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Pinaki Das Vs The State of Jharkhand and Anr, Cr.M.P No. 1069/2018, (Jharkhand HC), for a violation related to the display of the Minimum Wages Act and Rules at their workplace.
Let us see the sections relating to the violations under the Minimum Wages Act
Section 22A: General provision for punishment of other offences. Any employer who contravenes any provision of this Act or of any rule or order made there under shall, if no other penalty is provided for such contravention by this Act, be punishable with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.]
Section 22C: Offences by companies. (1) If the person committing any offence under this Act is a company, every person who at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company as well as the company shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly
Brief highlights of the case in the Jharkhand High Court with Pinaki Das as the Petitioner versus the State of Jharkhand
- The complainant is the Labour Enforcement Officer (Central), Chaibasa and the case has been lodged against Eureka Forbes Ltd. represented by Sri Sapoor P. Mistry (Chairman) and Sri Pinaki Das, Regional Head (ER), the petitioner.
- The case of the complainant is that the above-named accused persons were executing the contract work of intensive coach cleaning work at the coach cleaning complex of Tatanagar Railway Station of South Eastern Railway, Tatanagar, District Singhbhum (E), Jharkhand and on inspection of the said establishment, the irregularity was observed that the accused person failed to display the notice showing the extract of the Act and Rules in Hindi and English at the workplace which was breach of Rule 22.
- It is submitted by the learned counsel on behalf of the petitioner that there has been a delay of six months between the time when the inspection was conducted and the time when the complaint was filed before the learned Court below. The cognizance has been taken only against this petitioner and not against the Company which violates the specific provision of Section 22-C of the Minimum Wages Act.
- It is submitted that this provision is part material to Section 141 of the Negotiable Instrument Act regarding which Hon’ble Supreme Court in Ashok Shewakarmani & Others Versus State of Andhra Pradesh & Another, 2023 SCC Online SC 958 wherein it has been held that merely because somebody is managing the affairs of the company, per se, he does not become in charge of the conduct of the business of the company or the person responsible for the company for the conduct of the business of the company.
- Learned counsel on behalf of the opposite party opposed the quashing petition.
- It is submitted that this petitioner was Head of the Eastern Region and was responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the Company and it is a case of direct liability and not a case of vicarious liability for which the principles as stated by the learned counsel on behalf petitioner will apply. It is submitted that after inspection, notices were served on the petitioner which was not responded to which resulted in delay in filing the present complaint. The complaint was filed within the statutory period on 10th February 2012. Reliance has been placed on Kapil Agarwal & Others Versus Sanjay Sharma, (2021) 5 SCC 524
- In the present case, there is no direct allegation against this petitioner that he was personally liable for not displaying the notice of the Act and Rule in Hindi and English at the workplace. This allegation is directed against the Company and the petitioner has been proceeded against as he held the position of head of Eastern Region. Thus, this is a case where vicarious liability is sought to be imputed based on averments made in the complaint petition.
Under the circumstance, the provision of Section 22-C of the Minimum Wages Act will be applicable and the Trial Court needed to have taken cognizance against the Company and without such cognizance, there is infirmity in the order of cognizance.
- Under the circumstance, this Court is of the view that the order taking cognizance is not sustainable and it is accordingly, set aside.
- In conclusion, the case highlights the intricacies of criminal liability in the context of labour laws and underscores the importance of understanding both direct and vicarious liability. The legal community will keenly observe how this case contributes to the evolving jurisprudence surrounding workplace offences and employer accountability.
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