Case Laws Minimum Wages Act Madhya Pradesh Mineral Industry association Vs Respondent The Regional Labour Commissioner Jabalpur

Minimum Wages Act

Petitioner: Madhya Pradesh Mineral Industry association

Vs Respondent The Regional Labour Commissioner Jabalpur And Others


DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/04/1960





CITATION: 1960 AIR 1068    1960 SCR  (3) 476 CITATOR INFO : F  1966 SC 189  (10) R  1972 SC1177  (5,12,15,20)


ACT: Minimum Wages, Fixation of-Notification by State Government prescribing  minimum  rates for stone-breaking  or  stone- crushing in mines – Validity – Minimum Wages Act, 1948  (11 of 1948), SS. 5 (2), 27, Sch., Part 1 item 8.

HEADNOTE: The Madhya Pradesh Government issued a notification under s. 5  (2)  of  the  Minimum  Wages  Act,  1948  (II  of  1948), prescribing 477 the minimum rates of wages for employment in stone  breaking and  stone  crushing  operations  carried  on  in  mines  in exercise  of the authority delegated to it by the  President by  a notification under Art. 258 of the Constitution.   The appellant  company,  engaged in manganese  mining  industry, challenged  the validity of the said notification by a  writ petition  filed in the High Court and its case was that  the said  notification was ultra vires s. 5(2) of the Act.   The High  Court  found against the appellant  and  rejected  the petition.   The  question for determination in  the  appeal, therefore,  was whether item 8 in Part 1 of the Schedule  to the  Act,  properly construed, included stone  breaking  and stone crushing operations in a mining industry: Held,  that item 8 in Part 1 of the Schedule to the  Minimum Wages  Act, 1948, was not intended to cover the breaking  or crushing of stones incidental to mining operations and  must be  limited to stone breaking and stone crushing  employment in  quarries.   The impugned  notification  was,  therefore, ultra vires s. 5(2) of the Act and could not be enforced. It  would,  however,  be open to the Government,  if  it  so desired, to achieve the object it had in view in issuing the impugned  notification  by adding appropriate items  to  the Schedule in exercise of its power under s. 27 of the Act : Held,  further, that it was not necessary for the  appellant to  challenge the vires of the Presidential notification  in the  first  instance  in  order that  he  might  impugn  the notification in question. A. Thangal  Kunju  Musaliar  v.  M.  Venkitachalam  Potti, [1955] 2 S.C.R. 1196, referred to,

JUDGMENT: CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 389 of 1959. Appeal  from the judgment and order dated October 25,  1957, of  the Bombay High Court at Nagpur in Misc.   Petition No. 476 of 1956. A.   S. Bobde and Ganpat Rai, for the appellant. H.   J. Umrigar K. L. Hathi and R. H. Dhebar, for respondent No. 2. 1960.  April 7. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by GAJENDRAGADKAR, J.-This appeal arises -from a writ  petition filed  by  the appellant, Madhya         Pradesh  Mineral  Industry Association, in which the appellant challenged the  validity of  the notification  issued by the  Madhya  Pradesh  State Government  on March 30, 1952, under S. 5(2) of the  Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (11 of 1948) (hereinafter called the Act). The High Court of Bombay at Nagpur dismissed the appellant’s petition but has granted the appellant 61 478

a  certificate  of  fitness  under  Art.133(1)(c)  of  the Constitution. It  is with the said  certificate  that the present appeal has been brought to this Court. The  appellant  is a non-profit making  company limited  by guarantee and registered under s. 26 of the Indian Companies Act, 1913.  It has been formed with the object of protecting and  promoting the interest of its members-shareholders who are  engaged  in the mining industry by all  legitimate and constitutional means.  It appears that under Art. 258 of the Constitution  the  President of India  by  Notification No. S.R.O.  2052  published on  December  11,  1951,  entrusted Governments  of . certain States including  Madhya  Pradesh with  their consent the functions of the Central Government under  the  Act in so far as such functions  relate  to the fixation  of minimum rates of wages in respect of employees employed  in stone-breaking or in stone-crushing  operations carried on in mines situated within their respective States. Pursuant to  the  said  delegation the Madhya Pradesh Government  issued the impugned notification  purporting         to act  under  s.  5(2)  of the  Act.   This  notification has prescribed  the minimum rates of wages  for  employment  in stone-breaking or in stone-crushing operations

carried on in mines.  The rates thus prescribed were inclusive of dearness allowance or compensatory cost of living allowance. The   Regional  Labour  Commissioner   (Central),   Nagpur, Respondent  1, wrote to the appellant for the first time  on June  20,  1956, stating that the State of  Madhya  Pradesh, Respondent  2, had considered the question whether  the Act was applicable to the manganese mining industry and had come to the conclusion that it was so applicable; that is why the appellant’s members were asked by respondent 1 to  implement the  Act within a fortnight from the receipt of his  letter. The  appellant made several representations to respondent  1 urging that the Act was inapplicable to the manganese mining industry;  nevertheless respondent 1 threatened large-scale prosecution of the appellant’s members on the basis that the Act applied to them, and its provisions bad been contravened by them. The appellant was thus driven to file the 479 present

petition because it alleged that it had  no  alter- native  remedy, at any rate equally speedy and  efficacious, and so it was urged on its behalf that the High Court should issue  a writ quashing the impugned notification  as  ultra vires.  In its petition the appellant had also alleged  that the notification issued by the President of India under Art. 258  cannot  fasten upon the manganese mining  industry the character of employment in stone-breaking or  stone-crushing and  if that was the object of the said notification it was invalid.

The respondents disputed the correctness of the appellant’s contention  that the impugned notification is  invalid.  It was  urged  on their behalf that any  industry  wherein the workers are employed in operations involving  stone-breaking or stone-crushing is governed by the Act.  In their  written statement  they described  the  details  about  the  mining operations  and contended that the mining of  manganese ore mainly consists of development work or the removal of  over- burden, breaking of big mineral stones like boulder ore  or bed  ore to manageable sizes, dressing of  ores  to  remove impurities,  etc.   According  to  the  respondents,  having regard  to the nature of the manganese mining  industry the Act   applied  to  the  stone-breaking  or   stone-crushing operations connected with it.

The  High Court has accepted the respondent’s plea  and has rejected the appellant’s prayer that a writ should be issued in its favour prohibiting the respondents from enforcing the provisions  of the Act against its members. Unfortunately, on  two important  points the High  Court  has  misdirected itself.  It  appears  to have  assumed  that  the  impugned notification has added an entry in the Schedule to the  Act, and  has observed that as a result of the said addition the provisions  of the Act came to be applied to the employment in stone-breaking or in stone-crushing operations carried on in  the mines.The High Court has made this observation in setting out the appellant’s case and it is on the basis  of this  observation  that the High  Court  has  proceeded  to examine the validity of the appellant’s contention.  It is, however, clear  that  the impugned  notification  does  not purport to add any 480 item  in

Schedule I and that was also not the case  of  the appellant.   Thus the assumption made by the High Court on, both the points is, with respect, erroneous. In  its judgment the High Court has also observed  that the vires of the impugned notification, though challenged in the petition,  was not challenged before -the High Court and  so the only question that remained for its decision was one of interpretation  of  the relevant provisions  of  the  entry introduced  by the notification. This statement again  does not  appear to be entirely correct.  The principal,  if not the  sole, ground on which the appellant sought for  a  writ from  the High Court was that the impugned notification was ultra vires s. 5(2) of the Act. If the validity of the said notification  had  been conceded by the appellant  its  writ petition  would have immediately become ineffective  because if   the  notification  is  valid  then  the   question   of construction of the material entry can present no difficulty whatever.   In  terms the stonebreaking and  stone-crushing operations  carried  on in  mines  are  specified  and  the appellant   could  not  possibly         urge  that  the   relevant activities  carried  on by its members did not  attract the said  description.  In view of the fact that the High  Court has  made a clear statement to the effect that the vires  of the impugned notification had not been challenged before         it we  were at first not inclined to allow Mr. Bobde,  for the appellant,  to  argue that point before us;  however,  after hearing him and after considering the rest of the record         we are satisfied that the statement made in the judgment is not accurate.   In  the  petition filed  by the  appellant  the validity of two notifications was challenged; the first was the notification issued by the President of India under Art. 258  of the Constitution, and the second  is  the  impugned notification under which proceedings are threatened  against the  appellant’s members.  It is clear from the record  that the  appellant did not and could not have pressed  its  case against the validity of the first notification, but it  did press  its  objection  against the validity  of the  second notification ; and that would be clear from the certificate of fitness granted by the High Court itself.  The 481

certificate says that the questions raised by the  appellant relate to the applicability of the provisions of the Act to persons employed  in stone-breaking   or   stone-crushing operations carried on at various manganese mines.  Now it is clear  that  this question can arise only if  the appellant seeks  to  challenge the validity of the  notification,  not otherwise. It is because the employees in  question  are, according  to the appellant, not employed under any  of the items  prescribed  in  the  Schedule to the  Act  that  the impugned  notification  is  invalid;  in  that  context  the questions  posed in the certificate would  arise.   If  the notification  itself  is valid then  the  solution  to  the question posed  can  hardly  be  regarded  as  fit  for   a certificate  under  Art.  133(1)(c)  of  the   Constitution. Besides, the appellant’s contention against the validity  of the   impugned  notification  has  been set  out   in   its application  for certificate before the High Court  and the same  has been expressly repeated in the statement  of  case filed by the appellant before us.  We must, therefore,  hold that the High Court was in error in assuming that the  vires of  the impugned  notification had  been  conceded  by  the appellant  before it.  This is another serious infirmity in the judgment of the High Court.

As a consequence of the two infirmities in the judgment the approach which the High Court adopted in dealing  with  the matter  has been considerably influenced.  It has  no  doubt considered the meaning of the word ” employment and ”  stone ”  in connection with the expression stone-breaking ” and  ” stone-crushing”.  Even this part of the discussion’ in  the judgment seems to assume that the impugned notification has really  added one item to the list in the Schedule.  It has apparently   not been  realised  that   if   the   present notification  purported to make an addition to the items  in the  Schedule there would have been no  controversy  between the parties.  According to the High Court employment  should be  given its wider sense and should be held to mean  ” the action  of employing or the state of being employed  “. The High  Court has also held that the word ” stone ” should  be taken to mean ” a piece of rock or hard mineral sub.  stance (other than metal) of a small and moderate 482 size”.

The interpretation of the two words adopted by  the High  Court  has been taken by it from  the  Shorter  Oxford Dictionary,  and  having assigned to the two words  the  two respective meanings just stated the High Court has held that stone-breaking  and stone-crushing operations carried on   in mines would attract the provisions of the Act. Before  dealing with the vires of the impugned  notification it  would be material to examine the relevant provisions  of the  Act.   The Act has been passed to provide  for  minimum rates of wages in certain employments.  Section 2(b) defines the  appropriate government as meaning, inter alia,  (1) in relation to any scheduled employment carried on by or  under the authority of the Central Government or in relation to  a mine  the  Central Government, and (2) in  relation  to any other  scheduled employment the State Government.  It  would thus   appear  that  the         Legislature  intended   that   the provisions of the Act may in due course be extended to mines and so it has prescribed that in respect thereof the Central Government  would  be the appropriate  Government.   Section 2(e) defines an employer as meaning, inter alia, any  person who  employs whether directly or through another  person  or whether on behalf of himself or any other person one or more employees  in any scheduled employment in respect  of  which minimum rates  of  wages have been fixed  under  this  Act. Section 2(g)  -defines scheduled employment as  meaning  an employment  specified  in  the Schedule or  any process  or branch  of work forming part of such employment. Section  3 authorises  the appropriate government to fix minimum  rates of  wages in regard to the employments specified in Parts  I and  II of  the Schedule respectively  and  prescribes  the procedure in that behalf.  Section 5 lays down the procedure for the fixing and revising of minimum wages.  Section  5(2) provides that after following the procedure  prescribed  by the  said  section  the appropriate  government  shall   by notification in the official gazette fix, or as the case may be,  revise  the minimum rates of wages in respect  of  each scheduled employment, and unless such notification otherwise provides, it shall come into force on the expiry 483

of  three months from the date of its issue.  There is  only one more section which needs to be mentioned; that is s. 27 which  empowers the appropriate government to add to  either part  of the Schedule any employment in respect of which   it is  of opinion that minimum rates of wages should  be  fixed under  this Act after following the procedure prescribed   by it, and the section adds that after the notification is thus issued the Schedule shall, in its application to the  State, be deemed to be amended accordingly. It  is  thus  clear  that the whole scheme  of  the  Act  is intended  to work in regard to the employments specified  in Part  I and Part II of the Schedule and the Legislature has wisely  left it to the appropriate government to decide  to what  employments  the Act should be extended  and  in  what areas.  Section 5(2) empowers the appropriate government  to fix  or revise  minimum  wages in  regard  to  any  of  the employments in the Schedule to which the Act applies.   This power can be exercised only if the employment in question is specified   in  the  Schedule  and  the Act  is   therefore applicable  to it.  Section 27 confers a wider power on the appropriate  government, and in exercise of the said  power the  appropriate  government may add an  employment  to  the Schedule.  The nature and extent of the-said two powers are thus  quite separate and distinct and there can be no  doubt that  what  can be done by the  appropriate  government  in exercise of its power under s. 27 cannot be done by  it  in exercise of its power under s. 5(2).  It is significant that the  impugned  notification has been issued  by the  Madhya Pradesh Government by virtue of the powers under s. 5(2)  of the Act which have been delegated to it by the President   in exercise  of  his  authority  under Art.  258  of  the  Con- stitution.  The main argument urged by Mr. Bobde is that the impugned notification is ultra vires s. 5(2) because  stone- breaking and stone-crushing operations in manganese mines do not  full under any of the items in Part I of the  Schedule. The  dispute  thus raised really lies within a  very  narrow compass:  Does  employment in stone-breaking  or  in  stone- crushing  operations  carried on in mines specified  in  the impugned notification amount to employment in stone-breaking 484 Schedule  to  the  Act?   It  is  common  ground  that   the employment in question does not fall under any other item in Part I.

It is true that the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act are intended to achieve the object of doing social  justice  to workmen employed in the scheduled employments by prescribing minimum rates of wages for them, and so in  construing  the said  provisions the court should adopt what  is  sometimes described  as  a beneficent rule of  construction. If the relevant words are capable of two constructions  preference may be given to that construction which helps to sustain the validity  of  the impugned notification; but it  is  obvious that an occasion for showing preference for one construction rather  than the other can legitimately arise only when two constructions are reasonably possible, not otherwise.   Now, does  employment  in  stone-breaking  or  stone-crushing  as specified  in  Part  I  of  the Schedule  on  a  reasonable construction   include  stone-breaking  or   stone-crushing operations in a mining industry ? In answering this question it would be necessary to bear in mind that the scheduled em- ployment  under s. 2(g) covers the employment  specified  in the  Schedule or any process or branch of work forming  part of  such employment.  It is conceded before us by  both the parties that  the  provisions  of  the  Act  apply  to  the scheduled  employments in all branches of their work  which may  be incidental to the main scheduled  employments.   The impugned   notification, on the other hand, applies  only  to the  stone-breaking or stone-crushing operations carried  on in  mines and it does not cover other  operations  connected with   the  manganese  mining  works.   This   position  is inconsistent  with the scheme of the Schedule and that is  a point  which  prima facie is in favour  of  the appellant’s contention.

It  is, however, urged by Mr. Umrigar, for the  respondents, that  the word ” employment ” as well as the word ” stone  ” used  in item 8 should receive their widest denotation, and that,  according   to him, would  include  stone-breaking  or stone-crushing operations 485 carried on in mines.  It is conceded that stone-breaking   or stone-crushing operations have to be carried on in regard to the  work  in manganese mines.  Stones are beaten  to  small pieces  by means of a hammer and they are washed and  passed through sieves  of  different meshes  before  manganese  is obtained.  When the Schedule refers to  the  employment  of stone-breaking  or  stone-crushing  does         it  refer  to  the incidental stone-breaking or stone-crushing in connection  with manganese mine operations ?  In a  chemical or a geological sense stones may include manganese and  that is  one of the meanings given to the word  in  the  Shorter Oxford Dictionary.  On the other hand, the word ” stone ” as popularly understood in ordinary parlance particularly  when it  is  coupled with the word ” breaking ” or ” crushing  ” would exclude manganese.  When we speak of stone-breaking or stone-crushing  normally we refer to stone in the  sense  of “piece  of   rock”  and  that  would   exclude   manganese. Employment in stone-breaking or stone-crushing in this sense would  refer to quarry operations.  Thus whether or not the word ” stone ” should be understood in the wider sense or in a  limited sense must depend upon the context in which  the word  is used.  The intention which is reasonably  deducible from  the  context would decide whether it is  the  expanded meaning or  the  limited meaning of the word  that  can  be accepted.   The same  consideration  could  apply  to   the denotation  of  the  word ”  employment We  have  carefully considered all the items in the Schedule and have taken into account the general beneficent policy of the Act but we are unable to hold that when item 8 refers to stone-breaking  or stone-crushing  it is intended to cover the breaking or the crushing of  stones  incidental  to  the  manganese  mining operations.  The context seems to exclude the application of the  wider  meaning of the word ” stone ” used  in  item  8. Therefore,  our conclusion is that  the  stone-breaking  or stone-crushing operations which are carried on in mines are not  included in item 8 in the Schedule; and if that be the true position the impugned notification issued by the  State Government under s. 5(2) is ultra vires, 62 486

The  High Court has referred to the fact that in describing some items in Part I the word ” any ” has been used  whereas the  said  word has not been used in item 8.  For  instance, item I refers to employment in any woollen carpet making   or shawl weaving establishment, whereas item 8 merely refers to employment   in stone-breaking  and  stone-crushing.    The absence of  the word ” any ” according to  the  High  Court indicates  that the  word “stone” as well  as  the  word  ” employment” had been used in their wide denotation.  We are not  satisfied that this conclusion is right,.  In  fact   it appears to us that if the word ” any” had been used in  item 8  it might have helped to make its scope wider; that is  to say,  if   item  8 bad read as ” employment  in  any  ,stone- breaking         or any stone-crushing operations ” it  might  have tended to make its scope wider. As it stands the entry  is, in  our opinion,  confined  to  Stone-breaking  and  stone- crushing employment in quarries and not in mines.

As we have already pointed out a notification under s.  5(2) can  be issued only in respect of  employments  which  fall under  the  Schedule.  We would, however, like to  add  that this conclusion merely helps to emphasise the fact that the appropriate government may, and can, act under s. 27 of the Act  if it is desired that the employment in  mines  or  in connection  with any operations incidental to mining  should be  governed  by the provisions of  the  Act.   Section  27 empowers  the  appropriate government to add  items  to  the Schedule and it would be open to the appropriate  government to  adopt  such a course if it is intended  to  achieve the object with which the impugned notification has been issued. One more point still remains to be considered.  Mr.  Umrigar attempted  to argue that the appellant cannot challenge the vires  of the impugned notification without challenging the vires  of  the  delegation  of  authority  effected  by the notification issued by the President of India under Art. 258 of   the   Constitution.   The  argument  is  that   if   the notification  of   the  President is  valid  then  the  State Government has merely exercised its authority as a  delegate and its validity cannot be challenged in isolation from the principal 487

or parent notification which conferred the authority on the State  Government.  This contention has obviously  not  been raised  before  the  High  Court.   Besides,  if  the  State Government  purports to take action on the strength  of the impugned  notification which is invalid it would be open  to the appellant to resist the threatened action on the  ground that  the  notification is invalid and  no  action  can  be validly taken against the appellant for the contravention of the provisions of the Act.  As this Court has observed in A. Thangal Kunju  Musaliar v. M. Venkitachalam  Potti  (1),  ” there  can be no agency in the matter of a commission  of  a wrong.  The wrong-doer would certainly be liable to be dealt with  as a  party directly  responsible  for  his  wrongful action”,  and it was added that ” on the analogy of a  civil wrong  the  tortfeasor could certainly not  protect  himself against the liability on the ground of having committed the tort under the directions of his principal, and so the agent could  in no event exculpate himself from the liability for the  wrongful act done by him and if he is amenable  to the jurisdiction  of  the  High  Court  the  High  Court   could certainly issue an appropriate writ against -him under  Art. 226″.   By parity of reasoning it would follow that  if the impugned   notification  issued by the  State  Government  is ultra  vires  it cannot  fall  back  upon  the  President’s notification in support of the plea that the action which it proposes to take against the appellant would nevertheless be justified.  We must accordingly hold that it is open to the appellant to  claim  a writ against  the  respondents oven without  challenging   the  vires   of the   Presidential notification.

In the result we hold that the impugned notification issued by  respondent  2 is invalid and cannot be  enforced. The appeal is accordingly allowed, the order passed by the  High Court  set aside and the application for a writ made by the appellant allowed with costs throughout.

Appeal allowed. (1) [1955] 2 S.C.R. 1196,1211. 488


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