Bijay Cotton Mills v State of Ajmer
Authored by Neha Bisht
Keywords: The Minimum Wages Act, The constitution of India, Minimum Wages, Constitutionality, Reasonability
Case Analysis - Bijoy Cotton Mills v State of Ajmer
This paper discusses the case of Bijoy Cotton Mills v State of Ajmer. It talks about the relevant facts of the case and the issues raised in the court. It highlights the reason as to why the Act was held to be constitutional despite being in conflicts with Article 19 (1)(g) of the constitution of India.
Name of the case: Bijoy Cotton Mills Limited v State of Ajmer
Petitioner: Bijoy Cotton Mills Ltd.
Respondent: The State of Ajmer
Citation: 1955 AIR 33, 1955 SCR (1) 752
Date of Judgement: 14 October 1954
Bench: Hon’ble Justice B.K. Mukherjea, Hon’ble Justice T.L. Venkatarama Ayyar, Hon’ble Justice M.C. Mahajan (CJI), Hon’ble Justice Vivian Bose and Hon’ble Justice B. Jagannath Das.
Concerned Provisions of law: Article 19(1) (g) and Article 19(6) of the Constitution, Sec. 3, 4 and 5 of the Minimum Wages Act (XI of 1948).
An industrial dispute arose between the company and its workers regarding their wages and the same was taken to the Industrial Tribunal by the Government of Ajmer by a notification dated the 1st December 1950. On 27th December 1951, the tribunal made its award and observed that the present earning capacity of the mill eliminates the possibility of an award paying higher rates of wages and dearness allowances to its workers.
The workers made an appeal against this award to the Appellate Tribunal. Steps were taken by the Chief Commissioner of Ajmer for fixing the minimum wages of workers in the textile industry inside the state, abiding by the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act while the appeal was still pending.
A committee came into existence, as has just been expressed, on the 17th January 1952 which gave a report on the 4th October following and, on the 7th October 1952, the notification was given so as to fix the minimum wage rate and subsequently writ petitions were filed by different textile companies along with the petitioner company. The Appellate Tribunal later sent the case back to the Industrial Tribunal for further investigation and which made its final award on 8th September 1953, by which it shunned the grounds upon which the minimum wages were fixed as Rs. 56 by the Chief Commissioner and fixed the minimum wages including the dearness allowance at Rs. 35.
The petition filed by the company stated that the minimum wages decided by the State Government of Ajmer is altogether prohibitory and moreover, if the company started giving such wages to the workers then it would become impossible for it to keep running. Eventually, the company shut its mills on and from the 1st April 1953. There were 1500 labours working for the company who lost their jobs due to this and since, January1954 hundreds of them moved towards the concerned authorities, asking them to open the mills and agreeing to work at Rs. 35 as wages decided by the Industrial Tribunal.
Even though the workers agreed to work under the wages decided by the Industrial Tribunal still, the company cannot open its mills owing to the fact that it is still a criminal offence under the Minimum Wages Act to not to pay wages as fixed by this Act.
The contention made by the company was that the Minimum Wages Act was illegal and ultra vires as it is in conflicts with the fundamental rights of the employers and the employees guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution and that they are not protected under clause (6) of that article.
The issues raised in this case are that
1. The constitutionality of Minimum Wages Act as it is against Article 19(1)(g).
2. The provisions of the Act are arbitrary and unreasonable.
It was held by the court that the Minimum Wages Act was not unreasonable and it cannot be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it is fixing minimum wages in the interest of the public and in accordance with the Directive Principles of State Policy as embodied in Article 43 of the constitution of India. It was also protected under clause 6 of Art 19.
The act was passed with a view to protect the workers from any kind of exploitation in their workplace and the employers cannot raise an objection if they are asked to pay minimum wages to their employees. The interest of the general public is what matters and not whether the intention of the employer is good or bad.
For fixing minimum wages, the “appropriate Government” has been given wide powers but it has to act either on the advice of the committee if appointed any or representations on his proposals made by the people most likely to be affected thereby. In certain cases, if the “appropriate Government” deems fit then can grant exceptions from the provisions of this act. Even though, the decision made by the “appropriate Government” is not subject to further review still it does not mean that it is unreasonable in any way.
This case revolved mainly around the constitution of India and the Minimum Wages Act. It talked about the right to carry out any profession and trade guaranteed under article 19(1) (g) and also the exceptions laid down in clause 6 of the constitution of India. Section 3 to section 5 of the Minimum Wages Act laid down the procedure with regards to fixing of the minimum wages. When the question arose regarding the reasonability and constitutionality of the Act then the interest of the general public was given the utmost priority.
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 was introduced with a view to fix minimum wages for the workers and save them from exploitation by their employers. It says if the company cannot pay minimum wages fixed by this act to its employees then it can be asked to shut down. In this case when the dispute arose between the company and its workers then the court was of the view that the restriction imposed by fixing the wages was not unreasonable and in no way is oppressing the employers.