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Ragini Sinha Vs. State of Bihar and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (07 Jan 2019)

Authority has the power to impose the penalty, once breaches alleged against employer are proved


Labour and Industrial

Two persons, filed their claim petitions before the competent authority under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 ("the Act") against the Appellant. In these claim petitions, the Respondents claimed that, they had worked with the Appellant on her land for the relevant period but she did not pay them their legitimate wages despite rendering their services for her. The two applicants (workers/employees), therefore, claimed that their legitimate wages for the period in question be determined in the light of the provisions of the Act and the claimants be accordingly paid their minimum wages for the period in question by the Appellant.

By order, the competent authority allowed the claim petitions of the two workers and accordingly directed the Appellant (employer) to pay them wages as determined along with the penalty amount awarded by the authority. The Appellant felt aggrieved and filed appeal before the appellate authority under the Act. By order, the appellate authority dismissed the appeal and affirmed the order of the competent authority. The short question, which arises for consideration in instant appeals, is whether the High Court was justified in upholding the orders passed by the two authorities under the Act.

No case has been made out to call for any interference in the impugned orders. What is involved in this case is a pure question of fact which cannot be gone into in these appeals. The question as to whether the two workers ever worked with the Appellant and, if so, for how much period and how much wages were payable to them by their employer are the material questions, which were gone into by the competent authority and appellate authority and decided in favour of the two workers. A concurrent finding of fact recorded on these issues by the two authorities was binding on the High Court while deciding the writ petitions and the intra Court appeals. Even in the intra Court appeals, the Appellant though filed an application for their impleadment but it was done after a long lapse of time and, therefore, the Division Bench rightly dismissed the application on the ground of delay and laches.

The claim in question relates to the year 1991 and pertains to the payment of minimum wages payable to two workers, who are now dead and not represented before this Court. The Appellant has not been able to make out any case on merits. The Appellant was afforded a sufficient opportunity to defend and which she also availed of. That apart, no material was produced by the Appellant at any stage of the proceedings to show that any prejudice was caused to her. Having regard to the nature of breaches committed by the Appellant and which were held proved, the authority was justified in imposing the penalty on the Appellant.

Authority has the power under the Act to impose the penalty, once the breaches alleged against the employer are proved. Neither the appellate authority, nor the writ Court and nor the Division Bench in their respective jurisdiction considered it proper to interfere on any of these issues. Appeals dismissed.


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