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The Madras State Electricity Board, Represented by Its Secretary Vs. S.A. Nathan and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1970)2MLJ126
AppellantThe Madras State Electricity Board, Represented by Its Secretary
RespondentS.A. Nathan and anr.
Cases ReferredAnanda Bazar Patrika v. The Workmen
Excerpt:
- .....each of these cases is not a workman within the meaning of section 2 of the industrial employment (standing orders) act, 1946. by an order dated 29th april, 1968 the appellant reduced the age of superannuation from 58 to 55 for all 'except those who are eligible to continue till 58 years under the industrial employment (standing orders) act, 1946'. the respondents maintain that they are entitled to the benefit of the exception which kailasam, j., accepted and quashed the relative orders retiring them on ground for superannuation. the learned judge came to that conclusion on the main ground that the basic pay of the respondent in each case was below rs. 500. he also went into the question whether the respondents were employed in a supervisory capacity, but no clear-cut opinion on that.....
Judgment:

K. Veeraswami, C.J.

1. The appellant in both these appeals is the Madras State Electricty Board. The short point arising in them is whether the respondent in each of these cases is not a workman within the meaning of Section 2 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. By an order dated 29th April, 1968 the appellant reduced the age of superannuation from 58 to 55 for all 'except those who are eligible to continue till 58 years under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946'. The respondents maintain that they are entitled to the benefit of the exception which Kailasam, J., accepted and quashed the relative orders retiring them on ground for superannuation. The learned Judge came to that conclusion on the main ground that the basic pay of the respondent in each case was below Rs. 500. He also went into the question whether the respondents were employed in a supervisory capacity, but no clear-cut opinion on that matter appears from the order, though observations here and there may tend to show his inclination that they were engaged in a supervisory capacity.

2. We consider the Board is right in its contention that the respondents received wages each exceeding Rs. 500, per mensem. In W.A. No. 325 of 1968, the respondent, before the impugned order was made, received a total emolument of Rs. 673, of which the basic pay was Rs. 475. Dearness allowance amounted to Rs. 120 and the balance related to interim relief on account of dearness allowance, city compensatory allowance and house rent allowance. Kailasam, J., was of the view that 'wages' in Sub-clause (iv) of Clause (i) of section 2 meant basic wages. We are not able to share his view. The sub-clause referred to was substituted by the Industrial Disputes (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1956. By Section 32 of the amending Act, the definition of 'workman' in the Industrial Employment (Standing Order) Act, 1946 was substituted. The same amending Act by Section 3 substituted the definition of 'workman' in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, by a new one, which is almost the same as in the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. In the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 the term 'wages' means all remuneration capable of being expressed in terms of money, and includes such allowances including dearness allowance as the workman is for the time being entitled to. There is no such definition in the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act. This omission, in our opinion, should make no difference to the, context of wages for the purpose of Industrial Employment (Standing Order?) Act, particularly to Sub-clause (iv) of Clause (i) of Section 2. When the same Act introduced the amendments in almost similar language, there is no reason to suppose that the word ''wages' for the purpose of the Industrial Disputes Act included dearness allowance but not so in the case of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. Quite apart from this consideration, it seems to us that the expression 'wages' is not necessarily confined to basic pay or wages, but includes whatever is paid in terms of money as remuneration for service rendered. No plausible reason has been suggested why the expression should not be assigned such a meaning. The Industrial Disputes Act, the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act and other like enactments belong to a family related to regulation of labour relations. The law in that field has considerably grown up in recent years and old concepts have fast been reoriented or changed. Today 'bonus' is regarded as some kind of deferred wage. If one could come to that stand, we fail to see why dearness allowance, which is based on the cost of living index and related to the actual pay received, should not be considered as part of it and as of the same character. As we said, wages after all are remuneration paid for service and dearness allowance in a sense is of that nature. In sharp contrast would stand conveyance allowance, which actually is not related to the service rendered. City compensatory allowance may lie on the margin and it may be doubtful whether it partakes the character of wages in the sense of remuneration for service. Of course in one sense whatever is paid to the employee he may treat it as a kind of remuneration. But we are not prepared to give such a wider meaning the word 'wages'. If dearness allowance is included in wages for the purpose of Sub-clause (iv) of Clause (i) of Section 2 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, that would mere than serve the purpose of the respondents.

3. The other point is whether the respondents were employed in a supervisory capacity. What is supervisory should depend on facts, and is a mixed question of law and fact. No hard and fast definition of the word 'supervisory ' need or can be attempted which may be capable of universal application. But the term is well understood and means giving directions or watching with authority the work or its progress : Reserve Bank Employees Association v. Reserve Bank ( : (1965)IILLJ175SC , said:

The word ' supervise' and its derivatives are not of precise import. The word must often be construed in the light of the context, for unless controlled, they cover an easily simple oversight and direction as manual work coupled with a power of inspection and superintendence of the manual work of others....The question will really depend upon the nature of the industry, the type of work in which he is engaged, the organisational set up of the particular unit of industry and like factors.

4. The employee in Ananda Bazar Patrika v. The Workmen 18 F.L.R. 186, was the senior most clerk in charge of the provident fund section in a banking concern and was given a small amount of control over the other clerks working in his section. He had powers to allocate work between the clerks, to permit them to leave during office hours and to recommend their leave applications. The Supreme Court held that these few minor duties of a supervisory nature could not convert his office of senior clerk in charge into that of a supervisor. It is true the decision was reached in view of the particular set up of the corner. But it must be observed that it is from the substance of the duties assigned to an employee in the context of the set up and nature of employment and its intrinsic character the question whether he is engaged in a supervisory capacity should find an answer.

5. The respondent in W.A. No. 325 of 1968 was first entertained as a lower division clerk in the Electricity Department of the Government of Madras in 1937. When the Electricity Board was constituted in 1957 he was transferred to its service and there he served as an administrative assistant on the scale of Rs. 375-25-475 plus allowances. Both the affidavit and the counter affidavit in the writ petition, out of which this writ appeal arises, have endeavoured to show the pros and cons of the question whether he was engaged in a supervisory capacity. But his duties, which have a bearing to the present purpose, are set out in a memorandum issued by the Superintending Engineer, Technical/Electrical, dated 2nd August, 1967, which was in supersession of earlier orders. According to this memorandum, the respondent was to draw bill and pass vouchers and payment orders, to incur or sanction expenditure or contingencies, to sanction advances of travelling allowances on tour to the non-gazetted employees, to sign travelling allowances, bills of establishment, to verify entries and attest the same in the service books and service roll and also to conduct the periodical verification of service books, and to sanction the increments to all the non-gazetted staff of his office. These are duties which the Superintending Engineer delegated to the respondent in W.A. No. 325 of 1968. We are not satisfied by reference to these duties that the respondent was employed in a supervisory character. But it has been pressed upon us for the Board that he was running the ministerial section and maintaining its discipline, that he was empowered to initiate disciplinary proceedings and dismiss attenders and last grade servants whom he could appoint and that he had also control and supervision over his staff. Beyond the assertion found in the counter affidavit we can find no support for it. Actually Kailasam, J., did not find that the respondent had any such power. At any rate, there are no records placed before us to substantiate this contention. There is nothing in the duties delegated to him which enjoins his to give any directions or watch with authority the work or progress. It appears to us that he was no more than a dignified head clerk so far as the character of the work entrusted to him was concerned. In any case, he was not employed in a supervisory capacity. It would follow, therefore, that the order of superannuation passed against him cannot be upheld as valid. W.A. No. 325 of 1968 is dismissed.

6. The respondent in the other appeal, however, stands on a different footing. His basic pay itself is Rs. 500 per mensum. His post was described as ' Stores Superintendent ' and his duties are found enumerated in an annexure to the Boards' proceedings No. MS 700 dated 6th April, 1966. The Stores Superintendent is to be under the direct control of the Superintending Engineer for technical as well as administrative purposes and is responsible to the Superintending Engineer for overall control and administration of the stores organisation of the system/circle. He, however, will be the immediate administrative head in respect of Central Stores and will also exercise technical control for proper upkeep and maintenance of the sub-stores. A perusal of the duties assigned to this officer leaves us with the impression that he was undoubtedly engaged in a supervisory capacity. He should watch the supply of materials within the prescribed delivery period for each indent and take appropriate action for any delay in supply. That would certainly involve giving directions from time to time in order to maintain supply. He should also watch the taking over of materials diverted from other system/circles and also arrange the diversion of materials within the system/circle to meet the demands. He is also responsible for the proper receipt and accounting of supplies received against purchase order and will ensure that the supplies are with reference to the specification of the purchase order. He checks cases of damages and shortages in the supplies and takes prompt action thereon. He should personally examine the register maintained by Store-keeper, of stores not taken into stock for various reasons and take prompt action to expedite the matter. He is also to check up the bills of suppliers. He is responsible for the issue of supplies in relation to stock and clearance. He is also charged with the responsibility of accounting matters. He should ensure that the stores accounts are properly maintained by a percentage check of the store accounts and prescribed registers. The stock verification reports should be scrutinised by him and suitable recommendations made in respect of discrepant items. There are other like duties assigned to the Stores Superintendent. In our opinion, the collective effect of them all is that the Stores Superintendent did his work in a supervisory capacity. It follows, therefore, that the respondent in W.A. No. 326 of 1968 satisfies the conditions of Sub-clause (iv) of Clause (i) of Section 2 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and will not, therefore, be a workman within the meaning of Section 2 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. That means he is not entitled to be in employment beyond 55 years. W.A. No. 326 of 1968 is therefore, allowed.

7. There will be no order as to costs.


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