V.P. Gopalan Nambiyar, C.J.
1. These writ petitions challenge the vires of Section 1(5) of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, and the notification issued thereunder. The Plantations Labour Act is an Act passed by Parliament to provide for the welfare of labour, and to regulate the conditions of work, in plantations. Sub-sections (4) and (5) of Section 1 are as follows:
1. Short title, extent, commencement and application.-
(4) It applies to the following plantations, that is to say,-
(a) to any land used or intended to be used for growing tea, coffee, rubber or cinchona which admeasures 10.117 hectares or more and in which thirty or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months:
(b) to any land used or intended to be used for growing any other plant, which admeasures 10.117 hectares or more and in which thirty or more persons are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months, if, after obtaining the approval of the Central Government, the State Government by notification in the official Gazette, so directs.
(5) The State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare that all or any of the provisions of this Act shall apply also to any land used or intended to be used for growing any plant referred to in Clause (a) or Clause (b) of Sub-section (4), notwithstanding that-
(a) it admeasures less than 10.117 hectares, or
(b) the number of persons employed therein is less than thirty:
Provided that no such declaration shall be made in respect of such land which admeasured less than 10.117 hectares or in which less than thirty persons were employed, immediately before the commencement of this Act.
It would be seen that as a result of the alteration of the above two sub-sections, the Act which originally applied only to plantations which admeasured not less than 10.117 hectares, after the approval of the Central Government, could be made applicable even to plantations lesser in extent than 10.117 hectares, if the State Government felt it necessary to so extend its provisions by notification as contemplated in Sub-section (5). We may notice two further limitations provided, one, in Clause (b) of Sub-section (4) and the other in the proviso to Sub-section (5) of the said Section. Under Clause (b) of Sub-section (4) the approval of the Central Government referred to earlier is needed only if the provisions of the Act are to be extended to lands other than used for growing tea, coffee, rubber or cinchona. Under the proviso to Sub-section (5) the notification made by the State Government shall have effect only in respect of lands which satisfy the minimum extent of 10.117 hectares immediately before the commencement of the Act. With these, and the provisos of the two sub-sections, let us examine the notification Issued under Sub-section (5), a copy of which is Ext. P1, and which is as follows:
GOVERNMENT OF KERALA
Plantation Labour Act--Section 1(5)--Notification-regarding fragmented estates-issued.
Labour (A) Department
G.O. (Ms) No. 75P2/LBR
Dated, Trivandrum, 19.8.1972
Read: 1. Letter No. G1-7357/72 dated, 19.2.1972 from the Labour Commissioner, Trivandrum.
The Superintendent of Government Presses is requested to publish the appendix Notification in the next issue of the Gazette itself and to supply 100 copies of the notification to Labour Department, Government Secretariat and the usual number of copies to the Labour Commissioner immediately on its publication in the Gazette.
(By order of the Governor)
The Superintendent of Government
The Labour Commissioner.
G.O. Ms. No. 75/72/LBR
Dated, Trivandrum, 19.8.72
In exercise of the powers conferred by Sub-section (5) of Section 1 of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951 (Central Act 69 of 1951), the Government of Kerala hereby declare that all the provisions of the said Act shall apply to each and every component part of any land to which the provisions of the Act were applicable on the 1st day of April, 1954, the date on which the said Act came into force notwithstanding that such component pars admeasures less than 10.117 hectaret or less than thirty persons are employed in such component part, after such land is later on sub-divided or fragmented by way of partition, sale or otherwise.
(By Order of the Governor)
U. Mahabala Rao,
Secretary to Government.
Endt. on R. Dis. 7357/72 dated 5.9.1972, Copy forwarded to all sub-offices for information.
Copy to Junior Superintendents (E) and G5 seat.
2. Sub-section (5) of Section 1 has been attacked as amounting to excessive delegation of the legislative function. We are unable to agree. The policy and principles of legislation having been laid down, the State Government have been vested with a power to apply the provisions of the Section, if it so wishes, even to plantations lesser in extent than the area mentioned in Sub-section (4)(b) of the Section, subject to the provisions made in the proviso, namely, that the notification can operate only in respect of plantations which were such, immediately before the commencement of this Act. The idea or the object underlying this provision appears to us to be plain enough, namely, after the passing of the Act, it might well be that persons had resorted to fragmentation of the plantations by way of partition, transfer, or otherwise, solely with a view to escape the provisions of this Act and to defeat the object and the purposes of the Act. The State Government's power of notification conferred by Sub-section (5) seems to work as a check against such abuses. It may also well be, that in a small State like Kerala, with a rapidly expanding population, the Legislature felt it necessary to clothe the State Government with this power. Whatever it is, we think, the power cannot be regarded as amounting to excessive delegation. We rather think that the provision is one of conditional legislation and perfectly valid as such. The policy and principles of legislation having been laid down by the Legislature with respect to plantations of 10-117 hectares and more in extent, a discretion is left in the hands of the State Government to extend the provisions of the Act to such plantations. Even viewed as delegated legislation, we are of the opinion that the sum and the substance of the law having been chalked out by the Legislature, the leaving of such discretion to a high authority as the Government is not objectionable.
3. Counsel for the petitioners argued that the power conferred by Section 1(5) of the Act and the notification actually issued under the provisions of the said Section, namely, Ext. P1, would amount to unfair discrimination. It was urged that the Section and the notification would operate alike on a person who had derived a smaller extent than 10.117 hectares, since the date of the commencement of the Act by a bona fide partition or transfer, or by inheritance, and also on a person who had come by the requisite extent by devices to defeat the provisions of the Act. We are unable to see a case of discrimination on the basis of such considerations; and in any event, on the facts of these cases placed before us, we are wholly unable to sustain any case of discrimination. We dismiss these writ petitions, in the circumstances, without costs.