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Indian Case Summary

Shankar Balaji Waje vs State Of Maharashtra on 27 October, 1961 – Case Summary

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In the case of Shankar Balaji Waje vs State Of Maharashtra on 27 October, 1961, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a significant legal issue concerning the definition of a ‘worker’ under the Factories Act, 1948. The case revolved around the appellant, Shankar Balaji Waje, the owner of a factory manufacturing bidis (a type of Indian cigarette), and a laborer named P who rolled bidis in the factory.

Facts of the Case

The appellant, Shankar Balaji Waje, owned a factory that manufactured bidis. P, along with other laborers, rolled bidis in the factory using tobacco and leaves supplied by the factory. The established facts of the case were:

  1. There was no contract of service between the appellant and P.
  2. P was not bound to attend the factory for rolling bidis for any fixed hours or period; he was free to go to the factory at any time during working hours and leave the factory at any time he liked.
  3. P could be absent from the work any day he liked and for ten days without even informing the appellant. He had to take the permission of the appellant if he was to be absent for more than 10 days.
  4. P was not bound to roll the bidis at the factory. He could do so at home with the permission of the appellant for taking home the tobacco supplied to him.
  5. There was no actual supervision of the work done by him in the factory and at the close of the day rolled bidis were delivered to the appellant. Bidis not up to the standard were rejected.
  6. P was paid at fixed rates on the quantity of bidis turned out and there was no stipulating for turning out any minimum quantity of bidis.

The Inspector of Factories found that P was not paid the wages for 4 days’ leave which he had earned after having worked for a certain period. The appellant was fined Rs. 101- for contravening the provisions of s. 79(11) of the Factories Act.

Issues and Court’s Observations

The primary issues that arose for decision were whether P was a ‘worker’ within the meaning of that expression under the Act and whether he was entitled to any leave wages under s. 80 of the Act.

The court observed that the appellant exercised no control and supervision over P. He was not a worker as the three criteria and conditions laid down by this Court in Chintaman Rao’s case for constituting him as such were not fulfilled in the present case.

The court also observed that the appellant had not contravened the provisions of sub-s. (1) of s. 79 of the Act, which depended on the proper construction of ss. 79 and 80 of the Act. With the terms of the work as they were in the present case, there could be no basis for calculating the daily average of the worker’s “total full time earnings” which means the earnings he earns in a day by working full time on that day, the full time to be in accordance with the period of time given in the notice displayed in the factory for a particular day. Therefore, the wages to be paid for the leave period could not be calculated nor the number of days for which leave with wages could be allowed be calculated in such a case. The conviction of the appellant under s. 92 read with s. 79(1) of the Act was wrong.

Dissenting Opinion

Justice Subba Rao, however, dissented from the majority opinion. He held that the question raised in the appeal was directly covered by the judgment of this Court in Birdhi Chand Sharma case. He opined that the appellant had a right of supervision or

control over P and that P was a worker within the meaning of the Act. He also held that the appellant had contravened the provisions of s. 79(1) of the Act and was rightly convicted.

Justice Subba Rao’s dissenting opinion was based on the following observations:

  1. The appellant had the right to reject bidis not up to the standard, which indicated a right of supervision and control over the work of P.
  2. The appellant had the right to grant or refuse permission to P to take home the tobacco for rolling bidis, which indicated a right of control over the place of work.
  3. The appellant had the right to grant or refuse permission to P to be absent from work for more than ten days, which indicated a right of control over the hours of work.

Justice Subba Rao concluded that these rights of control and supervision were sufficient to constitute P as a ‘worker’ under the Act. He also held that the appellant had contravened the provisions of s. 79(1) of the Act by not paying P the wages for the leave period.

Conclusion

The case of Shankar Balaji Waje vs State Of Maharashtra is a landmark judgment that clarified the definition of a ‘worker’ under the Factories Act, 1948. The majority opinion held that P was not a ‘worker’ as the appellant exercised no control and supervision over him. However, the dissenting opinion held that the appellant had sufficient rights of control and supervision over P to constitute him as a ‘worker’. The case also highlighted the complexities involved in interpreting labor laws and the need for a clear and comprehensive definition of a ‘worker’ to ensure the effective implementation of labor rights and protections.