1. These are petitions seeking to revise the order of the learned Chief Judge of the Court of Small Causes dismissing four appeals filed before him under Section 17, Payment of Wages Act against orders of the Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation passed on applications made by a workers' union under Section 15(2) Payment of Wages Act against proprietors of certain foundries. The claim was for recovery of bonus alleged to be due and payable to the workers under an agreement between them and the proprietors.
The Commissioner held that the bonus claimed by the petitioners would not fall within the definition of 'wages' in Section 2(vi), Payment of Wages Act and therefore the petitions under Section 15 of the Act were not sustainable, as the subject-matter was not covered by the Act. On this ground the petitions were rejected. Appeals were filed against these orders by the Union to the Court of Small Causes at Madras. A preliminary objection was taken on behalf of the proprietors that the appeals were not maintainable under Section 17 of the Act. The learned Judge upheld the preliminary objection and held that the appeals were not maintainable and dismissed them. Hence the above revision petitions.
2. Section 17, Payment of Wages Act runsthus:
'17. Appeal - (1) An appeal against a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of Section 15 may be preferred, within 30 days of the date on which the direction was made, in a Presidency-town before the Court of Small Causes and elsewhere before the District Court:
(a) by the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages under Section 3, if the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation exceeds three hundred rupees, or
(b) by an employed person, if the total amount of wages claimed to have been withheld from him or from the unpaid group to which He belonged exceeds fifty rupees, or
(c) by any person directed to pay a penalty under Sub-section (4) of Section 15.
2. Save as provided in Sub-section (1), any direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of Section 15 shall be final'. Sub-section (3) of Section 15 which is here relevant, in so far as it is material, runs thus:
'When any application under Sub-section (2) is entertained, the authority shall hear the applicant and the employer or ether person responsible for the payment of wages under Section 3 or Rive them an opportunity of being heard, and after such further enquiry (if any) as may be necessary, without prejudice to any other penalty to which such employer or other person is liable under this Act. direct the refund to the employed person, of the amount deducted, or the payment of the delayed, wages, together with the payment of such compensation as the authority may think fit, not exceeding ten times the amount deducted in the former case and not exceeding ten rupees in the latter'.
3. The learned Chief Judge of the Court of Small Causes held that the appeals were not competent because the applications by the workers were not entertained by the Commissioner, and also because there was no direction under Sub-section (3) of Section 15, against which alone an appeal lay under Section 17. I agree with the learned Judge so far as the first ground is concerned. It cannot be said that merely because an application made by an employed person is taken on file or numbered, it has been legally entertained. There may be an application by a person totally incompetent to file the petition.
At the stage of the filing it may not be practicable to determine whether the person presenting the petition is, or is not, a person falling within the scope of the Act. In such a case it will not be correct to say that the moment an application is numbered, it has been entertained. I agree with the decision of the Bombay High Court in 'C.S. Lal v. Shaikh Badshaw', (S) : (1956)IILLJ457Bom (A) that a right of appeal would arise only it the authority enters into the merits of the application and holds either in favour of the employer or employee.
In this case the applications were dismissed on the ground that the subject-matter of the claim would not fall within the Act. In other words, in the view of the Commissioner, these petitions could not be validly entertained by him. The Commissioner never went into the merits of the case.
4. This is sufficient to dispose of the petitions before me and it is not necessary to pronounce finally on the validity of the other ground namely, that it is only when the Commissioner issues a positive direction to the employer that an employee gets a right of appeal and that if the employee's petition is totally rejected on the merits, he is not entitled to appeal. On this point there appears to be a conflict between the view taken in (S) : (1956)IILLJ457Bom (A) and the view taken in 'Rajendranath v. Manager. F. M. C. Co., Ltd.', : AIR1952Cal928 (B) and 'Mohamed Matin Kidwal v. District E. Engineer, N. E. Rly.', : (1955)ILLJ669All (C).
It may be mentioned, however, that in both the Allahabad and the Calcutta, cases the decisions themselves can be supported on the first ground above mentioned. I am myself inclined to follow the Bombay view but it is not necessary to discuss further this point as the civil revisions can be disposed of on the first ground.
5. The civil revision petitions are dismissed; but there will be no order as to costs.