S.P. Srivastava, J.
1. Since the controversy involved and the questions raised in both the writ petitions are common, on the request of the learned counsel for the parties, the writ petitions which have been heard together are being disposed of by a common order.
2. The petitioners feel aggrieved by an order passed by the legal authority appointed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 whereunder their claim raised under Section 20 of the said Act for the recovery of the balance due on account of payment of amount less than the minimum rates or wages had been rejected holding that they were not entitled to any relief.
3. I have heard the learned counsel for the petitioners as well as the learned Government Advocate, representing the State-respondents and have carefully perused the record.
4. The facts in brief, shorn of details and necessary for the disposal of the Writ Petitions, lie in a narrow compass: The petitioners had been employed in the establishment of the respondents on daily wage basis. They were being paid an amount of Rs. 20.90 paise per day towards wages. They had filed on July 8, 1994 the claim petition under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act praying that a direction be issued for the payment of the wages to them at the rate of Rs. 51.80 paise per day w.e.f. January 1, 1991. It was further prayed that the employer be directed to pay penalty at the rate of ten times of the difference of the amount, the payment whereof stood withheld without any justifiable ground.
5. The stand of the employer before the legal authority while contesting the claim of the petitioners was that though the petitioners have been employed as the labourers they were not entitled to the wages admissible to the Supervisors/Paryavekshak/Diploma Holders. It was further asserted that the competent authority had determined the minimum rate of wages for the labourers falling in the category of the petitioners which was to become effective from October 1, 1992 fixing it to be Rs. 39.69 paise per day. In view of the aforesaid fixation of the minimum wages, which had been made admissible to a skilled labourer, the petitioners were not entitled to any amount higher than the said amount.
6. In the counter affidavit return filed in opposition to the writ petitions, the respondents have relied upon the order of the competent authority fixing the minimum wages at the rate of Rs. 39.69 paise per day to a labourer falling in the category of “Kushal Shramik”. This obviously indicates that so far as the category in which the petitioners were to be placed, it is not disputed that it was that of “Kushal Shramik”, even according to the stand taken by the respondents.
7. In the aforesaid return, it has been indicated that by the time the return was filed i.e. December 9, 1998, the petitioners were being paid towards wages as the labourers an amount of Rs. 33.80 paise per day and a dearness allowance at the rate of Rs. 20.76 paise per day, that is to say, a total amount of Rs. 54.56 paise per day.
8. The legal authority on a careful consideration of the evidence and the materials on record came to the conclusion that the petitioners, who were the civil diploma holders from the M.P. Board of Technical Education, Bhopal, were discharging the duties of Survey Designing, Estimating, Drawing, etc. and had experience in that work.
9. The legal authority however rejected the application holding that the petitioners were not entitled to the relief as prayed for, for the entire period, as the time limit prescribed under the Act for the payment of an amount envisaged under Section 20(2) of the Act could not be for a period exceeding one year. The claim was found to be within time for the time period July 8, 1993 to July 8, 1994 only. No direction for payment of even the amount for that period was however issued as the legal authority was of the view that the new rates of minimum wages had been fixed and made effective from October 1, 1992 and those wages were much below the amount which was actually paid to the petitioners.
10. The legal authority appears to have proceeded on the assumption that since the rate of minimum wages had been reduced the direction for the payment of any arrears calculated on the basis of the enhanced amount fixed earlier under the order dated February 27, 1991 which was sought to be relied upon by the petitioners could not be issued.
11. The learned counsel for the petitioners has strenuously urged that the impugned order passed by the legal authority stands vitiated in law as the said authority has proceeded on an entirely erroneous assumption overlooking the exception provided under the Order of the competent authority fixing minimum wages which was made effective from October 1, 1992. The contention is that while prescribing the minimum wages at a lower rate in paragraph 2 of the order an exception had been carved out by the competent authority and it had been specifically provided that the new fixation shall not have any adverse effect in any manner on the rate of wages fixed which were in force prior to October 1, 1992, in case the amount of said wages was higher than the revised wages and no reduction, in the amount on the strength of the order of revision of the wages will be permissible.
12. The learned counsel for the petitioners has further urged that in face of the exception to the above effect carved out by the competent authority while revising the rate of daily wages, there could be no occasion for the legal authority to reject the claim of the petitioners which was based on the earlier order wherein the rate of daily wages was higher than the revised rate.
13. In the aforesaid connection, the learned counsel for the petitioners has further urged that the petitioners clearly fell within the category of skilled labourers. The order dated February 27, 1991, provided that Supervisors/Surveyors (Diploma Holders) having one year’s experience had to be put in the category of skilled labourers. That being so, even according to the stand of the respondents the entitlement of the petitioners for the payment of the arrears of minimum of wages treating them to be falling in the category of skilled labourers could not be refused.
14. The learned Government Advocate has however urged that in the present case the exception sought to be relied upon by the petitioners is not attracted. In support of this submission, what has been urged is that in fact the exception No. 3 carved out by the competent authority in its order revising the minimum rate of daily wages was attracted. The aforesaid exception however only contemplates that the revised minimum wage will include variable dearness allowances and therefore the daily wager labourers were not entitled to any variable dearness allowances. This exception had been provided as the total amount of the daily wages, which had been fixed for the labourers falling in the “Akushal category”, “Ardhkushal category” and “Kushal category”, included the dearness allowances. The total amount of daily wages for unskilled labourers was Rs. 31.60 paise per day. For the semiskilled labourers, the amount of daily wages was Rs. 35.69 paise per day and so far as the skilled labourers, the amount of daily wages was Rs. 39.69 paise per day. This amount included the amount of variable dearness allowances.
15. In the present case, what is apparent from the facts and circumstances as brought on record is that the revised rate was much below the rate of daily wages which was prevalent and admissible prior to October 1, 1992. The provisions sought to be relied upon by the learned Government Advocate therefore cannot be said to be attracted at all and has no effect on the claim of the petitioners.
16. Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances as brought on record, I am of the considered opinion that the approach of the legal authority stands vitiated in law, I am further of the view that the legal authority had failed to consider the implications arising under the order passed by the competent authority whereunder the rates of daily wages had been revised which has resulted in manifestly erroneous conclusion so far as the question relating to the entitlement of the petitioners for the payment of arrears of wages for the period July 8, 1993 to July 8, 1994 was concerned, which payment stood withheld.
17. However, the finding of the legal authority negativing the claim of the petitioners for the payment of the arrears of wages for the period anterior to July 8, 1993 is according to law and does not require any interference.
18. In view of what has been indicated hcreinabovc, sufficient ground has been made out for interference by this Court.
19. In the result, the writ petition succeeds in part. The impugned order passed by the legal authority rejecting the application of the petitioners for the payment of the arrears of minimum wages for the period July 8, 1993 to July 8, 1994 is quashed with a direction to the said authority to consider the said matter afresh in the light of the observations made hereinabove.
20. The impugned order so far as the rest of the claim is concerned shall remain intact.
21. It is further directed that since the matter has become old, the legal authority shall pass final orders disposing of the claim of the petitioners within a period not later than six months from the date of production of the certified copy of this order before it.
22. There shall however be no order as to costs.