1. The petitioner carries on business as a tanner at Dindigul. Tanneries were shown as item 12 in Part I of the Schedule to the Minimum Wages Act (XI of 1948). Under Section 3 of the Act the State Government was empowered to fix the minimum wages for the workers in tanneries. On 30th August, 1951, the Government of Madras issued a notification, G.O. 3910, fixing the minimum wages payable to several classes of workers in tanneries. I am concerned now only with the minimum wages prescribed for one class of workers, the piece-workers. What was prescribed as the minimum for that class of workers was ten annas per unit of work done. The note ran:
Quantum of unit will depend on the custom and usage in the largest number of tanneries in the locality for the same or similar kind of work. No piece-rate workers should be paid less than a guaranteed time rate of 10 annas per day with a minimum cost of living allowance of 11 annas per day.
Thus two concepts were involved : a minimum of ten annas per unit, and the daily payment itself, whatever be the quantum of work turned out, was subject to a minimum of ten, annas plus D.A.
2. In 1956, these rates were revised, and by G.O. 4192, dated 25th September, 1956, the Government raised the minimum wage payable to piece-workers from 10 annas to 12 annas. The same note as was appended to the rate fixed in 1951 was appended to the minimum fixed in 1956 also; that is that the quantum of unit would depend on the custom and usage in the largest number of tanneries in the locality.
3. The petitioner asked for a writ of certiorari in W.P. No. 1324 of 1956 to set aside G.O. 4192, dated 25th September, 1956. The relief asked for in W.P. No. 1325 of 1956 was the issue of a writ of mandamus, directing the Government to standardise the quantum of unit for all the tanneries in the State. The questions involved in both the writs are virtually the same, and both the petitions could be disposed of together.
4. Learned Counsel for the petitioner urged that the quantum of unit, on which depended the minimum wage that was payable, was not defined with any precision in the notification that was issued in 1956. Learned Counsel further pointed out that the notification itself did not provide for any machinery to determine the quantum with precision, should there be a dispute between the management of any tannery and the employees therein. No doubt factually the representation by the learned Counsel for the petitioner, that there was no machinery provided in the terms of the notification itself to resolve disputes, if any, is correct. It should, however, be remembered that what happened in 1956 was only to enhance the minimum rate from 10 annas to 12 annas. The unit for which that payment was to be made remained the same. That had been already defined in 1950, and the unit had to be fixed with reference to custom and usage in the largest number of tanneries in the locality. Certainly there was no averment in the affidavits filed by the petitioner to show that there had been any difficulty in implementing the directions in the G.O. of 1950, or in ascertaining what the quantum of the unit was as far as the petitioner's tannery at Dindigul was concerned. Though, as I have pointed out, the notification itself did not provide for any machinery to resolve disputes to determine the quantum of the unit, it could not be denied that, if there had been a dispute, it could have been referred as an industrial dispute for adjudication under the terms of the Industrial Disputes Act. But in this case there does not appear to have been any dispute at all. I am, therefore, unable to accept the plea of the petitioner, that the terms of the G.O. of 1956 are unworkable in the absence of any definition with precision of the quantum of the unit itself. The quantum of the unit dependant upon the usage and custom of each locality was. obviously something well-known both to the management and the workers in the case of the petitioner, and there was no difficulty in knowing what that unit was.
5. The learned Additional Government Pleader drew my attention to the representations made by the petitioner to the Government, wherein he referred to the different concepts of units in the various tanneries not only at Dindigul but elsewhere.
6. As a ground of attack on the validity of the notification of 1956 the plea, that the unit of work for which the minimum wage was prescribed was not defined with precision, fails.
7. The next contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioner was that the effect of the notification resulted in discrimination, prohibited by Article 14 of the Constitution. Section 3 itself permits the Government to fix minimum wages either for a State as a whole or for the locality. In fact the general idea would appear to be to fix minimum wages for the State. The proviso permits minimum wages being prescribed for each locality. It was certainly within the jurisdiction of the Government to fix the minimum wages for the industry in the State as a whole. I am unable to see any real basis for a contention, that they would be under a legal liability or legal duty to fix minimum wages for each locality. It should be remembered that the notifications were issued fixing minimum wages for workers in tanneries after following the procedure prescribed by the Act and the rules thereunder, and the petitioner among others had opportunities of making their representations. It is no doubt true that the quantum of the unit appears to be less at Dindigul than at many of the other places, with the result that for procuring the same outturn of tanned hides and skins the petitioner may have to pay more to his workers than tanners in other localities. But that cannot amount to a denial of equal protection of laws within the meaning of Article 14. The Act itself, as I said, provides for minimum wages being fixed either for the State taken as a unit or for each locality. I am unable to hold that the Government acted in excess of its jurisdiction or erroneously exercised its jurisdiction in deciding to fix the minimum wages for the tanning industry for the State as a whole. That the incidence of the wage bill on the petitioner is heavier than on other tanners in other localities may not be an argument to sustain the plea, that Article 14 has been contravened by the impugned notification.
8. On neither of the grounds put forward by the leanred counsel for the petitioner can the G.O. of 1956 be set aside. The rule nisi issued in W.P. No. 1324 of 1956 is discharged and the petition is dismissed.
9. Since the validity of the notification has been upheld in W.P. No. 1324 of 1956, the prayer for the issue of a writ of mandamus in W.P. No. 1325 of 1956 also fails. The rule nisi issued in W.P. No. 1325 of 1956 is discharged and the petition is dismissed.
10. No order as to costs in either of the petitions.