S.S. Sodhi, J.
1. The controversy here is whether M/s. Laxmi Ginning & Oil Mills, which is engaged in the process of decortication of groundnuts as also extraction of groundnut oil is a 'seasonal factory' in terms of section 2(19A) of the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'). If so, it would be exempt from contributions under the Act. It is such contributions that this mill seeks to contest.
2. Section 2(19A) of the Act defines 'seasonal Factory' to mean:-
' a factory which is exclusively engaged in one or more of the following manufacturing processes, namely, cotton ginning, cotton of jute pressing, decortication of groundnuts, the manufacture of coffee indigo, lac, rubber, sugar (including gur) or tea of any manufacturing process which is incidental to or connected with any of the aforesaid processes and includes a factory which is engaged for a period not exceeding seven months in a year - (a) in any process of blending, packing or repacking of tea or coffee, or
(b) is such other manufacturing process as the Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, specify'
3. The contention for the counsel for the appellants being that the extraction of groundnut oil is incidental to or, at any rate, connected with the process of decortication of groundnut and the appellants must therefore, be held to come within the ambit of 'seasonal factory as defined in the Act. This is, indeed, an interpretation that cannot be sustained. On a plain reading of the definition. We cannot but wholly concur with the view expressed by G.C. Mittal, J. in F.A.O. 183 of 1976, Employees State Insurance Corporation v. The D.M. Oil & General Industries, decided on December 22, 1991, that:-
' If a factory has to extract oil and gets unshelled groundnuts, then it would first have to do the job of decortication and then it would be taken through the process of extraction of oil and in this sense decortication may be called a manufacturing process, incidental to or connected with the extraction of oil but the reverse would certainly not be true. A factory may carry on the business of decortication of groundnuts which would be a complete process by itself. After decortication, it can sell the shelled groundnuts. It that case, the factory would not be covered by the Act because it would be considered a 'seasonal factory'. But if after decortication, the shelled groundnuts are subjected to the process of extraction of oil by the concern which carries on decortication, then by no stretch of imagination can the oiling process be called incidental or connected with the decortication of groundnuts.'
4. It was accordingly held that decortication of groundnuts and extraction of groundnuts were two separate and independent processes. Respectfully agreeing with this rationale and keeping in view the fact that the appellants here are exclusively engaged in decortication of groundnuts, they clearly do not come within the ambit of 'seasonal factory' and are, thus not exempt from contributions under the Act.
5. Faced with this situation, Counsel for the appellants sought to press in aid, the Judgment of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in E.S.I. Corpn. Hyderabad v. J.C. & O Products (P). Ltd., 1980 Lab. I.C. 1078, where a somewhat similar question arose with regard to a factory which initially started with cotton ginning and then added cotton pressing. Cotton seed decortication and oil milling followed. As was explained, the seed obtained by ginning was decorticated and oil was then extracted. The oil that was still left over in the case was further extracted by means of solvent process. This factory, it was claimed, was seasonal as it functioned only during the cotton season, even though the oil extraction and the solvent plant worked throughout the year, it was held that the primary manufacturing process was cotton ginning and pressing. The other manufacturing processes, namely, decortication, oil extraction and solvent extraction were only adjuncts to the primary manufacturing process of cotton ginning and pressing and the factory was therefore, a 'seasonal factory:
6. It will be seen that to the extent that oil extraction in the J.C. & O. Products (P). Ltd.'s case (supra) was of cotton seed and not groundnut, which is specifically covered under Section 2(19A) of the Act, it was clearly distinguishable from the present case. Otherwise too, the reasoning relied upon is not one which we, with respect can endorse. Where the statutory provision specifically speaks of 'one or more manufacturing processes' cotton ginning and decortication, cannot be branded as being incidental or connected to the other, for the purpose of deciding whether or not they come within the definition of 'seasonal factory'. These are two separate and distinct processes in themselves. This judicial precedent cannot, thus, avail the appellant for the proposition canvassed.
7. The impugned Judgment of the learned single Judge, thus, warrants no interference in appeal and is accordingly, hereby affirmed. The appeal is dismissed. There will, however, be no order as to costs.