Subba Rao, J.
1. This is an application for issuing a Writ of Certiorari to quash the order of the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Madras.
2. The respondents, S.P. Nataraja Sastrigal and S. Padmanabha Rao, were assistant Masters in the South Indian Railway each in charge of Northern area School and Eastern area school respectively, of the Golden Rock colony. They were allowed to draw a duty allowance of Rs. 2 each per mensem. The appointments were made on 5-7-1941. Subsequently their designation was changed to that of head masters. In the year 1950, the Central Pay Commission sanctioned a revised scale 08 pay and allowance to the head masters which was to he given retrospective effect from January 1947. In implementation of the above, the duty allowance of the head masters was raised to Rs. 15 per month. After the revision of the scales of pay, C.S. Krishnamurthy Aiyar and M.G. Venkatarama Aiyar in whose places the respondents were appointed, were posted as head masters of the said two elementary' schools. The respondents were reverted to their posts as assistant masters and posted to work In the High Schools and Elementary Schools respectively.
As they were reverted to their original posts they were ordered not to draw the special pay of Rs. 15 per mensem. Pursuant to that order their wages were reduced by Rs. 15 per mensem. There was also a proportionate reduction In their dearness allowance by another sum of Rs. 5. They applied by a group application under Section 15(2) and Section 16 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, for payment of their delayed wages and also for compensation. They estimated their relief in a sum of Rs. 310-10-8. The Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation allowed their claims. The Union of India has filed the present application for issuing a writ of certiorari to quash that order of the Commissioner.
3. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the Additional Commissioner for Workmen's Compensation, Madras, had no jurisdiction to question the validity of any reversion or transfer made by the administration of any of their employees but that his jurisdiction was confined to 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, within the prescribed limit only on the basis of his existing appointment. But learned counsel for the respondents raises a preliminary objection and contends that the writ would not issue as the petitioners have an effective remedy by way of an appeal to the Court of Small Causes against the order of the Commissioner and that they had not preferred the same.
4. To appreciate the preliminary objection, the following two relevant provisions of the Act may be read:
'Section 16(1) Employed persons are said to belong to the same unpaid group if they are borne on the same establishment and if their wages for the same wage-period or periods have remained unpaid after the day fixed by Section 5.
(2) A single application may be presented under Section 15 on behalf of or in respect of any number of employed persons belonging to the same unpaid group, and in such case the maximum compensation that may be awarded under Sub-section (3) of Section 15 shall be ten rupees per head.
(3) The authority may deal with any number of separate pending applications, presented under Section 15 in respect of persons belonging to the same unpaid group, as a single application presented under Sub-section (2) of this section, and the provisions of that Sub-section shall apply accordingly. 'Section 17. (1) An appeal against a direction made under Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4) of Section 15 may be preferred, within thirty 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 penaltyunder 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.'
5. Under Section 16 of the Act a single application may be filed on behalf of any number of employed persons belonging to the same unpaid group, and even if a number of applications are filed by members belonging to the same unpaid group, the Commissioner is authorised to consolidate them and treat them as one application. Under Section 17, an employer as well as an employee can file an appeal against the order of the Commissioner to the Court of Small Causes. Section 17(1)(a) restricts the right of appeal at the instance of the employer only to cases where the total sum directed to be paid by way of wages and compensation exceeds three hundred rupees. A combined reading of the provisions of Section 16 and Section 17 of the Act indicates that for the purpose of the pecuniary limit the total amount awarded by the Commissioner in a single application is the guiding factor. In a single application, whether, filed by one employee or by employees be longing to the same unpaid group, the Commissioner can direct payment of wages or award compensation.
When a single application can be filed by an unpaid group, it is reasonable to hold that for the purpose of appeal, the total amount awarded in that application should be taken into consideration. That this is so is clear from the provisions of Section 17(1)(b), for under that provision, in the case of an employee, the total amount of wages claimed to have been withheld from him or from the unpaid group to which he belonged would govern the right of appeal by him. If in the case of an employee the total amount of wages withheld from him, as well as from the other members of the unpaid group, governs the right of appeal, there is no reason why in the case of an employer, in the same application, different considerations should prevail. But it was said that Clause (b) of Section 17(1) itself makes the distinction. The presence of the words 'unpaid group' in Clause (b) and their absence in Clause (a) was strongly relied upon in support of the contention that in the case of an employer the total sum paid only to one employee should exceed Rs. 300. In any view no such inference flows from the absence of the said words in Clause (a). Clause (a) of Section 17(1) confers a right of appeal on an employer if the total amount directed to be paid by him in a single 'application should. exceed Rs. 300.
As he is directed to pay a sum exceeding. Rs. 300 awarded in a single application and as that fact confers on him a right of appeal, the legislature perhaps thought that it would be unnecessary to state further that that amount should be the total amount payable to the entire unpaid group. The employer satisfies the pecuniary limit conferring a right of appeal on him and it is irrelevant to consider for that purpose how and in what proportion that amount was shared by the recipients. But in the case of an employee, it is necessary to state in the provision that the amount paid on behalf of the entire group would govern his right of appeal; for, otherwise it may lend scope for the argument that the employee preferring the appeal must satisfy the condition.
Therefore the absence of the words 'unpaid group' in Clause (a) will not establish that in the case of an employer the total amount paid by him to each of the employees alone should exceed Rs. 300. I therefore accept the preliminary objection and hold that the petitioners had a right of appeal to the Court of Small Causes against the order of the Commissioner. The writ asked for will not issue as the petitioners who have got an adequate remedy have not availed themselves of it. In this view it is not necessary to express my opinion on the question raised by the learned counsel for the petitioners. This application is therefore dismissed with costs -- Advocate's fee, Rs. 100/-.