T. Kochu Thommen, J.
1. The petitioner is the landowner and the 1st respondent is the worker. The petitioner challenges Ext. P2 award of the Agricultural Tribunal, Allep-pey, in A. D. No. 30 of 1976 whereby the Tribunal held that the 1st respondent was entitled to be employed by the petitioner in terms of Section 7 (2) of the Kerala Agricultural Workers Act, 1974 ('the Act'). The award is challenged for two reasons. The petitioner's counsel Shri P. C. Balakrishna Menon contends that the award is invalid for the reason that it was made outside the period limited for making an award in terms of Section 22 (5). Counsel further contends that the award is vitiated by an error in so far as the Tribunal did not take into account the employer's contention that the worker was not entitled to be employed for the reason mentioned under Section 7 (5) (d).
2. Section 22 (5) reads:
'Where an agricultural dispute has been referred to an Agricultural Tribunal under Sub-section (4), the Tribunal shall hold its proceedings expeditiously and shall, as soon as practicable after the conclusion of the proceedings, but not later than thirty days from the date of receipt of the reference by the Tribunal, submit its award to the District Collector.'
The purpose of the Act is to provide for the welfare of agricultural workers and to regulate the conditions of their work. The workers protected under this Act shall not be denied employment except in accordance with its provisions. Any worker who complains of denial of employment is entitled to have the dispute settled or adjudicated in the manner provided under 3. 22. The Tribunal is enjoined to conduct the proceedings expeditiously. Time for adjudication is limited. The object of the limitation is to see that proceedings are not prolonged or delayed to the disadvantage of the parties, particularly the worker. The award has to be submitted to the District Collector within 30 days from the date of receipt of the reference. The Tribunal shall have failed in his responsibility if he did not conform to these requirements. The question however is whether an award made outside the 30 days period is invalid. I think not.
3. The date of reference is 28-8-1976 It is not known when the reference was actually received by the Tribunal. Assuming that the reference was received within a day or two, the office of the Tribunal being in the same town as that of the Collector, the Tribunal in all probability was seized of the reference as from 1-9-1976. At any rate it cannot be later than 4-9-1976 which is the date on which notice of summons was issued by the Tribunal to the parties under Rule 15 (2) of the Kerala Agricultural Workers Rules, 1975. It would thus mean that in any event the period of 30 days expired on 3-10-1976. The award was however passed only on 27-10-1976.
4. The Tribunal entered upon the enquiry without delay, for, as I stated earlier, the notice itself was issued on 4-9-1976. But the statement of the employer was not submitted before 22-9-1976; and, he did not examine himself as a witness until 8-10-1976 by which time the period of 30 days had expired. Another witness of his was examined on 14-10-1976. The employer and his witness thus testified before the Tribunal outside the period of 30 days.
5. Can the employer who participated in the enquiry without protest even after the expiry of the statutory period for passing the award legitimately question the validity of the award on the ground that it was tune-barred; or is he estopped from raising such contention?
6. In Bokara and Ramgur Ltd. v. Dr. Prasun Kumar Banerjee (AIR 1968 Pat 150) a Full Bench of the Patna High Court considered the question whether a person, who willingly participated in the proceedings before an arbitrator outside the period of limitation under Clause (3) of Schedule I of the Arbitration Act, 1940. could legitimately contend that the award which was passed outside the period of 4 months was invalid. The Court held that he was estopped from raising any such contention.
7. The object of the legislature in enacting Section 22 (5) is to give full effect to it The time mentioned for completion of the proceedings is a rider attached to the conferment of jurisdiction which is in the nature of an admonition to the Tribunal, but not a condition for the exercise of itsjurisdiction. If a Tribunal did not make the award within that time, the Tribunal failed to carry out the full intent of the legislature. Such lapse on the part of the Tribunal is a matter of grave concern, for it defeats the intention of the legislature to expedite proceedings before the Tribunal in the interest of the parties concerned, particularly the worker. But the legislature at the same time could not have intended that the award, which is the result of a due enquiry, should become invalid for the sole reason that it was made outside the period of limitation. In any event, he who caused the delay, or took part in the enquiry without protest even after the statutory period ran out, is not entitled to challenge the award on the ground of delay. Viewed in this light it is difficult to read Section 22 (5) as mandatory. This was the view which this Court took in O. P. No. 337 of 1977-F. Any other construction would in my view conflict with the legislative intent The section lays down a norm which the Tribunal must necessarily act upon. But non-compliance with it, without more, will not invalidate the award.
8. Shri Menon contends that the Tribunal did not take 'into account the employer's case that the worker was not entitled to be employed for the reason mentioned under Section 7 (5) (d) which says:
'(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing provisions of this section, no landowner shall be under an obligation to employ any agricultural worker-
.............. ................... .............. (d) who has intentionally caused damage of crops belonging to the landowner or caused any other loss to the landowner.' The Tribunal says that on this aspect no evidence was adduced by the employer. The evidence of P. W. 1, the employer himself, was read out to me. There is no mention of any damage having been caused by the worker.
9. In the circumstances I see no reason to interfere with the finding of the Tribunal. The O. P. is accordingly dismissed. No costs.