State has power to fix minimum wages for apprentices: court


The Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association, Dindigul, has filed writ petitions

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has held that the State Government has power to fix minimum rates of wages even for apprentices.

That the government had the power was made clear by the power conferred on the government by the third part of Section 2 (i) to treat a person “to be an employee”.

Even if this was discarded, Section 3 (3) (a) (iii) steered clear any doubt in this regard, Justice V.Ramasubramanian said in his common order dismissing writ petitions.

Writ petition

The Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association, Dindigul, had filed writ petitions arising out of a challenge to a final notification issued by the Tamil Nadu Government fixing minimum rate of wages payable to apprentices engaged in employment of textile mills.

Its another writ petition challenged the vires of Section 3 (3) (a) (iii) of the Minimum Wages Act on the ground that no minimum rate of wages could be fixed for apprentices.

In his order, Mr.Justice Ramasubramanian said if the intention of the law makers was to exclude apprentices from the purview of the Minimum Wages Act, Section 3 (3) (a) (iii) would not have found a place in the statute.

No bar

“Therefore I am of the considered view that there is no bar under the Act for the government to treat an apprentice as an employee within the meaning of the Act and to issue a notification fixing minimum rates of wages for such apprentices.”

Mr.Justice Ramasubramanian said the fixation of minimum rate of wages was towards fulfilling the obligations under the international conventions and the Directive Principles of State Policy.

As regards the challenge to the constitutional validity of section 3 (3) (a) (iii) of the legislation, the judge said that it was now well settled that the vires of a statutory provision could be challenged only if it was violative of fundamental rights or if it was beyond the competence of Parliament or the Legislature to enact the same in the light of the Lists contained in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.


No such challenge was made in the writ petition. A challenge to the provision of a statute on the ground that it went against the scheme of the Act was so weak a ground that it could not stand scrutiny especially when such a provision had remained in the statute book for more than 60 years.


In any case, the challenge to the provision had not been made on any well accepted principles on which such challenges were possible, the judge said.

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