1. Two questions have been referred by a learned Single Judge for reply by a larger Bench and that is how the matter has come before us. These questions are:
(1) Whether the authority appointed by the State Government under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act is a Civil Court subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code.
(2) Whether it would be proper for this Court to interfere with the orders of the said authority under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, to correct its errors.
2. The facts which have led to this reference may be briefly narrated. The opposite parties are in the employ of the applicant, namely the Mewar Textile Mills Ltd., Bhilwara. The applicant imposed a fine on them for late coming on various dates and deducted the amount from the wages paid to them. Thereupon, the opposite parties applied to the District Magistrate, Bhilwara, who is the authority appointed under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (Act No. IV of 1936), hereinafter called the Act.
The District Magistrate was of opinion that the deductions were improper and that the amount should be refunded to the opposite parties along with a certain amount as compensation. The order was not appealable under Section 17 of the Act as the amount involved did not exceed Rs. 300/-. The applicant, therefore, came to this Court in revision under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure in all the seventeen cases and that is how there were seventeen revisions in this Court.
3. When the matter came for hearing before a learned single Judge of this Court, a preliminary objection was taken that no revision lay under Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code as the authority under the Payment of Wages Act was not a Civil Court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of Section 115, C. P. C. As there was difference of opinion between various High Courts on this question, the learned single Judge has thought it fit to refer the two questions, which in his opinion, arose for decision and which we have set out above.
4. We shall take the first question in the beginning, namely whether the authority appointed by the State Government under Section 15 of the Act is a civil court. If it is a civil court, a revision will naturally lie under Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code to this Court from the orders of the authority in appropriate cases.
There are two views prevalent in the High Courts in India in this connection. One view is represented by the Patna and Lahore High Courts. In the case of Dirji v. Goalin AIR 1941 Pat 65 (PB) (A) the Patna High Court decided that a Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act was a civil court. In the case of Works Manager, Carriage and Wagon Shops, Mohalpura v. K. G. Hasmat AIR 1946 Lah 316 (FB) (B), the Lahore High Court decided that the authority under the Payment of Wages Act was a civil court.
5. The other view is represented by the Bombay, Nagpur and Allahabad High Courts. The Bombay High Court decided in Spring Mills Ltd. v. G. D. Ambekar AIR 1949 Bom 188 (C) that the authority under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act was not a civil court. That Court was following Its earlier decision in another case to the effect that the Commissioner appointed under the Workmen's Compensation Act was not a civil court.
The Nagpur High Court in the case of Sawatram Ramprasad Mills Co. Ltd. v. Vishnu Pandurang AIR 1950 Nag 14 (D) also took the view that the authority under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act was not a Civil court. The same view was taken by the Allahabad High Court in the case of H. C. D. Mathur, Secretary of the National Federation of Rly. v. E. I. Rly. AIR 1950 All 80 (FB) (E). What we have to see, therefore, is as to which of these views is the better view and should be followed by this Court.
6. We are of opinion that the better view is that taken by the Bombay, Nagpur and Allahabad High Courts and that we should follow that view. In that connection, we propose to examine, with all respect, the reasons given by the Lahore High Court in Works Manager, Carriage and Wagon Shops, Mohalpura v. K. G. Hasmat (B).
There were three reasons which led the Lahore High Court to the view that the authority under the Payment of Wages Act was a civil court. The first reason was that the authority satisfied the test that it exercised jurisdiction by reason of sanction of the law and not by reason of voluntary submission of the parties to a dispute.
That is undoubtedly so. But with all respects, we wish to point out that the mere fact that the authority exercised jurisdiction by virtue of some provision of the law would not necessarily make it a civil court within the meaning of Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code. That one fact would only make it a tribunal and whether the tribunal is also a civil court would still have to be decided on consideration of other circumstances.
7. The second reason, which impressed the learned Judges of the Lahore High Court, was whether the authority took cognizance of a lis and was exercising its function in a judicial manner. This again, we may say so with respect, is not enough to turn the authority into a civil court Even a quasi-judicial tribunal has a lis before it and functions in a judicial manner. The mere fact, therefore, that these two conditions are present in the case of the authority under the Act would not make it a civil court, though it would certainly be a quasi-judicial tribunal. Whether It will be a civil court will again depend on circumstances over and above this.
8. The third reason, and perhaps the most Important, which led the Judges of the Lahore High Court to the conclusion that the authority was a civil court, was that under Section 17 of the Act, an appeal was provided to the District Court. The learned Judges held that the fact that an appeal was provided to the District Court meant that the authority was a civil court subordinate to the High Court. With all due respect, this is a conclusion which is not warranted by the fact that an appeal is provided to the District Court.
It is open to the legislature to provide an appeal to regularly constituted courts from all kinds or authorities, but that would not make those authorities civil courts. Learned Judges of the Lahore High Court also pointed that an anomaly would result if the authority was not held to be a civil court. They said that if the order was appealable, there would be a revision to the High Court from the order of the District Court on appeal.
But if the order was not appealable, there would be no revision to the High Court from the order of the authority under Section 15 of the Act. That would undoubtedly be the result, for, the appeal under Section 17 would be heard by the District Court and any order of a District Court would be revisable by the High Court under Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code in appropriate cases.
That, however, is no reason for us to say that any order of the authority under Section 15 would also be revisable by the High Court. If there were no appeal possible to the District Judge, the existence of an anomaly would not, in our opinion, convert what is a tribunal into a civil court.
If there is such an anomaly, it is for the legislature to correct the defect. We may, however, point out that the matter is not now of any great importance, for, whatever may have been the position before the Constitution Came into force, a remedy is now provided, though of a limited character, with which we shall deal when we come to the second question, under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
The reasons, therefore, which the learned Judges of the Lahore High Court gave, do not commend themselves to us and we must respectfully state that they are not conclusive to show that the authority appointed under Section 15 Of the Act is a civil court.
9. On the other hand, an examination of the various provisions of the Act would show that the authority under Section 15 is not a civil court. Section 15(1) provides for the appointment of an authority to hear and decide matters arising under the Act.
It is remarkable that the word used is 'authority' and not 'civil court'. The qualification of the person to be appointed as such authority is that he has to be either any Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation or other officer with experience as a Judge of a Civil Court or as a stipendiary Magistrate.
Under Section 20 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, any person can be appointed as a Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation. Thus, an authority .under Section 15 of the Act need not have anything to do with judicial work and need not have any qualification necessary for a judicial officer. In. these circumstances, to hold chat such an authority becomes a civil court merely because there is an appeal provided to the District Court would, in our opinion, be going too far.
10. Then we come to Section 15(5) of the Act. This lays down that if the authority is a Magistrate, the amount directed to be paid under this section may be recovered as if it were a fine imposed by him as Magistrate. But if the authority is not a Magistrate, then the authority has got to make an application to any Magistrate, and then that Magistrate can recover it as a fine. We must say that it seems very strange that a civil court should not have the power to execute its own decrees.
11. Then we come to Section 18 of the Act, which corresponds to Section 23 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. That section lays down that every authority appointed under section 15 shall have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure and every such authority shall be deemed to be a civil court for all the purposes of Section 195 of Chapter XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Now, it seems stranger still that this provision should have been made with respect to the authority if it was a full fledged civil court subordinate to the High Court, as held in the Lahore case.
12. Then we come to Section 22 which corresponds to Section 19(2) of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Section 22 bars any court from entertaining any suit for the recovery of wage or any deduction from wages so far as the sum claimed formed the subject of an application under Section 15 etc. It is the strangest thing to find that if the authority is a Civil court, there should be a section like Section 22 barring the jurisdiction of the court which in this section can only be a civil court.
We must say that the learned Judges of the Lahore High Court in the case mentioned above have not referred to these provisions at all which clearly negative the view they were taking, namely that the authority under the Payment of Wages Act was a civil court. On a careful consideration, therefore, of these provisions of the Payment of Wages Act, we have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that though the authority appointed under Section 15 is a quasi-judicial tribunal, it is not a civil court within the meaning of Section 115 of the Civil Procedure Code.
13. The same reasons, which we have given above, commended themselves to the learned Judges of the Bombay High Court who decided the case of Spring Mills Ltd. v. G. D, Ambekar (C). This view was followed by the Nagpur High Court in Sawatram Ramprasad Mills Co. Ltd v. Vishnu Pandurang Hingnekar (D) and the reasons given there are similar.
It was again followed in the case of H. C D. Mathur (E) by the Allahabad High Court. We are in respectful agreement with the view taken in these three cases except that we should like to point out that the opinion expressed by the Allahabad High Court to the effect that a Commissioner appointed under the Workmen's Compensation Act might well be a court cannot be accepted by us.
There is no difference, as we have already pointed out, between the main provisions Of the Payment of Wages Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act. The mere fact that under the Workmen's Compensation Act an appeal has been provided to the High Court from certain orders would not convert the commissioner into a civil court. As a matter of fact, Section 19(2) of the Workmen's Compensation Act itself says that no civil court shall have jurisdiction to deal with any questions arising thereunder.
There could not have been a greater contrast between the Commissioner under that Act who is mentioned under Section 19(1) and a civil court, the jurisdiction of which was barred under Section 19(2).
14. Our answer, therefore, to the first question is that the authority appointed by the State Government under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act is not a Civil Court and is not subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
15. We now come to the second question. It is well settled that the power of superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution includes judicial superintendence also of courts and tribunals within the territories over which the High Court exercises jurisdiction. Therefore, it would be within the power of this Court to interfere with the order of the authority under Section 15 in an appropriate case under Article 227 of the Constitution.
Whether in practice this Court should interfere or should not interfere is a question to be decided on the facts and circumstances of the particular decision challenged under Article 227. The scope of the authority that is vested in the High Court under Article 227 has been a matter of consideration by a number of courts including this Court. In this connection it is enough to refer to Dslmia Jain Airways Ltd. v. Sukumar Mukherjee AIR 1951 Cal 193 (F).
The decision in that case was approved by the Supreme Court in Waryam Singh v Amarnath AIR 1954 SC 215 (G). The matter came for consideration before this Court also and in Shivsingh v. Harjiram Civil Misc. Writ Appln No. 78 Of 1955 decided on April 2, 1956: (AIR 1957 Raj 39) (H) to which one of us was a party, this Court followed the view laid down in Waryam Singh's case (G).
We may usefully quote from that judgment. 'We are clearly of opinion on general principles that this superintendence does not mean that the High Court is an appellate court from the decisions of such tribunals or that its duty is to correct any mere errors of law or of fact committed by them in the exercise of their jurisdiction. We also think that the superintending jurisdiction must not be considered to be identical with our ordinary revisional jurisdiction from the decisions of courts subordinate to the High Court.
The kind of jurisdiction which is entrusted under this article to a High Court, being the highest court within a State, is in the nature of a special responsibility, an extraordinary power, and it should be exercised with extraordinary care and circumspection.
While, therefore, we should guard ourselves against being placed in the position of an appellate or revisional court so as to correct any mere errors of law or fact committed by courts or tribunals within our territorial jurisdiction, it should be remembered at the same time that it is our duty to see that such courts and tribunals act within the due bounds of their authority and that they exercise such authority in the manner prescribed by law and not arbitrarily or Capriciously.
The principle which emerges from an examination of the cases clearly is that the High Court as the highest court in a State and as the custodian of Justice therein is Invested with a special jurisdiction to see that the courts and tribunals functioning within its Jurisdiction do act within the bounds of their authority and that they act in the manner required by law and do not exceed their authority or act arbitrarily or capriciously, and where they transgress their due bounds, it is the duty of the High Court to set them right and undo the wrong, of course remembering always that this extraordinary power is to be exercised most sparingly and with requisite care and circumspection'.
16. Our answer, therefore, to the question is that it is open to this Court to interfere with an order of an authority under Section 15 of the Payment of Wages Act under Article 227 of the Constitution but that in doing so, this Court will act in the manner indicated above.
17. Let these answers be returned to theBench concerned.