1. The question which requires determination in the present case is whether it is open to an authority appointed under the Payment of Wages Act to embark upon an enquiry as to what the salary of a certain person should be.
2. The petitioner in the present case is one Lekh Raj who is employed as a clerk in the carriage and wagon section of the Northern Railway at Delhi. He entered service on 7-1-1933 and started officiating in the higher grade on 21-7-1944. Owing to the recommendations of the Pay Service Commission all the members of the clerical establishment including the petitioner were placed in the scale of Rs. 55-3-65/4-125-5-130. The petitioner kept on drawing salaries at the rate of Rs. 89/-, Rs. 93/-, Rs. 97/-, Rs. 101/-, Rs. 105/-Rnd Rs. 109/- per mensem during the period commencing with 1-1-1947 and ending with 2-7-1952. On 3-7-1952 the petitioner's salary was refixed at Rs. 93/- per mensem as it was alleged that another official by the name of Indar Singh, who had come from Pakistan, ranked above him In the grada-tion list. The petitioner accordingly brought the present petition under Section 15, Payment of Wages Act. He claimed that during the period 3-7-1952 to 2-10-1952 he was paid a sum of Rs. 148/- per mensem instead of Rs. 1717- to which he would have been entitled if the salary had not been reduced.
The trial Court found in his favour and made an order the relevant portion of which is in the following
'For the aforesaid reasons, I issue a direction that the petitioner be given' Rs. 77/- that he claims. The natural consequence of this direction would be that petitioner is to be deemed as if he were in grade II when he was brought on the prescribed scale and the employer would therefore pay him his arrears also since the present petition was given. This would save the giving of a fresh petition for arrears after 2-10-52.'
The Union of India is dissatisfied with this order and has come to this Court in revision not so much with the object of preventing the petitioner from obtaining the refund of the paltry sum which has been allowed to him by the Court below but with the object of obtaining a decision as to the principles which should regulate the decision of such cases.
3. The preamble to the Payment of Wages Act declares that this Act was put on the statute book with the object of regulating the payment of wages to certain classes of persons employed in industry. Sub-section (3) of Section 15 of this Act runs as follows:
'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 persons-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.'
Then follows a proviso which is not relevant for the decision of this case.
4. It will be seen from the above that the Authority appointed under the statute can only order the refund of 'the amount deducted or the payment of the delayed wages. It has no power to enter into an elaborate enquiry with the object of determining as to what the wages ought to be but it must obviously ascertain what the wages actually are. This point was brought out clearly in -- 'Kishan Chand v. Divisional Supdt., Lahore Dvn. North Western Rly.', AIR 1948 Lah 202 (A), where Mahajan J. observed as follows : 'The Act furnishes a summary remedy for wages earned in an office and not paid but it does not provide a remedy for investigation of queries which concern the office itself, in other words, whether a man should be retained in one job or should be reverted to another ]ob. Cases of unjustifiable reversion in my view cannot be decided by the authority appointed under the Payment of Wages Act exercising jurisdiction under Section 15(3), * '.
I find myself in respectful agreement with this view. A person in the employ of Government may be aggrieved by various kinds of orders. An order may refuse to promote the petitioner from a lower to a higher grade. In such a case, the Authority appointed under the Act should proceed on the assumption that the order has been rightly passed and should leave the petitioner to avail himself of such remedies as are available to him under the rules by which his conditions of service are regulated. Again, an order may demote him from a higher to a lower grade. If the order has been passed by a competent authority, that is by an authority which was empower-ed under the law to pass such an order, in this case also the Authority appointed under the Act must assume that the wages are as stated by Government and should direct the petitioner to approach the department authorities.
If, however, the order has not been passed by a competent authority, then the order must be deemed to be void and of no effect and the salary of the petitioner should be deemed to be the salary which he was drawing immediately before the passing of the order. If the order directs, or has the effect of directing, that certain deductions be made from the wages which the petitioner is drawing, there being no dispute as to the rate or amount of the wages due to him, the Authority appointed under the Act would be at liberty to make an appropriate direction in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Matters of this kind can be adjudicated upon by Authority for, as stated above; an Authority appointed under the statute has power to direct the refund to the employed person of the amount deducted or the payment of the delayed wages and to allow the payment of compensation.
5. The trial Court in the present case did not endeavour to determine the salary of the peti-;ioner during the relevant period, that is, during the period 3-7-1952 to 2-10-1952. On the other hand, it proceeded to frame an issue with the object of determining whether Govt. were justified in placing him below, Inder Singh and reducing Ms salary accordingly. This issue enabled the Court to embark upon an extensive enquiry into matters with which it was not concerned.
6. For the reasons, I would accept the petition, set aside the order of the Authority concerned and remand the case to the Authority to record a finding on the following issues and decide the case in accordance with law :
1 What was the salary of the petitioner during the period 3-7-1952 to 2-10-1952?
2. Was there any unauthorised deduction from that salary?
7. The parties have been directed to appearbefore, the Court below on 23-11-1953. Costs willabide the event.