C.A. Vaidialingam, J.
1. In this revision on behalf of the petitioner the learned Government Pleader challenges the two orders passed, one by the authority under the Payment of Wages Act and the other of the learned District Judge, Quilon, accepting a claim made for payment of overtime wages by the respondents for the period 1 August 1957 to 31 August 1959. '
2. Respondent 1 on behalf of respondents 2 to 5 filed the application before the labour court, Quilon, under Section 15 read with Section 16 of the Payment of Wages Act, Central Act 4 of 1936, complaining of non-payment of overtime wages which they are entitled to for the period referred to above. Their claim was no doubt opposed by the petitioner on various grounds and it is seen that the petitioner contested the claim of the respondents on the ground that since they are all members of non-pensionable monthly-paid contingency staff they are not entitled to any payment of overtime wages and it was also contended that they cannot be considered to be workman coming within the definition of that expression as contained in Section 2(l) of the Factories Act, Central Act 63 of 1948.
3. It may be mentioned that Section 59 of the latter Act indicates the circumstances under which a claim can be made for extra wages for overtime work and it will also be seen that the expressions 'manufacturing process,' 'worker 'and 'factory 'are all defined in Section 2, Clauses (k), (I) and (m), respectively, in the Factories Act. Before the labour court an objection was also taken by the petitioner that the application filed by the respondents is barred at any rate so far as the claim related to overtime wages prior to 9 April 1959. The respondents have riled an application before the labour court to excuse the delay in filing the application on the ground that the question as to whether persons like the respondents are entitled to overtime wages was finally decided against the respondents by the State Government which is running the factory in question only by their order dated 20 August 1959 and therefore the labour court was satisfied that the reasons given by the respondents for filing the application, no doubt beyond the period referred to in the statement, has to be accepted and in consequence the delay in filing the application was excused.
4. The contention of the petitioner that merely because the respondents concerned are to be treated as members of non-pensionable monthly-paid contingency staff their claim for overtime wages should be negatived was not accepted by the labour court. The labour court, on the basis of the evidence placed before it by the parties concerned and in view of the stand taken before that authority, has ultimately recorded a finding to the effect that respondents 2 to 5 come within the definition of the expression ' worker ' as contained in Section 2(l) of the Factories Act. There was also a claim made by the respondents for payment of compensation inasmuch as according to them there has been a considerable delay in recognizing the claim by the State. That request also has found favour at the hands of the labour court as will be seen from the fact that apart from recognizing the claim for overtime wages in the sum of Rs. 1,078.66 as claimed by the respondents the labour court directed the petitioner to pay an additional sum of Rs. 40 as compensation. It is the view of the labour court as far as the latter aspect is concerned that this claim for compensation cannot be stated to be extravagant or considered to be high. The order of the labour court was challenged by the petitioner before the learned District Judge, Quilon. There again the same objections taken by the petitioner to the claim made by the respondents before the labour court were reiterated by the petitioner.
5. The learned District Judge is of the view that the order of the labour court excusing the delay in filing the application by the respondents claiming relief under the Payment of Wages Act was perfectly justified and therefore he declined to entertain any attack as against that part of the order. Then the learned District Judge considers the question as to whether the respondents can be considered to be workmen coming under Section 2(l) of the Factories Act. There again the learned District Judge accepts the findings of the labour court and dismissed the appeal filed by the petitioner.
6. Both these matters are challenged by the learned Government Pleader. The orders under attack are sought to be sustained by Sri T. C. N. Menon for the respondents. One of the contentions that have been raised by the learned Counsel for the respondent Is that on the basis of the material placed before the labour court and in view of the stand taken by the parties before that authority the finding recorded as against the petitioner and in favour of the respondents holding them to be workmen under Section 2(l) of the Factories Act is a finding on a question of fact which has also been accepted on appeal by the learned District Judge. Therefore, there is absolutely no scope for interfering with the findings recorded by the two Courts especially when this Court is exercising jurisdiction under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code.
7. No doubt the learned Government Pleader attempted to satisfy this Court that both the subordinate authorities have not properly considered the question as to whether the respondents can be considered to satisfy the tests laid down in Section 2(l) of the Factories Act so as to make them eligible to claim overtime wages. I do not propose to embark upon any enquiry into that aspect at any rate in these proceedings as pointed out by the learned Counsel for the respondent of the stand taken by the parties before the labour court and in view of the evidence placed before that authority. On that basis I do not see any error committed by either of the authorities in coming to a conclusion as against the petitioner. Therefore the finding of the two subordinate authorities holding that the respondents 2 to 5 are workmen and satisfy the definition of that expression as contained In Section 2(l) of the Factories Act does not require any interference at the hands of this Court and if that is so, inasmuch as there was no dispute regarding the actual amount that they are eligible to claim as overtime wages, the award of that amount claimed by the respondents was also justified. The learned Government Pleader no doubt urged that the labour court as well as the appellate Court have acted illegally In excusing the delay in filing the application by the respondents before the. labour court. So far as that is concerned, there again it Is a matter exclusively within the jurisdiction of the labour court in the first instance and exercise of that discretion in favour of the respondents has been accepted to be correct by the learned District Judge though the learned District Judge also has expressed doubts as to whether it was open to the petitioner to challenge by way of an appeal an order passed by the labour court excusing the delay in filing the main application. But whatever it is seen that the Government took a final decision only on 20 August 1959 that the respondents will not be entitled to overtime wages and therefore in my opinion, the exercise of discretion by the subordinate Courts in favour of the respondents and excusing the delay cannot also be considered to be unjustified.
8. That takes me to the last contention that has been raised on behalf of the petitioner by the learned Government Pleader and that relates to the award of compensation of Rs. 40 in favour of the respondents in addition to a direction to the petitioner to pay the overtime wages. According to the learned Government Pleader, on the findings of the subordinate Courts the question as to whether the respondents are eligible for payment of overtime wages was pending adjudication at the hands of the State Government who were running this factory concerned and D. W. 1., the General Manager, has also given evidence to that effect, namely, that he was awaiting final directions from the State Government. The State Government took a decision only on 20 August 1959 and therefore it cannot certainly be stated that there has been any intentional withholding of any amounts due to the respondents. On the other hand, though there may be normally jurisdiction in an authority under the Payment of Wages Act for award of compensation if he considers it necessary under Section 15(3) of the said Act, nevertheless under 01. (a) of the proviso it is specifically stated that no direction for the payment of compensation shall be made (?) especially in the case of delayed wages if the delay was due to a bona fide error or bona fide dispute as to the amount payable to the employed person. This aspect has not been adverted to at all either by the labour court or the learned District Judge.
9. There was a dispute In this case with reference to the claim of the respondents which is evidenced by the correspondence produced in these proceedings that the award of compensation is not justified. No doubt Sri T. C. N. Menon for the respondents attempted his best to sustain the orders of both the Courts that there has been a proper exercise of discretion in the matter of directing the petitioner to pay compensation. I am not inclined to accept the contention of the learned Counsel for the respondent at any rate so far as this aspect is concerned. On the findings of the two subordinate Courts it is clear that the question as to whether the respondents are entitled to overtime wages was pending adjudication at the hands of the State Government. That means there was a bona fide dispute as to whether the claim of the respondents is to be recognized or not and the evidence of the General Manager, namely, D.W. 1, also.
10. Therefore, under those circumstances, in my opinion, the award of compensation without taking into account Clause (a) of the proviso to Section 15(3) of the Payment of Wages Act cannot be sustained. Therefore, the direction of the labour court as well as the order of the learned District Judge to the extent to which both of them recognized a claim in the respondents for compensation in the sum of Rs. 40 alone, that will stand set aside and to this extent the civil revision petition will be allowed. In other respects the orders of both the subordinate authorities will stand confirmed and civil revision petition dismissed. No order as to costs in the civil revision petition.
11. I make it clear that whenever a question arises similar to the one that has to be considered by the labour court in this case it must certainly direct the parties to let in evidence as to the nature of work that is being done by the party claiming relief and also ultimately satisfy itself by having due regard to the evidence adduced regarding the nature of the work that is done by the party concerned as to whether that party satisfied the definition of the ' worker ' as contained in Section 2(l) of the Factories Act, 1948. Certainly it' will have taken into account various other circumstances which are indicated in the statute also. But all those circumstances do not come into the picture in this case in view of the findings recorded by the two subordinate authorities.