Civil Appeal No. 8452 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) No. 1982 of 2007) With Civil Appeal No. 8453 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) No. 3624 of 2007) With SLP(C).... CC No. 4065 of 2007 With SLP(C).... CC No. 4046 of 2007 With Civil Appeal Nos. 8454-8455 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) Nos. 13462-13463 of 2007) With Civil Appeal No. 8457 of 2009 (.... Case: 1. Bhuwalka Steel Indus. Limited, 2. Century Textiles and Industries Limited, 3. Steel Re-Rollers Association of Maharashtra, 4. Kamgar Utkarsha Sabha, 5. Raymond Limited, 6. Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association and Others, 7. Valiant Glass Works Private Limited Vs 1. Bombay Iron and Steel Labour Board and Another, 2. Grocery Markets and Others, 3. Bhuwalka Steel Industries Limited and Others, 4. Cloth Market and Shops Board and Others, 5. State of Maharashtra and Others. Supreme Court

Case Number:Civil Appeal No. 8452 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) No. 1982 of 2007) With Civil Appeal No. 8453 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) No. 3624 of 2007) With SLP(C).... CC No. 4065 of 2007 With SLP(C).... CC No. 4046 of 2007 With Civil Appeal Nos. 8454-8455 of 2009 (Arising Out of SLP(C) Nos. 13462-13463 of 2007) With Civil Appeal No. 8457 of 2009 (...
Party Name:1. Bhuwalka Steel Indus. Limited, 2. Century Textiles and Industries Limited, 3. Steel Re-Rollers Association of Maharashtra, 4. Kamgar Utkarsha Sabha, 5. Raymond Limited, 6. Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association and Others, 7. Valiant Glass Works Private Limited Vs 1. Bombay Iron and Steel Labour Board and Another, 2. Grocery Markets and Others, 3. Bhuwalka Steel Industries Limited and Others, 4. Cloth Market and Shops Board and Others, 5. State of Maharashtra and Others
Judges:Tarun Chatterjee & V. S. Sirpurkar, JJ.
Issue:Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and Other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 - Section 2(11), 2(12), 3, 6, 15, 17G, 18, 19, 20, 22; Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Section 2(p); Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; Constitution of India, 1950 - Arrticles 141, 254; Bombay Industrial Relations Act, 1946; ...
Citation:2010 (1) BomCR 656, JT 2009 (15) SC 269, (2010) ILLJ 561 SC, (2010) 1 MLJ 1482, 2009 (14) SCALE 623, (2010) 2 SCC 273, 2009 (10) UJ 5041 (SC)
Judgement Date:December 17, 2009
Court:Supreme Court
 
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Judgment:

V. S. Sirpurkar, J.

1. This judgment will dispose of SLP (Civil) No. 1982 of 2007, SLP (Civil) No. 3624 of 2007, SLP (Civil).... CC No. 4065 of 2007, SLP (Civil).... CC No. 4046 of 2007, SLP (Civil) Nos. 13462-13463 of 2007, SLP (Civil) No. 20206 of 2007, and SLP (Civil) No. 9600 of 2008.

2. Leave granted in SLP (Civil) No. 1982 of 2007, SLP (Civil) No. 3624 of 2007, SLP (Civil) Nos. 13462-13463 of 2007, SLP (Civil) No. 20206 of 2007, and SLP (Civil) No. 9600 of 2008

3. Two concurrent judgments of the Full Bench of the Bombay High Court, one written by Hon'ble J.N. Patel and Hon'ble Roshan Dalvi, JJ. and a separate but concurrent judgment authored by Hon'ble Deshmukh, J. have fallen for consideration. The reference to Full Bench was occasioned on account of the two Learned Judges of the Bombay High Court, principally not agreeing with another Division Bench Judgment reported in the case of Century Textiles & Industries Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra [2000 II CLR 279] in its interpretation of the term "unprotected worker" provided by Section 2(11) of the Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 (hereinafter referred to as 'Mathadi Act') and term "worker" provided by Section 2(12) of the Mathadi Act. The referring Bench was of the opinion that the interpretation given to those two terms in the decision in Century Textiles & Industries Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra (cited supra) was in conflict with the statutory provisions enacted by the Legislature in the said Mathadi Act. The question referred to the Full Bench was as under:-

"In view of the statutory definition of the expression "unprotected worker" in Section 2(11) of the Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 is the interpretation placed by the Division Bench in Century Textiles & Industries Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra, 2000 II CLR 279 on the aforesaid expression that it is only casually engaged workers who come within the purview of the Act, correct and proper?"

In the two aforementioned judgments of the Bombay High Court, the Learned Judges, writing the majority judgment, recorded as under:-

"For the aforesaid reasons, we find that the interpretation placed by the Division Bench in Century Textile and Industries Ltd. & Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors., 2000 II CLR 270 on the definition of the words "unprotected worker" and "worker" for the purpose of applicability to Mathadi Act, 1969 that it is only the casual workmen who come within the purview of the Act, is not correct and proper and it is erroneous which deserves to be ignored and is overruled."

The Learned Single Judge (Hon'ble Deshmukh, J.) gave his final verdict in the following words:-

"To conclude, therefore, to my mind it is clear that within the meaning of Section 2(11) of the Act "unprotected worker" means every manual worker who is engaged or to be engaged in any scheduled employment, irrespective of whether he is protected by other labour legislations or not and "unprotected workers" within the meaning of the Act are definitely not only those manual workers who are casually engaged."

4. The above two judgments are challenged basically on the contention that the judgment in the case of Century Textiles & Industries Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra (cited supra) is essentially a correct judgment, while the view taken by the Full Bench and the interpretation put forth by the same of the Sections 2(11) and 2(12) of the Mathadi Act, is erroneous inasmuch as the impugned judgments have ignored to take into account the context in which these provisions have been enacted and they also ignored the intention of the Legislature, which is reflected from the Preamble and the other provisions of this Act.

5. Lengthy arguments were advanced before us. While arguments on the side of appellants were led by Shri J.P. Cama, Learned Senior Counsel, the arguments on behalf of respondents were led by Shri K.K. Singhvi and Ms. Indira Jaising, Learned Senior Counsel.

6. Before taking up the issue, the short history of the legislation is a must.

7. A Bill was introduced in the Maharashtra Legislature, being Bill No. XCIX of 1968 for regulating the employment of unprotected manual workers employed in certain employments in the State of Maharashtra to make provision for their adequate supply and proper and full utilization in such employments and for matters connected therewith. This Bill was first introduced in the Winter Sessions of Maharasthra Legislature at Nagpur. It was then referred to the Joint Committee for its report. The basic idea behind bringing this legislation, as it is reflected in Statement of Objects and Reasons, was that persons engaged in occupations like mathadi, hamals, fishermen, salt pan workers, casual labour, jatha workers and those engaged in similar manual work elsewhere, were not receiving adequate protection and benefits within the ambit of existing labour legislation. Therefore, with a view to studying the conditions of the work of the persons engaged in these occupations, the Government had appointed a Committee on 15.7.1965 to examine whether relief could be given to these workers within the ambit of the existing labour legislation and make recommendation as to how such relief could be given. The Statement of Objects and Reasons mentions that report was made by the Committee to the Government on 17.11.1967. In that report, it was mentioned that the persons engaged in vocations like mathadi, hamals, casual workers employed in docks, lokhandi jatha workers, salt pan workers and other manual workers mostly work outside fixed premises in the open and are mostly engaged on piece-rate system in a number of cases. They are not employed directly, but are either engaged through Mukadum or Toliwalas or gangs as and when there is work and they also work for different employers on one and the same day. The volume of work is not always constant. In view of the peculiar nature of work, its variety, the precarious means of employment and the system of payment and the particular vulnerability to exploitation of this class of labour, the Committee had come to the conclusion that the application of the various labour laws to such workers was impracticable and regulation of their working and other conditions by introducing amendments to the existing labour laws was not possible. Therefore, the Committee recommended that the working and the employment conditions of such unprotected workers should be regulated by a special enactment.

8. The Statement of Objects and Reasons further mentions that after holding series of meetings with the representatives of the interests affected by the proposed legislation and after considering all these suggestions and examining the recommendations of the Committee, Government had decided to bring the Bill which seeks to regulate the employment of mathadis, hamals and other manual workers employed in certain employments, to make better provision for their terms and conditions of employment, to provide for their welfare, for health and safety measures, where such employments require those measures, to make provision for ensuring an adequate supply to, and full and proper utilization of such workers in such employments, to prevent avoidable unemployment and for such purposes to provide for the establishment of Boards in respect of these employments and (where necessary) in the different areas of the State and to provide for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. Ultimately, the Act came on the legal anvil vide Act No. XXX of 1969 after it received assent of the Vice President, acting on behalf of the President on 5.6.1969. It was extended to the whole State of Maharashtra. It was clarified in Section 1 that it applies to the employments specified in the Schedule and that it shall come into force on such date as the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different areas, and for different provisions of the Act. The Act was amended from time to time by Maharashtra Act Nos. 27 of 1972, 40 of 1974, 27 of 1977, 62 of 1981, 28 of 1987 and 27 of 1990. To begin with, it came into force in Thane District in various areas. (Emphasis supplied)

9. It will be better to see a few provisions of the Act. Section 2, which is the definition clause, defines "Board" in sub-Section (1), to mean a Board established under Section 6. Some other sub-Sections of Section 2 runs as under:-

2(2) "contractor", in relation to an unprotected worker, means a person who undertakes to execute any work for an establishment by engaging such workers on hire or otherwise, or who supplies such worker either in groups, gangs (tollis), or as individuals; and includes a sub- contractor, an agent, a mukadum or a tolliwala;

2(3) "employer", in relation to any unprotected worker engaged by or through contractor, means the principal employer and in relation to any other unprotected worker, the person who has ultimate control over the affairs of the establishment, and includes any other person to whom the affairs of such establishment are entrusted, whether such person is called an agent, manager or is called by any other name prevailing in the scheduled employment;

2(4) "establishment" means any place or premises, including the precincts thereof, in which or in any part of which any scheduled employment is being or is ordinarily carried on;

2(7) "principal employer" means an employer who engages unprotected workers by or through a contractor in any scheduled employment;

2(11) "unprotected worker" means a manual worker who is engaged or to be engaged in any scheduled employment;

2(12) "worker" means a person who is engaged or to be engaged directly or through any agency, whether for wages or not, to do manual work in any scheduled employment, and includes any person...

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