1. On 20 April 1958, an application -on behalf of 34 workmen employed by the Malout Transport Company (Private), Ltd., was filed before the Labour Commissioner, Punjab, claiming on behalf of the workmen and of course from the employer-company a sum of Rs. 16,185 The claim was based on a settlement between the employer and the employees arrived at in June 1955, according to which the management bad agreed to pay night allowance to their employees in the same manner as had been awarded by the industrial tribunal in favour of the employees of another company called the Kartar Bus company of Jullundur. The Labour Commissioner, on receipt of the application, issued notice to the Malout Transport Company, but there was no appearance put in on behalf of the company, and on 21 June 1958, therefore, the Labour commissioner issued a certificate of recovery addressed to the Collector stating that Bs. 16,185 was recoverable from the company. The certificate was granted under Section 330, Sub-section (i), of the Industrial Disputes Act. The Malout Transport Company, thereupon, filed a petition in this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the legality of the orders of the Labour Commissioner and the proceedings before him. It was claimed that the Labour Commissioner was not authorized to do anything under Section 33C of the Industrial Disputes Act, as such power could be exercised only by Government. Further, it was claimed that neither the Labour Commissioner nor Government could have decided what amount was possibly due under any settlement from the petitioning company to its employees, and that such a matter was determinate only by a labour court.
2. Concerning the first question, it appears that the correct facts were not placed before the learned Judge who finally disposed of the writ petition and he was given the impression that government had, acting under Section 39 of the Industrial Disputes Act, delegated its power under Section 33C, Sub-section (1), to the Labour Commissioner only in June 1958 and the learned Judge, therefore, came to the conclusion that at the time the proceedings were started before the Labour Commissioner and notice, etc, was issued, that is, in April 1958, he had no jurisdiction whatever to act under Section 330. Actually, however. it appears that Government's power under Section 330, Sub-section (1), tad been delegated to the Labour Commissioner, Punjab, in June 1957. That fact was mentioned in the written statement but seems to have been overlooked. Mr. Bhagirath Dass, appearing for the company before us, admits that the notification delegating the power in question to the Labour Commissioner was in fact issued in 1957, and that in April 1958, he was competent to act.
3. As regards the second matter, R.P. Khosla, J., who decided the writ petition, formed the opinion that the settlement between the employer and the employees only entitled the employees, who remained out of headquarters for a night, to a certain allowance at the rate mentioned in another award, but that the settlement by itself did not entitle the employees to receive any ascertained sum of money from the employer, and that in the circumstances it was not open to the Labour Commissioner, acting under Section 33C(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, to decide what precisely may or may not be due to the employees and such a question had to be decided by the labour court. On this view of the law the learned Judge allowed the petition and set aside the order of the Labour Commissioner granting the recovery certificate. Against that decision, two appeals have been filed under Clause 10 of the Letters Patent one, on behalf of the employees, Ishar Singh and others (Letters Patent Appeal No. 131 of 1959) and the second, on behalf of the State Government (Letters Patent Appeal No. 99 of 1959) the matters urged in support of both the appeals being identical.
4. It is contended before us that the view adopted by the learned single Judge is not sound, and that under Section 33C(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the State Government and similarly, anyone else to whom power may have been delegated, is competent to enquire and decide what may be due to a workman from his employer under any settlement between the two, and, since in this case there was a settlement concerning night allowance payable to the employees, the Labour Commissioner as the Government's delegate was competent to decide what amount of allowance was under that settlement payable. This argument proceeds on the assumption that Section 33C of the Act sets up a special tribunal and authorizes that tribunal, being the State Government or its delegate, to enquire into certain disputes that may arise in connexion with a previous settlement or award between the parties. Section 33C(1) says this-
33C. (1) Where any money is due to a workman from an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of Chap. VA, the workman may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, make an application to the appropriate Government for the recovery of the money due to him, and if the appropriate Government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate for that amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue.
The question is whether the expression ' where any money is due to workman from an employer under a settlement' means money actually found due by that settlement, or whether it is intended to include what might possibly become due because of a settlement, for, in the latter case, a dispute would still be possible whether any amount has or has not become due, while, if the former is the meaning, then the dispute will have been settled by the award or the settle-meat itself. These two opposing views appear to have been placed before the Supreme Court in Kasturi & Sons (Private), Ltd. v. N. Salivateeswaranand Ors. 1958-I L.L.J. 527 and the view which prevailed was that such a tribunal is only concerned with ascertaining whether a sum of money already determined by an award or settlement has been paid. The argument before the Supreme Court was that it is only after the amount due to the employee has been duly determined that the stage is reached to recover that amount. According to that view, the State Government or the authority specified by the State Government has to hold a summary enquiry on a very narrow and limited point: is the amount, which is found due to the employee, still due when the employee makes an application? The Supreme Court in that case interpreted the provision of Section 17 of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955, but Section 17 of that Act was similar to Section 33C(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, and the Supreme Court said so in the judgment. The Court accepted the argument set out above and formed the opinion that the scope of Section 17 of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, was narrow and limited and did not entitle the State Government to enter into disputed questions concerning the merits of a claim. One main reason in support of this view, which the Supreme Court accepted, was this that Section 11 of the Industrial Disputes Act, which authorizes certain tribunals to call and hear evidence in accordance with the Civil Procedure Code, does not make any mention of the State Government or anyone else authorized by the State Government, and it was concluded, therefore, that the Act never intended to set up the State Government or its delegate as an independent tribunal to decide disputed questions, and that all that the State Government could do was by way of execution of a settlement or an award. In the present case, it is quite clear that the question simply is not, and cannot be, whether under the settlement any particular sum of money still remains payable to the employees, for, if anyone is to decide whether the thirty-four workmen, who ask to be paid over Rs. 16,000, are due that amount, it will be necessary to enquire into several facts, namely, whether the employees were in service, whether they bad earned the allowance on particular occasions, and whether the scale at which the allowance is claimed corresponds to the scale mentioned in the settlement. The enquiry will raise several questions of fact, and, according to the view of the Supreme Court, the State Government is not entitled to enter into and decide such matters. It follows that the person authorized by the State Government; namely, the Labour Commissioner cannot do so either.
5. A very similar question was considered by this Court in Civil Writ NO. 1187 of 1958 concerning this very company, Malout Transport Company (Private), Ltd. v. Labour Commissioner, Punjab, andOrs. That dispute arose out of another term of the same settlement between the parties under which the management bad agreed to accept work from their workers for nine hours a day and to pay overtime at double the rate for any extra work per day. A claim was made on behalf of the employees that certain amount of money, for overtime work, was due from the company, and the question was whether the Labour Commissioner was competent to determine the amount. Capoor, J., who decided that case, held, that the Labour Commissioner had no jurisdiction to decide such a matter and it had to be decided by the labour court as provided in Section 33C, Sub-section (2), of the Industrial Disputes Act. The decision of Capoor, J., we understand, was affirmed by a Division Bench of this Court in the sense that an appeal under Clause 10 of the Letters Patent was dismissed, in limine.
6. Mr. Bhagirath Dass before us refers to two other decisions, both of the Nagpur High Court, but it is unnecessary to mention them as they merely follow the view of the Supreme Court in the case already mentioned by me.
7. On behalf of the appellants some reliance was placed on a decision of the Madras High Court in South Arcot Electricity Distribution Company, Ltd. v. Elumalai andOrs. 1959-I L L.J. 624, but the decision was only confined to the question whether certain disputes could or could not be settled by the labour court within the meaning of Section 330 (2) of the Act, and as far as the meaning of Sub-section (1) of that section is concerned, the observations of the Madras High Court go against the appellants, being more or less. in accordance with the Supreme Court view. That case is, therefore, of no assistance to the appellant's argument. Reference was also made to a decision of the Patna High Court in BiharijiMills, Ltd. v. State of Bihar : AIR1957Pat488 , but that case did not even raise the question now before us, although, in passing, the Judgment did say something about the newly enacted Section 330, the decision, of course, not turning at all on that provision of law. Again, therefore, the decision is of no help in the case before us.
8. As I have said, the Supreme Court's view seems perfectly clear, and it is that a provision of the kind contained in Section 33C(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act has to be considered narrowly and its scope is limited and that it is in the nature of execution of a settlement already arrived at. That being so, the view adopted by the learned single Judge that the Labour Commissioner acting on behalf of One State Government is not competent to deter-mine what allowance might be due to a particular workman in terms of the settlement of June 1955 seems well founded. The writ petition was allowed on that ground and the order of the Labour Commissioner and the recovery certificate quashed. There is, in my opinion, no reason to disturb that order, and I would; therefore, dismiss both the appeals but, in the circumstances, leave the parties to bear their own costs.
A.N. Grover, J.
9. I agree.