Restores order passed by Assistant Labour Commissioner

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that timely payment of wages to workers is a must to maintain peace and tranquility in an industry and an employer cannot deliberately delay salaries to employees.

The ruling came on a petition filed by the Hotel and Restaurant Karamchari Sangh against Gulmarg Hotel in Lucknow, challenging the allowing of a petition by the Allahabad High Court.

The petition was filed by the hotel management against the order of the Deputy Labour Commissioner of Lucknow region, issuing a certificate for recovery of Rs.60, 810 from the hotel as wage arrears to its employees. The certificate was issued under Uttar Pradesh Industrial Peace (Timely Payment of Wages) Act 1978, (UPIPA).

A Bench, comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice C.K. Thakker, in a judgment dated June 8, restored the order passed by the Assistant Labour Commissioner and quashed the impugned High Court order.

The UPIPA, enacted by the State Government to ensure timely payment of wages to maintain peace in bigger industrial establishments, is applicable only to those that produce, process, adopt or manufacture some articles and the amount of arrears of wages must be above Rs.50, 000.

The Labour Commissioner issued a show cause notice to respondent no.1 on October 19, 2000, and the reply was filed by the hotel on December 14 the same year, contending that the wage bill was below Rs.50, 000 as out of 22 employees eight had been paid their wages and nine employees were absconding.

The Assistant Commissioner rejected the contention of the hotel, on the grounds that the wage bill was above Rs. 50,000 on October 19,2000, the date of institution of the claim. Hence the arrears were recoverable as land revenue arrears.

The High Court set aside the order of the Assistant Labour Commissioner.

The Supreme Court held that the inquiry by the Labour Commissioner, contemplated under Section 3 of the Act, was limited in scope.

The establishment had made default in timely payment of wages.