S. Rangarajan, J.
(1) This Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution seeks a writ of mandamus to restrain the relevant authorities under the Employees Provident Fund Act from enforcing and applying the provisions of the Employees Provident Fund Act, 1952 (hereinafter called the Act) and the Scheme framed there under to the petitioners undertakings, namely, the ice factory and the cold storage at Sabzi Mandi, Delhi and to quash whatever notices, letters or orders have been issued informing the petitioner that the said undertakings are so covered under the Act and the Scheme or threatening further proceedings in pursuance of the same with a view to recover the employer's contribution under the said Act including the launching of penal action in case of failure to comply with the same etc.
(2) It is common ground that an ice factory did not come prior to 1969. within the mischief of Section 1(3)(a) of the Act. The Act is applicable to every establishment which is a factory engaged in any industry specified in Schedule I and in which 20 or more persons arc employed: clause (b) thereof makes the Act applicable to any other establishment employing 20 or more persons or class of such establishments which the Central Government may by Notification in the Official Gazette specify in this behalf. It is stated turn the petitioner that subsequent to the Notification bringing the ice factory also under Schedule I and Section 1(3)(a) of the Act he is paying the employer's contribution.
(3) What falls for decision in this Writ Petition, thereforee, is the period prior to the ice factory having been so notified as to brine it under Schedule I of the Act. Despite the allegation to the conirary in the affidavit of Shri R. R. Sahae, Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, dated 15-11-1967, filed in opposition to this Writ Petition, that the bominant business of the petitioner was that of running the cold storage and that it was for the purpose of the cold storage that the petitioner runs the ice factory to feed the cold storage, it was seen, when the relevant files were produced, that the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (Shri K. S. Sethi) had reported (vide his letter No. E/DL-910/62-63/5209, dated 14-2-64) to the Central Provident Fund Commissioner that 'it appears that dominant activity of the establishment is the manufacture of ice and it was registered as such as factory on the date of coverage.' Though reference has been made to this aspect, which seems crucial, even at the outset, I shall revert to this toward the end.
(4) Notice was issued to the petitioner for the first time on 27-12-1962 (copy of which is Annexure A to the Writ Petition) b') the office of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Employees' Provident Fund, Khyber Pass Hostel, Delhi staling that an inspection of the factory made on 13-12-1962 by the Inspector revealed that the petitioner was employing 36 persons and that his factory/establishment was covered under the said Act and the Scheme framed there under with effect from 30-4-1967. A reply was sent by the petitioner on 13-1-1963 (copy of which is Annexure B to the Writ Petition) staling that there was no such concern bearing the name
'MESSRSPrag Distilled Water Ice Factory and Cold Storage', as mentioned in the notice and that the actual position was that there were two concerns, which were distinct and separate: (1) Prag Distilled Water Ice Factory, Subzimandi, Delhi and (2) Prag Cold Storage, Sabzimandi, Delhi. The books of account were separate. The assessment of income tax was also done separately. There were different sets of employees. The buildings and machinery were also separate. The Employees Provident Fund Act was not applicable to cold storage where there were admittedly less than twenty employees i.e. only 6 or 7 employees. The cold storage was being run by a different plant; the cold storage and the ice factory could not be combined for any purpose whatever. It was prayed, thereforee. that the notice issued to the petitioner may be withdrawn.
(5) It may be noticed that on 5-9-1962 an Inspector (Shri D. B. Bhambri) had visited the factory and taken a signed statement from the Manager (also Proprietor), R. K. AggarwaL mentioning the number of persons who were employed in the cold storage and ice factory separately during the relevant months of 1962, which did not exceed 7 and 32, respectively, at any time. The Inspector's report, dated 13-12-1962, disclosed that both the factories were separately registered under the Factories Act, separate registers of attendance and wages and also accounts were kept (separately) for both the establishments; the balance-sheets also were being prepared separately from the period the cold storage started (the ice factory '..as started in 1907 and the cold storage in 1950). Hence the Inspector had said that both the establishments were not covered under the Act.
(6) It appears, however, that the matter was not disposed of immediately, as it might otherwise have been, on the said report of the Inspector, because of certain representations made by the Ice Factory Workers Union, New Delhi (none of the petitioner's factory) dated 17-12-1962 staling that the Act was applicable to the petitioner's two establishments and that inspire of the Inspector's visit the matter had been shelved. There seems to have been some effort, as I sec from the concerned file which was produced for my perusal, to contact the Workers Union and no further action was taken against the petitioner.
(7) On 1-3-1966 a letter was issued by the office to the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner to the petitioner (copy of which is Annexure C to the Writ Petition) staling that the case had been decided by the higher authorties on the representation made by the Workers Union that the cold storage and the ice factory were to be treated as one establishment and be covered as a 'Trading & Comcrcial Establishment' with effect from 30-4-1962. The petitioner was directed to file the prescribed returns as well as deposit the employer's share of the Provident Fund contribution including arrears from May 1952 (as well as for the pre-discovered period) along with Administrative charges and damages. Compliance with the same was demanded, as usual, on pain of legal action, under para 76(a) and (e) of the Scheme besides recovery proceedings under Section 8 of the Act. A reply dated 15-3-1966 was sent by the petitioner setting out more details concerning how the establishment of the petitioner was not covered under the Act (copy of which is Annexure D to the Writ Petition). Since the reply had described it as representation under Section 19A of the Act, Shri Daijit Singh, Under Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Labour & Employment informed the petitioner by letter dated 16-6-1966 (copy of which is Annexure E to the petition) that the Provident Fund authorities had reported against the petitioner that there was a prima facic case for treating the two units as one, establishment and for their coverage under the head 'Trading and Commercial Establishments'. The petitioner's views were, thereforee, sought before the Government passed an order under Section 19A of the Act after informing him about the following facts reported by the Provident Fund authorities:
'(1)The Prag Distilled Water fee Factory and the Prag Cold Storage arc situated in the same building. (2) The Cold Storage is doing the business of storage of articles. (3) There are common staff for the two units and the staff is transferable from one unit to the other. (4) In the Telephone Directory for February, 1966 the firms name 'Prag Distilled Water Ice Factory and Cold Storage' is given.'
(8) On 18-6-1966 further representations were made by the petitioner to Shri Daijit Singh, Under Secretary (copy of which is Annexure F to the petition). Shri Daijh Singh wrote again to the petitioner on 26-12-1966 (copy of which is Annexure G to the petition) as follows:
'WITHreference to your letter dated the 18th June, 1966 I am directed to say that the matter has been further considered by the Government. The Centra) Government finds the following points established in this case : (1) The Cold Storage and the ice factory are situated in the same building though they are situated in different floors of the same building. (2) The business of storage of articles is done in the cold storage. (3) There is common staff for the two units and the staff is transferable from one unit to the other.
(9) Besides the cold storage and the ice factory would also constitute one factory within the meaning of Section 2(g) of the Employees Provident Fund Act, 1952 and, as the establishment is engaged in the activity of cold storage, it would be covered by the Employees Provident Fund Act. 2. In the circumstances, the Central Government hereby directs under Section 19A of the Employees Provident Funds Act, 1952 that the Prag Distilled Ice Water Factory and the Prag Cold Storage constitute one establishment and the Act had been correctly made applicable to the said establishment.
(10) By letter dated 19-1-1967 (copy of which is Annexure H to the petition) the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner informed the petitioner that it had been decided that the petitioner's establishment was one and that the Act was correctly made applicable; compliance was demanded in respect of the deposit of the arrears and of the statement in Form 5-A. Subsequently a notice under Section 7-A of the Act seems to have been issued on 27-3-1967 which was served on the petitioner on 29-3-1967 whereupon the present Writ petition (signed on 31-3-1967) was filed on 5-4-1967.
(11) The following two further sections of the Act arc relevant and have to be read in addition to Section 1(3) to which reference has already been made.
'7A.Determination of moneys due from employers: (1) The General Provident Fund Commissioner and Deputy Provident Fund Commissioner, or any Regional Provident Fund Commissioner may, by order, determine the amount due from any employer under any provision of this Act (the Scheme on the Family Pension Scheme as the case may be) and for this purpose may conduct such inquiry as he may deem necessary. (2) The officer conducting the inquiry under Sub-section (1) shall, for the purposes of such inquiry, have the same powers as are vested in a Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), for trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely: (a) enforcing the attendance of any person or examining him on oath; (b) requiring the discovery and production to documents; (c) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses, and any such inquiry shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 and for the purpose of Section 196 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). (3) No order determining the amount due from any employer shall be made under Sub-section (1), unless the employer is given a reasonable opportunity of representing his case. (4) An order made under this Section shall be final and shall not be questioned in any court of law.'
'19A.Power to remove difficulties.-If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, and in particular, if any doubt arises as to-- (i) whether an establishment which is a factory, is engaged in any industry specified in Schedule 1; (ii) whether any particular establishment is an establishment falling within the class of establishment to which this Act applies by virtue of a notification under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 1; or (iii) the number of persons employed in an establishment; or (iv) the number of years which have elapsed from the date on which an establishment has been set up; or (v) whether the total quantum of benefits to which an employee is entitled has been reduced by the employer, the Central Government may, by order, make such provision or give such direction, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for the removal of the doubt or difficulty; and the order of the Central Government, in such cases, shall be final.'
(12) When the validity of both these sections was assailed V. S. Deshpande, J. held both of them to be valid in Wire Netting Stores v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner : AIR1970Delhi143 It was pointed out that it was not possible for the Commissioner to act arbitrarily under Section 7A because his jurisdiction depends on facts and pre-conditions, the existence of which could be decided by the civil courts. Sub-section (4) of Section 7A gave finality only to the determination of the amount due from the employer made by the Commissioner but not to what Deshpande, J. described as a preliminary assessment or finding by the Commissioner concerning the coverage of the establishment by the Act/Scheme. That a hearing has to be given to the employer before such preliminary assessment under Section 7A of the Act could be implied. The requirement of hearing before making an order under Section 7A, which acquires finality, is however expressly there; the same requirement of hearing could be implied under Section 19A also, though the requirement of hearing had not been expressly mentioned. Reference was made to the decision of the House of Lords in Ridge v. Baldwin 1964 A.C. 40 Associated Cement Co. Ltd. v. P. N. Shurma and Bhagwan v. Ramchditd (both of them reported in the same Volume of : (1965)ILLJ433SC respectively). To the said decisions referred to by Deshpande, J. may be added the recent decision of the Supreme Court in The Government of Mysore and others v. i. V. Bhat etc. (5) (Civil Appeals Nos. 1736 to 1740 of 1968 decided on 14-10-1974), where Alagiriswamy,J who spoke for the Court, referred to a number of cases, both Indian and English, commencing from Cooper v. The Board of Works for the Wandsworth. District 14 Cb Ns 180 where Erie, C. J. explained the Biblical story of how even God Himself had given Adam an opportunity of answering why he had eaten the forbidden fruit before expelling him from paradise. The classical statement of Byles, J. that the common law (concerning the requirement of hearing based on the rule of natural justice) will supply the omission of the Legislature also occurs in the said decision. Alagiriswamy, J. held that where there was nothing in the statute to actually prohibit the giving of opportunity to be heard, but, on the other hand, the nature of the statutory duty imposed itself necessarily implied an obligation to hear before deciding the audi alteram partem rule stood imported.
(13) In Wire Neliing Stores (7) referred to the decision of the Commissioner under Section 7A being subject to judicial review in addition to the same being reviewabic by the Central Government (under Section 19A) as a ground for holding these two sections valid. It was further observed in that case by Deshpande, J. that the representation submitted by the petitioner to the Central Government, under Section 19A, was not much different from the representation made earlier to the Commissioner and that it could not, thereforee, be said that the petitioner's reply required a personal hearing before the Central Government. A distinction was also made, vis-a-vis Section 19A, between that part of it which enables the Central Government to sort of giving directions of a general kind-what in American parlance has been described as 'rule-making'-and the other part of it which is quasi-judicial in nature. The power to remove difficulties and doubts, however, is not as extensive as ordinary legislative power; nor was it as restricted as subordinate legislation-this was understood to stand somewhere between these two extremes. The decision of Bose, J. in M/s Bharat Board Mills Ltd. v. The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner and others : AIR1957Cal702 who had held Section 19A of the Act to be invalid, was hence dissented from. It will bear repetition to say that Section 19A was saved by Deshpande, J. on the ground that report to civil courts had been kept open by the Act, and that it had to be so construed, in order to render it constitutional, and that granting of hearing by the Central Governmcn, when it exercises a quasi-judicial power, was also implied. Against any decision, which acquired finality under Section 7A, a further opportunity of representation under Section 19A was avallable, in addition to the possibility of ultimate judicial review.
(14) My attention has been drawn to a decision of Palaniswamy, J. in Chokkan Palani Vilas v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner [reported in (1972) I F J 243] where the question for consideration was whether an establishment employed 20 or more persons when the concerned firm had a factory employing 14 persons and a shop employing 6 persons. No inquiry, under Section 7A, had been conducted by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner in that case as to whether the establishment in question came within the scope of the Act and the Scheme framed there under. Section 7A was added by the Amending Act 28 of 1963 and Section 19A by the Amending Act 37 of 1963. An earlier Division Bench of the same Court had however, pointed out in East India Industries v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner 1964 26 F.J.R. 42 that Section 19A could be invoked not only by the Provident Fund Commissioner but also by the employer. Palaniswamy, rightly pointed out that the said decision of the Division Bench was given without taking into consideration Section 7A ; the employer need not necessarily be directed to approach the Central Government under Section 19A, the Legislature having conferred power under Section 7A to determine the amount on account of the absence of a provision corresponding to Section 7A. The said section providing for an inquiry held with regard to the liability of the employer to contribute Section 7A was presumably introduced to cure the previous lacuna. The order of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner demanding the amount without an inquiry under Section 7A was quashed, by Palaniswamy, J.
(15) Reference may also be made to a decision by a Division Bench of the Orissa High Court in Mahamaya Coconut v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner 1972(42) IFJ 483 where it was held that the inquiry conducted under Section 7A was obligatory and that the said inquiry relates not only to the determination of the amount due from an employer but also to the applicability of the Act when it was questioned. It was pointed out that this being a quasi-judicial power it could not be delegated to any other: no person, who was not specifically authorised to make an inquiry' under Section 7A could make such a determination. It was further pointed out that there was no credible material on record in that case to indicate that the petitioners were given opportunity to be heard or place material in support of the stand at any inquiry held under Section 7A of the Act.
(16) The question, in the precise form in which it arises turn decision in this Writ Petition, namely, whether without there being an inquiry under Section 7A there can be a final order passed by the Government under Section 19A covering the petitioner's establishment under the Act and the Scheme framed there under does not appear to have arisen for actual decision in any of the reported decisions that have been brought to my notice. But the above-said decisions do assume or proceed on the basis tliat a primary enquiry under Section 7A is mandatory. In the very nature of things it would be a futile one if there is an earlier decision under Section 19A by the Central Government to the effect that the Act/Scheme is applicable to the establishment in question even without a previous enquiry under Secion 7A and finality is to attach to such a finding. The Orissa judgment specifically points out that the twin matters that arise for inquiry under Section 7A are (1) the applicability of the said Act to the establishment in question and (2) the amount due.
(17) Deshpande, J. indicated that the former was only a preliminary assessment to which no finality attached. Section 19A has also been amended from time to time. Sub-section (1) reads : 'whether an establishment which is a factory is engaged in any industry specified in Schedule ( 1 ) '; Sub-section (iii) reads : 'the number of persons employed in an establishment'. These provisions were added by Act 94 of 1956 and Act 46 of 1960, respectively. In this respect there is a certain amount of overlapping between Section 7A and 19A. The precise reasons which led to the addition of sub-sections (i) and (iii) of Section 19A have not been available to me, learned counsel could not enlighten me on this aspect. But it seems to me that the primary inquiry is the one under Section 7A, which cannot be got over by resorting to Section 19A even where, as in this case, the petitioner, who obviously did not know the correct legal position, applied under Section 19A. Having regard to the fact that the power under Section 19A has to be exercised by the Central Government it is not possible to visualise how the primary inquiry of this nature could itself be made by the Central Government under Section 19A when not even any officer of the Central Government has been named in this connection; the ordinary rule may be that the one who hears decides. Even though the power to remove difficulties now includes, by virtue of these amendments, the question whether an establishment which is a factory is engaged in any industry specified in Schedule I and that concerning the number of persons employed in an establishment, it would seem especially in juxta-position with Section 7A, that these arc matters which may be decided by the Central Government after the necessary facts arc gathered if they have to be so gathered; if they could not be found without an inquiry postulated by Section 7A. If the procedure under Section 7A is adopted, it may hear repetition to state, there will be a full, fair and effective opportunity for a dialogue between an employer and the officer concerned; this will not be feasible at least to the same extent and measure under Section 19A. Some significance has also to be attributed to the fact that the Legislature did not specifically refer to the requirement of hearing under Section 19A (though this may be implied to render the section constitutional) whereas sub-section (3) of Section 7A specifically prescribes no order being made under sub-section (1) without the employer being given a reasonable opportunity of representing his case. The omission, specifically, to provide a hearing may have some impact on the nature of hearing/enquiry.
(18) There is also yet another aspect; the petitioner was not even given a copy of the inspection report, which in this case was in his favor.
(19) The observations of a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Gunvantrai liarivallabh Jain v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Employees Provident Fund : AIR1970MP221 appear worth setting out in this context :
'.. . . the petitioner was entitled to show that the order was wrong and for that purpose he was entitled to correct, contradict or otherwise controvert every fact relied upon in support of it. Further, the respondent had to show the report of the-Provident Fund Inspector to the petitioner before he could be called upon to meet it.'
In the present case it is untortunate that not only the petitioner was not given copy of the report of the Inspector (Shri D. B. Bhambri) dated 13-12-1962 (which I have seen at pp. 3-4 of the life), but when the petitioner had referred in his present petition to the Commissioner having been completely satisfied after the inspection about the two undertakings being distinct and separate from each other and there was nothing comon therein and the matter having been accordingly laid to rest, the following alone wiis stated in the return without admitting the said fact :
'ITis, however, denied that on the inspection the respondent No. I (Regional Provident Fund Commissioner) got completely satisfied that the two undertakings were really distinct and separate from each other' etc.
(20) It has to be noticed further that in paragraph 7 of the petition reference was also made to the petitioner's representation (Annexure D) wherein specific reference had been made to the visit of the Inspector and his being fully satisfied though there was no such specific reference to it in the petition. The reply only stated that the representations may be referred to for its contents; the fact of the petitioner having made representations was not denied. This was hardly a fair way of pleading to a Writ Petition where paragraph 7 of the petition taken along with Annexure D, would undoubtedly show that the Inspector was satisfied that the two units were separate. It is somewhat curious that while it was denied in the reply that the Respondent No. 1 was satisfied it said nothing about the satisfaction of the Inspector, to which reference had been made in the representation (Annexure D) to which, in turn reference was made in para 7 of the petition
(21) In none of the cases arising under this Act, which I nad the opportunity to deal with so far, was my attention specifically drawn to a decision by the Central Government under Section 19A, regarding the applicability of the Act to an establishment being made even without an inquiry under Section 7A when the applicability of the Act itself was questioned. It is just possible that the procedure was reversed bona fide in this case, on account of the representation having been made under Section 19A of the Act by the petitioner. But the fact of such representation having been made under Section 19A could not, legally speaking, absolve the concerned authority from the need to hold an inquiry under Section 7A which is mandatory. I respectfully agree with the view taken by the Division Bench of the Orissa High Court that Section 7A also takes within its scope the duty of deciding, even at the threshold, any dispute concerning the applicability of the Act to the establishment.
(22) It being conceded that the ice factory was brought within the scope of Schedule I only later on. in the year 1969 the most material aspect to determine would be whether the ice factory was 'dominant' and the cold storage only ancillary or subsidiary because without a finding that the cold storage was 'dominant' it would not have been possible for the Central Government to express an opinion that the petitioner's case fell under Schedule I and, consequently, under Section 1(3)(a). The entire order of the Central Government (copy of which is Annexure G to the petition) which has been set out supra in extenso shows that there has been no finding of the Central Government that by reason of the cold storage being dominant it came under Section 1(3)(a) of the Act. Such a finding may not even have been possible for the Government to reach on the materials before it because the report of the Commissioner dated 14-2-1964 said that it was the ice factory which was 'dominant' and the cold storage was only subsidiary. In spite of this specific reference in the Commissioner's report and the absence of any finding on this question in the original of Annexure G an attempt had been made ill the return to show that the cold storage was 'dominant' and the ice factory was subsidiary It has not been explained to me on what basis this plea had been raised. But it being not for this Court, while judicially reviewing the said order dated 26-12-1966 (copy of which is Annexure G to the petition) passed under Section 19A to enter into the merits of this issue, it would be sufficient to state that there is no finding to the effect that the cold storage was the dominant under taking and that even if such a finding should be imported into the order (which cannot be) it would have nothing to suggest it but would be, on the other hand, contradicted by the report of the Commissioner unless there were other materials (of which I am not aware) to show that the View of the Commissioner on this particular point was not correct.
(23) The following observations of Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was), speaking for the Supreme Court, in The Associated Jndustries (P) Ltd. v. The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner : (1963)IILLJ652SC explaining the previous decision of the same Court in The Regional Provident Fund. Commissioner v. Shree Krishna Metal Manufacturing Co. : (1962)ILLJ427SC would clearly reveal the true legal position on 'Ms aspect :
'If the factory carries on one industry which falls under Sch. I and satisfies the requirement as to the number of employees prescribed by the section, it clearly falls under S. 1(3)(a). If the factory carries on more than one industry all of which fell under Sch. I and its numerical strength satisfies the test prescribed in that behalf it is an establishment under S. 1(3)(a). If a factory runs more industries than one which is the primary and the dominant industry and the other are its feeders and can be regarded as, subsidiary, minor, or incidental industries in that sense, then the character of the dominant and primary industry will determine the question as to whether the factory is an establishment under S. 1(3)(a) or not. If the dominant and primary industry falls under Sch. I the fact that , subsidiary industries do not fall under Sch. I will not help to exclude the application of S. 1(3)(a). If the dominant and primary industry does not fall under Sch. I, but one or more subsidiary, incidental, minor and feeding industries fall under Sch. I then S. 1(3)(a) will not apply. If the factory runs more industries than one all of which are independent of each other and constitute separate and distinct industries, S. 1(3)(a) will apply to the factory even if one or more, but not all, of the industries run by the factory fall under Sch. 1. The question about the subsidiary, minor, or feeding industries can legitimately arise only where it is shown that the factory is really started for the purpose of running one primary industry and has undertaken other subsidiary industries only for the purpose of subserving and feeding the purposes and objects of the primary industry, in such a case, these minor industries merely serve as departments of the primary industry; otherwise if the industries run by a factory are independent, or are not so integrated as to be treated as part of the same industry, the question about the principal and the dominant character of one industry as against the minor or subsidiary character of another industry does not fall to be considered.'
(24) In the result, the order dated 26-12-1966 (Annexure G) passed by Shri Daijit Singh, Under Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Labour and Employment, is quashed; all the further proceedings taken in respect of the same are also quashed. It is needless to add that it will be open to the authority, if it is so inclined, to make an inquiry under Section 7A of the Act. This writ Petition is accepted accordingly. In the circumstances there will be no order as to costs.