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Railway Employees Co-operative Bank, Ltd. P.T. Madras Vs. the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Madras and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 648 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1960Mad345; [1960(1)FLR164]; (1960)IILLJ215Mad
ActsIndustrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Sections 33-C(2); Madras Shops and Establishments Act, 1947 - Sections 31; Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, 1950 - Sections 20
AppellantRailway Employees Co-operative Bank, Ltd. P.T. Madras
RespondentThe Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Madras and anr.
Excerpt:
.....of labour court under section 33c (2) extends to computation in terms of money not of all benefits workmen entitled to receive under settlement or award but benefits which they might be entitled in their character as workmen under contract or by virtue of any other enactment - held, labour court had jurisdiction to entertain claim of workmen - petition dismissed. - - (1) where any money is due to a workman from an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of chapter v-a, the workman may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, make an application to the appropriate government for the recovery of money due to him, and if the appropriate government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate for that amount to the collector who..........establishments act, 1947, reading,'where any person employed in any establishment is required to work overtime, he shall be entitled, in respect of such overtime work, to wages at twice the ordinary rate of wages.'section 9 of the same act enacts.'(1) subject to the provisions of this act, no person employed in any shop shall be required or allowed to work therein for more than eight hours in any day and forty eight hours in any week; provided that any such person may be allowed to work in any shop for any period in excess of the limit fixed under this sub-section subject to payment of overtime wages, if the period of work, including overtime work, does not exceed ten hours in any day and in the aggregate fifty four hours in any week.''if these two provisions alone applied, it is.....
Judgment:
ORDER

(1) The Railway Employees' Co-operative Bank Ltd., Madras is the petitioner, and it prays for the grant of a writ of prohibition, restraining the Presiding Officer of the Labour Court from proceeding further with the hearing in C. P. No. 160 of 1959 on its file. There are two respondents to this petition. The first is the presiding officer of the Labour Court, Madras, against whom the writ of prohibition is sought. The other is Jayaraman who was an employee of the petitioner bank. 84 of the employees of whom the second respondent is one, filed applications before the Labour Court claiming over-time wages under S. 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, on the basis that this was a benefit which they were entitled to receive from the employer, the prayer being that it should be computed in terms of money. The overtime wages claimed and which they desired to be computed related to the period May to November 1956. These 84 applications which were in common from but naturally claiming different sums were filed in April 1959.

(2) This claim to overtime was based on S. 31 of the Madras Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, reading,

'Where any person employed in any establishment is required to work overtime, he shall be entitled, in respect of such overtime work, to wages at twice the ordinary rate of wages.'

Section 9 of the same Act enacts.

'(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person employed in any shop shall be required or allowed to work therein for more than eight hours in any day and forty eight hours in any week;

Provided that any such person may be allowed to work in any shop for any period in excess of the limit fixed under this sub-section subject to payment of overtime wages, if the period of work, including overtime work, does not exceed ten hours in any day and in the aggregate fifty four hours in any week.'

'If these two provisions alone applied, it is common ground that the second respondent would not have been entitled to the payment of any overtime, because the hours during which the workmen were required to work by the bank were 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. with an interval for lunch on week days and 10 a. m. to 4 p. m. with an interval for lunch on Saturdays and therefore limit prescribed by S. 9 was not exceeded.

(3) The case of the workers, however, was that prior to 26th May 1956 from when, by reason of an office order they were to adhere to the working hour stated earlier the hours of work wee between 10 a. m. to 4-30 p. m. on week days with half an hour interval for lunch and 10 a. m. to 1-30 p. m. on Saturdays. The claim of the workmen was that under S. 50 of the Madras Shops and Establishments Act, the obligation to work only between 10 a. m. to 4-30 p. m. and upto 1-30 p. m. on Saturdays was a right or privilege to which they were entitled before the Madras Shops and Establishments Act came into force, and to the continuance of which they were entitled under S. 50 of that Act. Section 50 of the Act ran:

'Nothing contained in this Act shall affect any rights or privileges which any person employed in any establishment is entitled to, on the date on which this Act comes into operation in respect of such establishment, under another law, contract, custom or usage applicable to such establishment, if such rights or privileges are more favourable to him than those to which he would be entitled under this Act.' The argument on the basis of which the claim to overtime wages was made was that previous to the Shops and Establishments Act they were bound to work only between 10 a. m. and 4-30 p. m. Any work required to be done by them beyond those hours should be treated as overtime within S. 31 of the Act, and they were entitled to have the monetary value of this benefit evaluated by the Labour Court under S. 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The Shops and Establishments Act provides for questions or disputes arising under S. 50 to be referred and decided by the Commissioner of Labour. Section 51 enacts (to quote only the relevant words),

'If any question arises..... whether S. 50 applies to any case or not, it shall be decided by the Commissioner of Labour and his decision thereon shall be final and shall not be liable to be questioned in any court of law.'

The workers accordingly invited the Commissioner of Labour to decide their previously existing rights which were continued by S. 50 by invoking his jurisdiction under. S. 51. In his order dated 31-12-1958 the Commissioner of Labour decided two points which were in controversy before him: (i) whether the normal hours of work prior to 1-4-1948 (the date when the Shops and Establishments Act came into force) were 33 1/2 hours per week. On this the finding was that the normal hours of work were between 10 a. m. and 4-30 p. m. but that the employees who could not finish their work within that time used to work beyond the normal working hours for which no overtime wages were paid. The second point as formulated was 'whether the employees were entitled to overtime wages for work in excess of the normal hours of work.' The finding of the Labour Commissioner was that

'although I have found that the normal hours of work were 33 1/2 hours per week prior to 1-4-1948 admittedly the employees were not paid overtime wages for the hours worked after 4-30 p. m. & after 1-30 p. m. on Saturdays. The employees were not therefore entitled to any protection under S. 50 of the Madras Shops and Establishments Act, 1947.'

(4) It will be found that the contention which was raised before the Labour Court by the workers was that they were entitled to overtime wages under S. 31 of the Shops and Establishments Act for any period during which they worked beyond 33 1/2 hours per week. Such a contention could not be countenanced in the face of the finding of the Commissioner of Labour under S. 51.

(5) Mr. Vasantha Pai, learned counsel for the petitioner sought to sustain the relief of prohibition by contending that on a proper construction of Section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the claiming for overtime wages under the Shops and Establishments Act could not be within the jurisdiction of the Labour Court. For the purpose of appreciating the argument, it is necessary to set out the whole of S. 33-C which runs:

'(1) Where any money is due to a workman from an employer under a settlement or an award or under the provisions of chapter V-A, the workman may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, make an application to the appropriate Government for the recovery of money due to him, and if the appropriate Government is satisfied that any money is so due, it shall issue a certificate for that amount to the Collector who shall proceed to recover the same in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue.

(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the amount at which such benefit should be computed may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be determined by such Labour Court as may be specified in this behalf by the appropriate Government, and the amount so determined may be recovered as provided for in sub-sec. (1).

(3) For the purposes of computing the money value of a benefit, the Labour Court may, if it so thinks fit, appoint a Commissioner who shall after taking such evidence as may be necessary, submit a report to the Labour Court, and the Labour Court shall determine the amount after considering the report of the Commissioner and other circumstances of the case.'

Under S. 33-C(1) the certificate is issued only for moneys due to a workman by an employer under (i) a settlement, (ii) an award and (iii) under the provisions of Chapter V-A (Retrenchment Compensation) and to no others. Learned counsel urged that the scope of the sub-sec. (2) was also similar and should be also held to be confined to the evaluation of benefits which were conferred under some one or other of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, which would practically mean under a settlement or an award. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the respondent urged that there was no reason to limit the court's jurisdiction under sub-section (2) and that the absence of the words 'settlement award' and 'under Chapter V-A' in the second sub-section indicated that the legislature intended for it a wider scope so as to comprehend all claims which arose between an employer and workman in their character as employer and workman.

(6) In this connection learned counsel for the respondent pointed out that S. 33-C was introduced into the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, by Central Act 36 of 1956. The first statutory provision that was introduced into Industrial legislation for enabling either recovery of moneys due to workmen from employers or providing the machinery for the ascertainment of the amounts due in the case of dispute, was contained in S. 20 of the Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act, 1950. I shall set out the terms of this section since the main argument of the learned counsel for the respondent rested on a comparison or contrast between the provision contained in S. 20(2) of this Act and the section with which this petition is concerned, namely, S. 33-C of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Section 20 of the Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act ran:

'(1) Any money due from an employer under any award or decision of an industrial tribunal may be recovered as arrears of land revenue or as a public demand by the appropriate Government on an application made to it by the person entitled to the money under that award or decision.

(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any benefit under an award or decision of an industrial tribunal which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the moment at which such benefit should be computed may, subject to the rules made under this Act, be determined by that industrial tribunal, and the amount so determined may be recovered as provided for in sub-s. (1).

(3) For the purpose of computing the money value of a benefit the industrial tribunal may, if it so thinks fit, appoint a Commissioner, who shall, after taking such evidence, as may be necessary submit a report to the Industrial Tribunal, and the said tribunal shall determine the amount after considering the report of the Commissioner and other circumstances of the case.'

The Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act of 1950, though effected several amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 (Vide S. 34 of the 1950 Act) did not however enable the original industrial tribunals functioning under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, to exercise powers similar to those which were vested in the Appellate Tribunal under S. 20. It was only in 1956 that such a power was conferred on the Industrial Tribunals and Labour Courts by reason of the enactment of S. 33-C by Central Act 36 of 1956. As I indicated earlier a large part of the submission of the learned counsel for the respondent was based upon the contrast between the language used in S. 20(2) of the Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act of 1950 and S. 33-C of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947. In the former the computation in terms of money could be effected by the Tribunal only of benefits which the workmen were entitled to receive from the employer under an award or decision of an Industrial Tribunal, whereas those words are significantly absent in S. 33-C(2). I consider this argument well founded and I hold that the jurisdiction of a Tribunal or of the Labour Court under S. 33-C(2) extends to the computation in terms of money not merely of all benefits which workmen are entitled to receive from the employer under a settlement or award under the Industrial Disputes Act but also any benefit to which they might be entitled in their character as workmen under contract or by virtue of any other enactment.

(7) The next point that arises for consideration is whether in view of the decision of the Labour Commissioner under S. 51 of the Shops and Establishments Act, there could be any claim for overtime wages based upon the combined operation of S. 50 and S. 31 of that Act. It need hardly be mentioned that the decision of the Labour Commissioner under S. 51 would be binding upon the labour court by virtue of the terms of that section. That authority had held that the workmen were not entitled to overtime under the contract which subsisted between the parties prior to April 1948, when the Shops and Establishments Act came into force.

This finding would mean that the claim of the workers would be based either on S. 31 of the Shops and Establishments Act, that is for work beyond 48 hours specified in that section, or on the basis of any agreement between the parties for the payment of overtime wages. Indeed the learned counsel for the respondent submitted before me that it was the case of the workers that at the time when the normal hours of work were increased there was an undertaking or an assurance that they would be paid overtime wages. Undoubtedly if this was established the workers would be entitled to the benefit of such arrangements and its monetary value could be evaluated by the labour court under S. 33-C(2).

(8) This writ petition, however, is for a writ of prohibition and in view of my finding that the Labour Court had jurisdiction to entertain the claim the petition fails. The petition is dismissed and the rule nisi discharged. There will be no order as to costs.

(9) Petition dismissed.


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