioners made an application under Section 15(2) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, before the Civil Judge (Class I), Chhindwara, for a direction under Sub-section (3) for payment of certain wages which had been delayed and for compensation amounting to Rs. 5,570/- in respect of wages for the two quarters ending 30-9-1954 and 31-12-1954. After considering the merits of the application the learned Civil Judge rejected it. Thereupon the petitioners filed an appeal under Section 17 of the Act before the District Judge, Chhindwara. The learned District Judge relying on Kherna Nand v. East Indian Rly., Administration, ILR (1943) All 490: AIR 1943 All 243, Rajendranath v. Manager, French Motor Car Co Ltd., AIR 1952 Cal 928 and P. Kumar v. Running Shed Foreman E. I. Rly., AIR 1946 Oudh 148: ILR 21 Luck 348, held that an order rejecting an application under Section 15(2) was not appealable under Clause (b) of Section 17(1); and that, therefore, the appeal preferred by the petitioners was Incompetent. By this application the petitioners challenge the correctness of the decision of the learned District Judge, Chhindwara.
2. This application must be granted. There is no doubt a conflict of opinion on the question whether an order rejecting in toto a claim under Section 15(2) is appealable under Section 17(1)(b). According to the decisions in C. S. Lal v. Shaikh Badshah, ILR (1954) Bom 1227 : ((S) AIR 1955 Bom 75), Md. Haji Umar v. Divl. Supdt. N. W. Rly., AIR 1941 Sind 191, Arumugham v. Jawahar Mills Ltd., AIR 1956 Mad 79 and M. B. Govt. v. Bramhodatta, AIR 1956 Madh B 152, the word 'direction' in Section 17(1) of the Act includes an order rejecting wholly an application under Section 15(3) or 15(4) of the Act. The contrary view, namely, that the word 'direction' is confined to a positive order directing one person to make payment to the other has been expressed in Abdul Latif v. Divl. Supdt., N. W. Rly., AIR 1959 Punj 398, AIR 1946 Oudh 148 (Supra) and AIR 1952 Cal 928, (Supra). The learned District Judge has not given any reasons for preferring the view taken by the Calcutta High Court and the Oudh Chief Court.
3. In our opinion, on a proper construction of Section 17(2)(b), the word 'direction' in Section 17(1) with reference to an appeal by an employed person must be taken as including a refusal to make a direction, and, therefore, an appeal against an order rejecting, on merits an application of the employee under Section 15 is competent. The use of the word ' direction' made in Section 17 no doubt at first suggests that it is only a positive direction made under Section 15(3) or 15(4) that is appealable under Section 17. But on a closer examination of Section 17(1)(b) it will be found that an employed person has a right of appeal under Section 17(1)(b) even against the order of the legal authority rejecting his claim in part or in toto. An employed person can have no occasion to appeal if his claim is accepted in toto and a direction is made in his favour.
It is only if his claim is rejected wholly or partly that he can have any cause for an appeal against the decision of the legal authority rejecting his claim. The wording of Clause (b) of Section 17(1) does not contemplate the strange result that an employee should have the right of appeal only it his claim has been allowed in part and not when it has been rejected in toto. The view taken in the Calcutta and Oudh cases proceeds on the reasoning that the words 'if the total amount of wages claimed to have been withheld from him or from the unpaid group to which he belonged exceeds fifty rupees' mean that an appeal by an employed person is competent only when the direction is one withholding the amount mentioned in Clause (b). This reasoning overlooks the significance of the words 'wages claimed' which occur in Clause (b). They mean that the claim made by the employed person under Section 15(2) must exceed a sum of Rs. 50/-, and not that the amount of wages withheld from him by the direction made under Section 15(3) or 15(4) should exceed Rs. 50/-. There is no justification for reading the words 'wages claimed' as 'wages decreed'.
If the words 'wages claimed' are read in their proper meaning, it is clear that the only qualification for an employed person to appeal under Section 17(1)(b) is that bis claim must exceed a sum of Rs. 50/-. The construction put on Clause (b) by the Calcutta High Court and Oudh Chief Court is not warranted by the clear wording of that clause and leads-to the anomalous result that when an appeal is competent where a claim is allowed to some extent, yet the decision of the legal authority would be final and unappealable if the claim is rejected altogether. With all due respect to the learned Judges of the Calcutta High Court and Oudh Chief Court we do not agree with the view taken by them that no appeal is competent against an orderrejecting in toto the application of an employee under Section 15.
4. It must be noted that the decision in ILR (1943), All 490; (AIR 1943 All 243) is distinguishable by the fact that in that case the application of the employee under Section 15 was rejected as time barred without even entering into the merits and it was held that no appeal lay against that order. Under Section 17 an appeal is provided against a direction made under Section 15(3) or 15(4) and not against an order under Sub-section (2) of Section 15, The two provisos to Sub-section (2) of Section 15 deal with the limitation for an application under Section 15(2). Sub-section (3) deals with the disposal of an application under Sub-section (2) on merits when, as the opening words of Sub-section(3) say, 'any application under Sub-section (2) is entertained.' It must he noted that in the Allahabad case Hamilton J., who decided it, expressing same doubt left open the question as to whether an appeal would lie under Section 17 where on an application under Section 15 there had been a trial on merits and no one had been directed to make any payment to the other. He observed:
'I have great doubt myself as to whether when there has been a trial on the merits and no one has been directed to make any payment to the other side any appeal lies but when the application has been rejected as being time barred without even entering into the merits I find it quite impossible to hold that there is anything in the Act which provides for an appeal.'
5. For all these reasons, we are of the opinion that under Section 17(1)(b) an appeal by an employed person against the order rejecting on merits his application under Section 15 is competent. The decision of the learned District Judge. Chhindwara, is, therefore, quashed; and he is directed to dispose of the appeal before him on merits. In the circumstances of the case, we leave the parties to bear their own costs. The outstanding amount of the security deposit shall be refunded to the petitioners.