Bijoy Cotton Mills v. State of Ajmer

In the Supreme Court of India
Name of the caseBIJOY COTTON MILLS v. STATE OF AJMER
Citation(1955) AIR 33
Year of the Case1954
AppellantRam Nath Singh and four others
RespondentState of Ajmer
Bench/ JudgesChief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, Bijan Kumar Mukherjea, Vivian Bose, B. Jagannadhadas, T. L. Venkatarama Ayyar
Act InvolvedConstitution of India, Minimum Wages Act
Important SectionArticle 19(1) (g) of the Constitution, Sec. 3, 4 and 5 of the Minimum Wages Act (XI of 1948)

 Abstract

The case generally is about a conflict between the industry and the workers working in the industry in relation with their minimum wages where the constitutionality of the minimum wages act was challenged on the ground that this act violated the fundamental rights of the people working in the industry.

Introduction

In the presented case, Ram Nath Singh and four others are the appellants and State of Ajmer is the respondent. The case was decided by the Supreme Court of India in the year 1954. The case was related to whether restrictions imposed upon the freedom of contract by the fixation of minimum rate of wages by the government , though they interfere to some extent with freedom of trade or business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, either reasonable or otherwise.

Background of The Case

In 1950 there was an industrial question between the organization and its workers with respect to improvement of wages and the debate was alluded by the Government of Ajmer to an. Industrial Tribunal, by a notice dated the first December,1950. The tribunal made its award on the 27th November,1951, and held that “the present procuring limit of the factory blocks the award of higher paces of wages and higher dearness allowance.” The workers took an intrigue against this award to the Appellate Tribunal. While this intrigue was pending, the Chief Commissioner, Ajmer, made strides for the obsession of minimum wages of workers in the textile industry inside the State, under the arrangements of the Minimum Wages Act.

A board was shaped, as has just been expressed, on the 17 January, 1952, which presented its report on the 4 October, following and on the 7 October, 1952, the notice was given fixing the minimum paces of wages, against which writ petitions were documented by a few textile organizations including the petitioner organization. Meanwhile anyway the intrigue documented by the workers of the organization continued, in the typical way, before the Appellate Tribunal. The Appellate Tribunal sent the case back to the Industrial Tribunal for additional examination and the last made its final award on the eighth of September,1953, by which it dismissed the premise whereupon minimum wages of Rs. 56 were fixed by the Chief Commissioner and fixed the minimum wages including the dearness allowance at Rs. 35.

The organization states in its appeal that the minimum wages fixed by the State Government of Ajmer is through and through prohibitory and it isn’t at all feasible for the organization to carry on its business on installment of such wages. In like manner the organization shut its factories on and from the first April 1953. There were around 1500 workers working in the plants of the organization and since January, 1954, a few several them, it is stated, moved toward the overseeing specialists and mentioned them to open the factories communicating their ability to work at Rs. 35 as per wages fixed by the Industrial Tribunal. Despite the fact that most of laborers were pleasant to deal with the wages fixed by the Industrial Tribunal, the organization can’t open the plants by reason of the fact that the Minimum Wages Act makes it a criminal offense not to pay the wages fixed under the Act.

Therefore, after approaching every court the appeal was finally put forward before the Supreme Court of India for final hearing.

Facts

In 1950, an industrial dispute arose between the company and its laborer’s regarding increment in their wages and this dispute was referred by the appropriate government of Ajmer to an Industrial Tribunal. While the appeal was still pending, Chief Commissioner of Ajmer formed a committee for the fixation of minimum wages of laborer’s in the textile industry within the State, under the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act. Meanwhile, the Appellate Tribunal sent the case back to the Industrial Tribunal for further investigation and the latter made its final award by which it rejected the basis upon which minimum wages of Rs. 56 was fixed by the Chief Commissioner whereas, the minimum wages including the dearness allowance was fixed Rs. 35.

The company stated its petition that the minimum wage fixed by the government is prohibitory enabling the company to carry on its business. The company alleged that  the material provisions of the Minimum Wages Act are illegal and ultra vires by reason of their conflicting with the fundamental rights of the employers and the employed guaranteed under article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution and that they are not protected by clause (6) of that article.

Issues

The issue involved in the case was whether restrictions imposed upon the freedom of contract by the fixation of minimum rate of wages, though they interfere to some extent with freedom of trade or business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, either reasonable or otherwise.

The provisions of Section 3, 4 and 5 of the Minimum Wages Act (XI of 1948) empower the appropriate Government to fix the minimum rate of wages in an industrial dispute between the  employer and the employed and it is a criminal  offence not to pay the wages thus fixed under the Act. (The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, n.d.)

The company alleged that the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act are illegal and puts unreasonable restrictions upon the rights of the employer in the sense that he is prevented from resuming his trade or business unless he is ready to pay the minimum wages to the workers. The rights of the employees are also restricted, in as much as they are disabled from working in any trade or industry on the terms agreed to between them and their employers. It is pointed out that the provisions relating to the fixation of minimum wages are unreasonable and arbitrary. The provision conflicts with  fundamental rights of the employers and the employed guaranteed under article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution and that they are not protected by clause (6) of that article.

Related Provision

The provision on which the case was dealt was including the articles of The Constitution of India and also some sections of the Minimum Wages Act. Where article 19(1)(g) of the constitution of India was questioned in the issue of Constitutionality of the Minimum Wages Act where section 3,4 and 5 were discussed in the present case. Where article 19(6) also came into the role of the following case. These article state as follows:

  • to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”
  • Nothing in sub clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,

Judgement

Having carefully examined the historical background and the very nature of jurisdiction it follows that the restrictions imposed upon the freedom of contract by the fixation of minimum rate of wages, though they interfere to some extent with freedom of trade or business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, are not unreasonable and being imposed in the interest of the general public and with a view to carrying out one of the Directive Principle of State Policy embodied in Article 43 of the constitution , are protected by the terms of clause (6) of Article 9.

Despite the provision of Section 3(1)(a), the “appropriate government” may not fix the basic wages in regard of any planned work where under 1000 people are working in the entire State are locked in. But when it comes to the knowledge after the finding that this number has increased to 1000 or more in such employment, it shall fix the minimum wage rate.

Concept Highlighted

The concept highlighted in this case were of the Constitution of India and The Minimum wages act. Whereas the section involved were from section 3 of the said act to section 5 of the said act which talked about from fixing the minimum wages to procedure how to fix the minimum wages. There were generally two articles involved in this case which were article 19(1)(g) and article 19 (6) which generally talked about the fundamental right of freedom to profession and trade and also covering the exceptions involved in the fundamental rights.


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