Bombay High Court: Anil S. Kilor, J., reiterated that the strict rule of pleadings as applicable to civil suits is not applicable under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
The petitioner’s application under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 was rejected by the Labour Court, Nagpur and the Judgments and Order passed has been assailed in the present petition.
Petitioner had worked as a skilled worker with respondent scheduled employment “Printing Press”, to which provisions and schedule prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 are applicable.
He filed a complaint before the Industrial Court under Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices, 1971 claiming permanency.
On filing the above complaint, the petitioner was treated as a permanent employee by the respondent and therefore he withdrew his complaint.
However, the non-payment of the wages of permanent employee drove him to approach this Court.
Respondent stated that the petitioner was working as a skilled worker since 1989 and was getting benefits of permanent employee.
Further, the petitioner, subsequent to this, tendered his resignation, citing a reason that despite a statement made by the respondent before the learned Industrial Court and this Court that, the petitioner was a permanent employee, minimum wages have not been paid to him as per the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act.
Petitioner again took resort to the legal remedy by preferring n application under Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947 before the Labour Court for grant of arrears of wages and bonus for the period 11-08-1989 to 31-12-2013, as a ‘fitter’.
Analysis and Decision
Questions for Consideration:
1. Whether the Labour Court, possesses jurisdiction under Section 33-C(2)of the Act, 1947, to grant arrears of wages due under the Minimum Wages Act, particularly where there is no dispute regarding the rates of wages and it is admitted by the parties that minimum rates of wages were fixed by the Government?
2. Whether the strict rule pleadings is applicable to the Industrial disputes?
The purpose of enacting the ID Act, 1947 was to make provisions for the Investigation and settlement of Industrial Dispute and for certain other purposes.
Court also referred to Section 33-C (2) of the Act, 1947, which read as follows:
(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any money or any benefit which is capable of being computed in terms of money and if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be diecided by such Labour Court as may be specified in this behalf by the Appropriate Government.”
Language of the said Section makes it clear that:
“…if any question arises as to the amount of money due or as to the amount at which such benefit should be computed, then the question may, subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, be decided by Labour Court.”
Further to add to the above, if there is no dispute as to rates between the employer and the employee and the only question is whether a particular payment at the agreed rate is due or not, then Section 20(1) of the Minimum Wages Act would not be attracted at all, and the appropriate remedy would only be either under Section 15(1) of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, or under Section 33-C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act.
Court in view of Section 33-C(2) of the Act, 1947 and the facts laid, held that the Labour Court committed error in not exercising jurisdiction under Section 33-C (2) of the I.D. Act and further applicant also failed to prove that he was having the pre-existing right.
Bench referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in, Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. Abdulbhai Faizullabhai, (1976) 3 SCC 832 and observed that
I.D. Act, 1947 being beneficial legislation protects labour, promotes their contentment and regulates situations of crisis.
Mechanism of the Act is geared to conferment of regulated benefits to workmen and resolution, according to a sympathetic rule of law, of the conflicts, actual or potential, between managements and workmen.
Moreover an industrial dispute where the process of conflict resolution is informal, rough-and-ready and invites a liberal approach. Procedural prescriptions are hand-maids, not mistresses of justice and failure of fair play is the spirit in which courts must view processual deviances.
Hence, in light of the ID Act, 1947 being a beneficial legislation and strict rule of pleadings not made applicable, as applicable to the suits filed under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, Court stated that it is erroneous that the application was rejected under Section 33-C (2) on the ground of not sufficient pleadings being made.
Therefore, the impugned judgment and order passed by the Labour Court needs to be set aside and sent back to the Labour Court to decide the same afresh. [Tularam Manikrao Hadge v. Sudarshan Paper Converting, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 965, decided on 21-09-2020]