1. This writ petition is filed by Messrs. P. S. N. S. Ambalavana Chetttar and Co, (P.) Ltd., Madras. According to the affidavit of the petitioner, the petitioner is a private limited company carrying on the business of imports and exports dealing in non-ferrous metals and other commodities like papers, Madras cables, and are also engaged in the flotation of new concerns. The registered office of the company is situated at No. 14, Mint Street, Madras-3 and all the business of the company is carried on in that office where there are five employees. In 1951, as part of the activities, the petitioner started a factory styled as Sri Ram Rolling Milk at No. 7, Nelson Manicka Mudaliar Road, Aminjikarai, about five miles from the above registered office at Mint Street. The fectory was engaged in rolling non-ferrous metals and about 30 workers are employed in the factory. After the coming into force of the Employees' Provident Funds Act Central Act 19 of 1952), the provisions of that Act were applied to the workers in the factory and the petitioner has raised no objection to such application. The petitioner is aggrieved with the order issued to it on 21-12-1965 bringing the employees in the office at Mint Street within the scope of the Employees Provident Funds Act 19 of 1952. The order states:
'..... .it has been decided that the individuals working in the head office doing the job of maintenance of accounts, procuring of raw materials and selling of articles produced by the factory are eligible to be enrolled as members of Employees' Provident Fund from 1-1-1961.
You are, therefore, requested to enroll those employed in the head office in connection with the work of the factory as members of the Employees' Provident Fund with effect from 1-1-1961 and furnish relevant supplementary returns and remit contributions and administrative charges, etc.'
2. The petitioner contends in his affidavit that the workers in the Mint Street office cannot be treated in any sense as employees of the factory and that tho Employees' Provident Funds Act cannot be extended to them. This contention is amplified by stating that the employees at the office of the company at Mint Street 'do not do and are not in any way concerned or connected with any of the processes of manufacture in the factory'. For the above reasons the petitioner has applied in this writ petition under Article 228 of the Constitution for quashing the aforesaid order dated 21-12-1965 by a writ of certiorari.
3. In the counter-affidavit of the respondent, the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, it is stated that when a physical check was made on 24-3-1965 by the Provident Fund Inspector, it was revealed that some of the employees were working at No. 14, Mint Street, Madras, relating to the factory work, and that, as the company owns the factory and as the employees of the company attend to all the work of purchasing the raw materials, selling the finished products of the factory, maintaining accounts, etc., the company is the head office and the factory is only a branch of the company for all practical purposes. On this basis, the petitioner was required to enroll all its employees (in the head office) and pay the provident fund dues from 1-1-1961 the date on which Section 2-A became operative. The counter-affidavit goes on to state that it is the company of the petitioner which procures the raw materials for the factory, sells the finished products and administers the affairs of the factory, and that as there is unity of management, supervision and control, unity of finance and employment, unity of labour and conditions of service, etc., between the factory and the company, it is not open to the petitioner to contend that the company is not a unit of the factory and that Section 2-A of the Act cannot pe invoked. Section 2-A states:
'Establishment to include all departments and branches--For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that where an establishment consists of different departments or has branches whether situate in the same place or in different places, all such departments or branches shall be treated as parts of the same establishment.'
4. The word 'establishment' in the Act, as this Court had occasion to point out more than once in a number of prior decisions has not been defined in the Act, but an attempt has been made to do so by a Bench of this Court in R. L. Sahni and Co. v. Union of India, : (1966)IILLJ230Mad , where the meaning given to the word 'establishment' is 'house of business', which is one of the different meanings for the word found in the Oxford Dictionary. The principle of this decision has been followed by a subsequent Bench of this Court (to which I was a party) in an unreported decision in W. A. No. 167 of 1965 (Mad.). The question for consideration is whether the factory at Aminjikarai and the office at Mint Street, Madras, constitute one 'house of business' so as to form a single establishment for the purpose of the Employees' Provident Funds Act. The department has taken the stand that all the workers in the office at Mint Street are engaged in work which is connected with the work in the factory. In the impugned order it is set down that the work in the Mint Street office connected with the work of the factory includes the maintenance of accounts, procuring of raw materials and selling of the articles produced by the factory, The petitioner, on the other hand, contends in his affidavit that the work done by the employees in the office at Mint Street, Madras, is not in any way concerned or connected with any of the processes of manufacture in the factory. It appears to me that this restriction of the work of the employees in the company to the process of manufacture in the factory is taking too narrow a view. An establishment which involves the running of a factory may also require a staff for procuring raw materials and disposing of the manufactured products and also for the maintenance of accounts. There can be integral relation between all these items of work and it may not be proper to separate the process of manufacture in the factory from the office establishment which attends to work connected with the factory and its raw materials or products and its accounts. Establishment for this purpose must be viewed in a larger sense man the process of manufacture. But the petitioner contends that the work in the Mint Street office is not exclusively connected with the work of the factory. The factory business is only one of a number of activities which are carried out in that office. The petitioner is aggrieved because all the employees in the Mint Street office have been automatically assumed to have done work connected with the factory, while there is room for a more careful examination of the work which the employees at the office are asked to do and determine whether there is an integral connection between their work and the work of the factory. In this connection the petitioner's counsel offered to produce data which would show that it is possible to segregate the work done by the individual employees in the Mint Street office in the above manner, and according to him only such of those employees whose work can be shown to be connected with the factory could be brought under the provisions of the Employees' Provident Funds Act. In support of his argument the learned counsel has also referred to the judgment of this Court in Employees' State Insurance Corporation v. Ganapatia Pillai, : (1961)ILLJ593Mad , a case which arose under the Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948. There also the word 'employee' meant any person employed for wages in or in connection with the work of a factory or establishment to which the Act applies. Of course, there is a further extension of the definition in this Act which gives it a wider scope. Stress is laid by the learned counsel on the observations at p. 598 (of Lab LJ) = (at p. 179 of AIR), where reference is made to an affidavit to show that a particular worker did not attend to the work of the factory as such, but his work was confined to the accounts of the managing agent's office and that, of the other persons sought to be made liable, it could not be said in any sense that they were employed on any work of or incidental or preliminary to or connected with the work of the factory, but they were all persons employed in the managing agent's office. These observations follow the definition of 'employee' in Section 2(9) of the Employees' State Insurance Act which is clearly an extended one, whereas under the Employees' Provident Funds Act, the definition of 'employee' is more succinct. Section 2(f) of the latter Act defines 'employee' as meaning any person who is employed for wages in any kind of work, manual or otherwise, in or in connection with the work of an establishment and who gets his wages directly or indirectly from the employer. Stress is thus laid on the employee being employed 'in connection with the work of the establishment'. Assuming, therefore, that 'establishment' has to be viewed in the sense of a 'house of business' as laid down in the decisions mentioned above, it is necessary to find out which of the workers in the Mint Street office fall within the definition in Section 2(f); that is, which of them are persons who are employed in connection with the work of the establishment of the petitioner in its sense of a 'house of business'. There may be scope, on a more careful examination of the work done by the individual workers in the Mint Street office to find out whether such connection between their work and the work of the factory can be established or not and confine the application of the Employees' Provident Funds Act to the persons who are found to satisfy this test. The impugned order dated 21-12-1965, appears to assume that all the workers in the Mint Street office are engaged in connection with the work appertaining to the factory, like the maintenance of accounts, procuring raw materials and selling of the articles produced by the factory. The counsel for the petitioner has filed a supplementary affidavit detailing the work done by the employees in the Mint Street office. It will be open to the petitioner to afford data to the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner for the purpose of showing whether all or only some of the workers in the Mint Street office are connected with the factory in the above manner, or whether there is still room for any of the workers in that office being exempt. The order of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner appears to involve a conclusive determination that all the workers of the Mint Street office are liable to contribute under the Employees' Provident Funds Act. But in view of the supplementary affidavit now filed before me, another opportunity will be given to the management to produce data to clarify the position. The Regional Provident Fund Commissioner is directed to reconsider the case of the workers in the Mint Street office and if any of them are found not to be connected with the work of the factory, exclude them from the scope of the Employees' Provident Funds Act, if the data afforded are sufficient for that purpose.
5. The writ petition is allowed and the respondent is directed to re-examine the case of the workers in the Mint Street office in the light of the circumstances mentioned above. I may add that one of them is now alleged to have left the office subsequently. Now there remains only four workers for consideration. No order as to costs.