29 September 1969
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (civil) 1617 of 1967






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 29/09/1969


CITATION:  1970 AIR 2042            1970 SCR  (2) 600  1970 SCC  (1)  43  CITATOR INFO :  R          1976 SC 490  (197)  R          1984 SC 326  (8)  D          1987 SC  71  (15)  R          1988 SC 686  (12)

ACT: Minimum  Wages  Act, 1948 ss.  5(1)--Validity  of--Power  of Government  to  fix  minimum Wages either by  method  in  s. 5(1)(a) or s. 5(1) (b)   whether      unguided-Power      of Government to fix minimum wages whether restrictive of trade and   business-Whether  a  quasi-judicial  power   requiring compliance  with rules of natural  justice-Fixing  different rates  of wages for different industries and  zones  whether valid-Valuation of food supplied to workmen.

HEADNOTE: Section 5(1) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 provides for the fixation  and  revision of minimum wages  in  the  scheduled industries by the appropriate Government.  Under s.  5(1)(a) such  fixation or revision is to be made after enquiry by  a committee or committees appointed for the purpose.  Under s, 5(1)(b)  the  appropriate  Government  may  by  notification publish  its proposals in this regard and take its  decision after considering the representations of those affected.  if the  Government  adopts the latter method  for  revision  of wages,  it has also before doing so to consult the  Advisory Board  constituted under the Act.  The State  Government  of Mysore after following the method prescribed in s. 5(1)  (b) and  after consulting the Advisory Board  constituted  under s.,  7  of the Act by notification in S.O.  1038  dated  1st June, 1967 fixed the minimum wages for different classes  of employees  in residential hostels and eating houses  in  the State of Mysore.  The appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court questioning the validity of the notification  and failing there, appealed to this Court.  The notification was also  challenged  by a writ petition under Art.  32  of  the Constitution.   It was urged on behalf of the appellant  and petitioners that the power given to the Government to choose



between the methods provided in ss. 5(1) (a) and 5(1)(b) was arbitrary  and unguided; that the arbitrary power  given  to the  Central and State Governments to fix minimum wages  was violative of freedom of trade guaranteed in Art. 19(1)(f) of the Constitution; that the State Government had not observed the  principles of natural justice in exercising its  quasi- judicial  power  of fixing minimum wages; and  that  it  was incumbent  on  Government to appoint a  committee  under  S. 5(1)(a).   The  fixation  of different rates  of  wages  for different  industries  and  zones  in  the  State  was  also attacked.   It was finally submitted that the  valuation  of the  food supplied to the workmen was without  authority  of law and at an unreasonably low figure. HELD  :  Procedural inequality if real  and  substantial  is within.  the vice of Art 14.  But if a power is given to  an authority  to  have recourse to different  procedures  under different circumstances, that power cannot be considered  an arbitrary  power.  The power under s. 5(1) is given  to  the State  Government and not to any petty official.  The  State Government can be, trusted to exercise that power to further the purposes of the Act. [608 H-609 B] Art.  43  of  the  Constitution  as  well  ’as  the   Geneva Convention of 1928 enjoin the State to secure to all workers conditions  of work ensuring a decent standard of  life  and full enjoyment of leisure and social 601 and cultural opportunities.  The fixing of the minimum wages is  !lust the first step in that direction.  The concept  of minimum  wage is likelY to undergo a change with the  growth of  our  economy  and with the change  in  the  standard  of living.   It is not a static concept Its  concomitants  must necessarily  increase with the progress of the Society.   It is  absolutely impossible for the legislature  to  undertake the  task of fixing minimum wages in respect of an  industry much  less in respect of an employment.  That  process  must necessarily be left to the Government. [609 G-H; 610 A] In  respect of s. 5(1) the legislative policy has been  laid down  with sufficient clearness.  The Government  is  merely charged with the duty of implementing that policy.   Whether under  s. 5(1)(a) or under s. 5(1)(b) the procedure is  only for gathering the necessary information.  The Government  is not bound by the advice of the committee appointed under  s. 5(1)(a).   Discretion  to select one of the  two  procedures prescribed for collecting the data is advisedly left to  the Government.  The powers conferred  on the Government  cannot be  considered  as  either unguided  or  arbitrary.  In  the present  case the Government had before it the  question  of fixing    minimum  wages for residential hotels  and  eating houses since 1960 and therefore, it was reasonable to assume that it had adequate material on the basis of which it could formulate  its proposals.  Before publishing its  proposals, the   Government  bad  consulted  the   advisory   committee constituted  under s. 7. Under those circumstances it  could not  be held that either the power conferred under  s.  5(1) was an arbitrary power or that the same had been arbitrarily exercised. [610 B-G] (ii) There was nothing to show that the minimum wages  fixed were basically wrong so as to adversely affect the  industry or even a small unit therein.  If they do, then the industry or  the  unit  as the case may be has  no  right  to  exist. Freedom  of  trade does not mean freedom  to  exploit.   The provisions of the Constitution are not erected as  barriers’ to  progress.  It  is  a  fallacy  to  think  that  in   our Constitution there are only rights and no duties There is no conflict  between Part III and Part IV of  the  Constitution



which are complementary and supplemental to each other.  The hopes  and aspirations aroused by the Constitution  will  be the minimum needs of the lowest of our citizens are not met. based on Art. 19(1) (f) raised in the present case could not therefore succeed. [612 B-E] (iii)  The  principles of natural justice are  not  embodied rules.  What  particular rules of natural justice,  if  any, should  apply to a given case must depend to a great  extent on the facts and circumstances of that the framework of  the law under which the enquiry is held and the constitution  of the  tribunal or body of persons appointed for the  purpose. Taking  into  consideration the provisions  of  the  Minimum Wages Act, the objective behind it, the purposes intended to be  achieved and the high authority on which power had  been conferred there could be no doubt that the procedure adopted was adequate and effective.  There was equally no doubt that reasonable  opportunity had been given to all the  concerned parties  to represent their case.  It could not be  accepted that  the  impugned  order  was  vitiated  because  of   the Government’s failure to constitute a committee under s. 5(1) (a). [612 H-613 C] There  was  also  no substance in the  contention  that  the Government  was not competent to enhance the rate  mentioned in the proposals published.  If it had power to reduce those rates ’as desired by the employers, it necessarily  followed that it had power to enhance them, There was no merit in the contention  that the Government must go on  publishing  pro- posals  after  proposals until a stage is reached  where  no change  whatsoever  is  necessary to be  made  in  the  last proposal made. [613 C] 602 (iv) The contention that the Government has no power to  fix different  minimum  wages  for different  industries  or  in different  localities is no more available in view  of  this Court’s  decisions in M/s Bhaikusa Yamasa Kahatriya’s  case. The  fixation  of minimum wages depends  on  the  prevailing economic  conditions,  the cost of living in  a  place,  the nature  of  the work to be performed and the  conditions  in which  the  work is performed.  The contention that  it  was impermissible  for the Government to divide the  State  into several  zones  was  opposed to s. 3(3) as well  as  to  the scheme of the Act. [613 E] On the basis of the material on record it could not be  said that   the  various  zones  had  no  rational   basis.    In considering the Zones the relevant consideration is the cost of  living  in  a  locality  and  not  the  cost  of  living index.[613 F] (v)  On the facts of the case the contention relating to the value  of the food that may be supplied to an  employee  was not  merely petty but misconcived.  The supply of  meals  to workers, was only an option given and not a duty imposed  on the  employer.  Therefore the procedure prescribed in r.  21 of  the rules framed under the Act was inapplicable  to  the case.   The  supply  of food was an  amenity  and  the  rule applicable was therefore r. 22(2)(v). [Question  whether  fixation of minimum wages  is  a  quasi- judicial act left open]. Suraj Mall Mohta and Co. v. A. V. Visvanatha Sastri and Anr. [1955]  1  S.CR. 448; Unnichoyi and Ors v. State  of  Kerala [1962]  1, S.C.R. 946; The Edward Mills Co. Ltd, Beawar  and Ors.  v. The State of Ajmer and Anr. [1955] 1,  S.C.R.  735; Bijay  Cotton  Mills  Ltd. v. The State of  Ajmer  [1955]  1 S.C.R. 752, A. K. Kraipak v. Union of India [1970] 1  S.C.R. 457; M/s Bhaikusa Yamasa Kahatriya v. Sangamner Akola Taluka Bidi Kumgar Union [1963] Supp.  1 S.C.R. 524; referred to,



JUDGMENT: CIVIL  APPELLATE  JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal  No.  1617  of 1967. Appeal from the judgment and order dated September 18,  1967 of the Mysore High Court in Writ Petition No. 1417 of 1967 and Writ Petition No. 207 of 1967. Petition   under  Art.  32  of  the  Constitution  for   the enforcement of the fundamental rights. A.   K. Sen and R. Gopalakrishnan, for the appellant (in  C. A. No. 1  617 of 1967). S.   T.  Desai,  S.  N.  Prasad and R.  B.  Datar,  for  the petitioners in W.P. No. 207 of 1967). Niren  De, Attorney-General, S. S. Javali and S.  P.  Nayar, for  respondents  Nos. 1 and 2 (C.A. No. 1617 of  1967)  and respondent No. 1 (in W.P. No. 207 of 1967). S.   S.  Khanduja, for respondent No. 2 (in W.P. No. 207  of 1967). R.   Gopalakrishnan, for the intervener (in W.P. No. 207  of 1967). 603 The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Hegde, J. The above mentioned appeal by certificate as  well as  the  petition under Art. 32 of  the  Constitution  raise identical  questions  of  law for decision.  In  both  these proceedings  the validity of the notification issued by  the Government  of Mysore in S.O. 1038 dated the 1st  June  1967 fixing  the minimum wages of different classes of  employees in residential hotels and eating houses the State of Mysore, under  the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (to  be hereinafter referred to as the Act) is called into question. The Civil Appeal arises from the decision of the High  Court of  Mysore  rejecting the various  contentions  advanced  on behalf of some of the hotel owners questioning the  validity of the impugned notification.  The writ petition is filed by the All Mysore Hotels Association, Bangalore and the  Madras Woodlands Hotel raising those very contentions. The impugned notification was challenged on several  grounds before  the High Court but in this Court only some of  those grounds were pressed.  The grounds urged in this Court are: (1)  Section 5(1) of the Act is violative of Art. 14 of  the Constitution   as  it  confers  unguided  and   uncontrolled discretion  on  the  Government  to  follow  either  of  the alternative  procedures  prescribed in cls. (a) and  (b)  of that sub-section. (2)  The provisions of the Act are unconstitutional as  they confer  arbitrary power without guidance to the Central  and the  State  Governments concerned to fix  minimum  rates  of wages   and  thus  interfere  with  the  freedom  of   trade guaranteed under Art. 19(1)(g) of our Constitution. (3)  It  was incumbent on the Government to appoint  a  com- mittee  under  s. 5 (1) (a) of the Act to inquire  into  and advise  it  in  the matter of  fixing  minimum  wages.   Its failure  to  do  so has resulted  in  fixing  minimum  wages arbitrarily. (4)  Fixing of minimum wages under the provisions of the Act being  a  quasi-judicial act, the  Government’s  failure  to observe, the principles of natural justice has vitiated  its decision. (5)  It  was  not  permissible for  the  Government  to  fix different minimum   wages in different industries. (6)  The  division  of  the  State  into  zones  and  fixing different  rates  of minimum wages for different  zones  was



impermissible under the Act. (7)  The  division of the State into zones was not  done  on any rational basis and, L3Sup.  CI./70-8 604 (8)  The  valuation  of  the  food to  be  provided  to  the employees is unreasonably low and the same was clone without the authority of law. The Act came to be enacted to give effect to the resolutions passed by the minimum wages fixing Machinery Convention held at  Geneva  in  1928.   The  relevant  resolutions  of   the Convention   are  embodied  in  Art.  223  to  228  of   the International Labour Code.  The object of these  resolutions as stated in Art. 224 was to fix minimum wages in industries "in which no arrangements exist for the effective regulation of  wages  by collective agreements or otherwise  and  wages are,  exceptionally low".  The central  legislature  enacted the  Act in 1948 and it came into force on March  15,  1948. The long title to the Act says that it is an Act for  fixing minimum  rates  of  wages  for  certain  employments.    The preamble  to the Act says that "it is expedient  to  provide for  fixing minimum rates of wages in certain  employments". Section  2  defines certain terms.  Section 3  empowers  the appropriate  government  which expression is defined  in  s. 2(b)  to  fix  the minimum rates of  wages  payable  to  the employees  employed in an employment specified in Part I  or in Part II of the Sch. and in any employment added to either part  in exercise of the powers granted under s. 27  of  the Act.   Cl.  (b)  of  S.  3  (2)  empowers  the   appropriate Government to review at such intervals as it may think  fit, such  intervals not exceeding five years, minimum  rates  of wages  so fixed and revise the minimum rates, if  necessary. Sub-s.  (3)  of that section stipulates that  in  fixing  or revising minimum rates of wages under that section different minimum  rates of wages may be fixed in different  scheduled employments  for  different  classes of  work  in  the  same scheduled  employment for adults, adolescents, children  and apprentices   and  for  different  localities.   Section   4 prescribes the different methods in which the minimum  rates of wages can be fixed.  Section 5 is important for our  pre- sent purpose.  It reads thus :               "(1)  In  fixing  minimum rates  of  wages  in               respect  of any scheduled employment  for  the               first  time  under  this Act  or  in  revising               minimum   rates   of  wages  so   fixed,   the               appropriate Government shall either-               (a)   appoint  as  many  committees  and  sub-               committees  as it considers necessary to  hold               enquiries  and  advise it in respect  of  such               fixation or revision, as the case may be, or               (b)   by notification in the Official Gazette,               publish  its proposals for the information  of               persons  likely  to be  affected  thereby  and               specify a date, not less than two months  from               the  date  of the notification  on  which  the               proposals will be taken into consideration.               60 5               (2)   After  considering  the  advice  of  the               committee or committees appointed under clause               (a) of sub-section (1) or as the case may  be,               all representations received by it before  the               date  specified  in  the  notification   under               clause   (b)   of   that   sub-section,    the               appropriate Government shall, by  notification               in  the Official Gazette, fix or, as the  case



             may  be, revise the minimum rates of wages  in               respect  of  each  scheduled  employment,  and               unless  such notification otherwise  provides,               it  shall  come into force on  the  expiry  of               three months from the date of its issue :               Provided that where the appropriate Government               proposes to revise the minimum rates of  wages               by  the mode specified in clause (b)  of  sub-               section (1), the appropriate Government  shall               consult the Advisory Board also." Section 7 says that for the purpose of coordinating the work of  committees and sub-committees appointed under s.  5  and for  advising  it  generally in the  matter  of  fixing  and revising  the  rates of wages,  the  appropriate  Government should  appoint an Advisory Board.  Section 8  provides  for the  appointment  of a Central Advisory  Board.   Section  9 prescribes  the  composition of the various  committees  and sub-committees under s. 5 and the Advisory Boards under  ss. 7  and 8. Section 1 1 authorises the appropriate  Government to fix wages in kind under certain circumstances and to  fix its value in terms of money.  Section 12 stipulates that the employer shall pay to every employee engaged in a  scheduled employment   the  minimum  rates  of  wages  fixed  by   the notification.  The other provisions of the Act except s.  27 are  not relevant for our present purpose.  Section  27  em- powers  the appropriate Government to add to either part  of the Sch. any employment in respect of which it is of opinion that  the minimum rates of wages should be fixed  under  the Act. The  Sch. to the Act as it originally stood did not  include residential  hotels and eating houses but they were  brought into part I of the Sch. by the State Government on June  18, 1959 in exercise of its powers under s. 27. The  State Government of Mysore fixed the minimum  rates  of wages  to different categories of employees  in  residential hotels and eating houses situate within the municipal limits of  Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli, Mangalore and Belgaum as  well as  in the area of the Kolar Gold Fields Sanitary  Board  as per  its  notification  published on June  16,  1960.   That notification  was  quashed by the High Court  of  Mysore  on November   10,  1961,  at  the  instance  of  some  of   the proprietors  of  residential  hotels and  eating  houses  in proceedings  under Art. 226 of the Constitution on the  sole ground 606 that as the notification in question applied only to certain parts  of  the  State and not to the whole  of  it,  it  was invalid.   A fresh notification under s. 5(1)(b) of the  Act containing  certain  proposals  was  issued  by  the   State Government for fixing minimum wages for different classes of employees  in  residential  hotels  and  eating  houses,  on December  9,  1964 but no further action was  taken  on  the basis of that notification.  On October 28, 1966, the  State Government  after consulting the Mysore State Minimum  Wages Advisory  Board  published  in the  Official  Gazette  fresh proposals  under s. 5 (1 ) (b) for fixing minimum wages  for different categories of employees in residential hotels  and eating  houses  in  the State.  The  parties  affected  were called upon to submit their representations regarding  those proposals.   Various  representations  from  the  interested parties  were received.  Thereafter the Minister for  Labour summoned  a meeting of the interested parties on  April  27, 1967  for  considering those proposals.   That  meeting  was attended by the representatives of the employers as well  as employees.   It was also attended by the representatives  of



various  hotel  owners’ associations in the State.   At  the meeting  the  employers ’representatives  pleaded  that  the minimum  wages  proposed to be fixed are excessive  but  the representatives of the employees’ asserted that the proposed rates  are  low  and that they should  be  enhanced.   After considering the written as well as the oral  representations made by the concerned parties, the impugned notification was issued.  The minimum wages fixed under that notification  is somewhat higher than that proposed. We  have earlier referred to the circumstances  under  which the  Act  came  to  be enacted as  well  as  the  objectives intended to be achieved by the Act.  In that context we  may also  refer to a passage in the report of the  Committee  on Fair   Wages  appointed  by  the  Central  Government.    In paragraph 8 of that report, it is observed :               "The  demand for the fixation of  the  minimum               wage arose, in the first instance, out of  the               clamour  for the eradication of the  evils  of               "sweating".   Thus  in  the  early  days,  the               operation of the minimum wage legislation  was               confined to employments which paid unduly  low               wages.  There has since been increasing demand               for  the  fixation of minimum wages so  as  to               cover     even     non-sweated     industries,               particularly   those   in  which   labour   is               unorganised or is only weakly organised.   The               International  Convention of  1928  prescribes               the   setting   up  of   minimum   wage-fixing               machinery  in  industries  in  which  "no  ar-               rangements exist for the effective  regulation               of wages by collective agreement or  otherwise               and wages are exceptionally low".  The Minimum               Wages Act passed by the               607               Indian   Legislature  last  year   was   found               necessary on both these grounds.               In foreign countries, particularly  Australia,               Newzealand,  the United States of America  and               Canada, where the national wealth is high,  the               living  wage  forms the primary basis  of  the               minimum wage.  In these countries there is not               much distinction between the two.  The  I.L.O.               monograph on the Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery               contains the following passage on the  subject               :               "The  bases specified in various laws  include               the  living  wage basis, and  that  of  fixing               minimum wages in any trade in relation to  the               wages  paid to workers in the same  trades  in               other  districts or in relation to  the  wages               paid  to  workers of similar  grade  in  other               trades.   There  is a third  important  basis,               namely,   the  capacity  of   the   individual               industry  or  of industry in  general,  which,               though  sometimes not expressly  mentioned  in               minimum  wage laws, must always be taken  into               account   in  practice............   A   close               relation exists between them.  As a basis  for               wage-fixing  it would be valueless to make  an               estimate of a living wage beyond the  capacity               of industry to pay.  Here capacity of industry               as a whole, and not of each separate  industry               or branch is to be understood."               From  this analysis of the bases of fixing  of               the  minimum wage, it will be seen that, as  a



             rule, though the living wage is the target, it               has   to   be  tempered,  even   in   advanced               countries,     by    other     considerations,               particularly  the  general level of  wages  in               other industries and the capacity of  industry               to  pay.  This view has been accepted  by  the               Bombay Textile Labour Inquiry Committee  which               says  that "the living wage basis  affords  an               absolute    external    standard    for    the               determination of the minimum" and that  "where               a  living wage criterion has been used in  the               giving  of an award or the fixing of  a  wage,               the decision has always been tempered by other               considerations of a practical character."               In  India, however, the level of the  national               income  is  so  low  at  present  that  it  is               generally  accepted  that the  country  cannot               afford  to  prescribe by law  a  minimum  wage               which  would correspond to the concept of  the               living  wage  as described  in  the  preceding               paragraphs.  What then should be the level  of               minimum  wages which can be sustained  by  the               present stage of the country’s economy ?  Most               employers  and  some  Provincial   Governments               consider that the minimum wage can at pre-               608               sent  be  only a bare  subsistence  wage.   In               fact,    even    one    important    all-India               organization  of employees has suggested  that               "a   minimum  wage  is  that  wage  which   is               sufficient to cover the bare physical needs of               a   worker  and  his   family".    Many others,               however,    who    have   replied    to    our               questionnaire,  consider that a  minimum  wage               should  also provide for some other  essential               requirements  such as a minimum of  education,               medical  facilities and other  amenities.   We               consider that a minimum wage must provide  not               merely for the bare sustenance of life but for               the  preservation  of the  efficiency  of  the               worker.   For this purpose, the, minimum  wage               must   also  provide  for  some   measure   of               education,     medical    requirements     and               amenities." It is now convenient to examine the various contentions  ad- vanced  on behalf of the appellant and the petitioners.   It was  contended that S. 5(1) of the Act is violative of  Art. 14   of  the  Constitution  as  it  confers   unguided   and uncontrolled  discretion to the Government to follow  either of the two alternative procedures prescribed in that section in  the matter of fixing minimum wages.  It was  urged  that under  cl.  (a)  of S. 5(1) the  appropriate  Government  is required  to appoint a committee representing all  interests to   hold  a  detailed  enquiry  regarding   the   concerned employment  before advising the Government in the matter  of fixing  minimum wages but under cl. (b) of S. 5(1) all  that the  appropriate  Government  need  do  is  to  publish   by notification  in the Official Gazette its proposals for  the information  of the persons likely to be affected  by  those proposals and specify a. date not less than two months  from the date of the notification on which the proposals will  be taken  into  consideration.   It  was  urged  that  if   the procedure  prescribed in S. 5(1) (a) is adopted it would  be advantageous to the employers because in the committee to be appointed,   there  will  be  the  representatiVes  of   the



employers  who  know the difficulties of the  employers  and hence  are in a position to acquaint their colleagues  about the  same but if the procedure prescribed in S.  5(1)(b)  is followed, the affected parties can only submit their written representations followed by some nominal oral representation in  a  crowded  meeting.  While  dealing  with  that  topic, assistance was sought from the rule laid down by this  Court in  Surak Mall Mohta and Co. v. A. V. Visvanatha Sastri  and anr.  (1) and the other decisions of this Court  reiterating that rule.  It is true that this Court has firmly ruled that the  procedural inequality, if real and substantial is  also within the vice of Art. 14.  But then, before a power can be held  to  be  bad  the  same  should  be  an  unguided   and unregulated one.  But if a power is given to an authority to have recourse to different pro- (1)  [1955] 1 S. C. R. 448. 609 cedures under different circumstances, that power cannot  be considered   as  an  arbitrary  power.   It  must  also   be remembered  that power under S. 5(1) is given to  the  State Government  and  not  to  any  petty  official.   The  State Government can be trusted to exercise that power to  further the  purposes  of  the  Act.  It is not  the  law  that  the guidance  for the exercise of a power should  be  gatherable from  one of the provisions in the Act.  It can be  gathered from the circumstances that led to the enactment of the  law in  question  i.e.  the mischief that was  intended  to  be, remedied, the preamble to the Act or even from the scheme of the Act. We  have earlier noticed the circumstances under  which  the Act  came  to  be enacted.  Its main object  is  to  prevent sweated  labour  as  well  as  exploitation  of  unorganised labour.  It proceeds on the basis that it is the duty of the State  to  see that at least minimum wages are paid  to  the employees  irrespective of the capacity of the  industry  or unit  to  pay  the  same.  The mandate of  Art.  43  of  the Constitution is that the State should endeavour to secure by suitable  legislation  or economic Organisation  or  in  any other  way,  to  all workers,  agricultural,  industrial  or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work  ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of liesure  and social  and cultural opportunities.  The fixing  of  minimum wages  is just the first step in that direction.  In  course of time the State has to- take many more steps to  implement that  mandate.   As  seen earlier that  resolutions  of  the Geneva  Convention of 1928, which had been accepted by  this country  called upon the covenanting States to  fix  minimum wages  for the employees in employments where the labour  is unorganized  or where the wages paid are low.  Minimum  wage does not mean wage just sufficient for bare sustenance.   At present the conception of a minimum wage is a wage which  is somewhat intermediate to a wage which is just sufficient for bare sustenance and a fair wage.  That concept includes  not only  the wage sufficient to meet the bare sustenance of  an employee and his family, it also includes expenses necessary for  his  other  primary needs  such  as  medical  expenses, expenses  to meet some education for his children,  in  some cases  transport charges etc.-see U. Unnichoyi and  Ors.  v. State  of Kerala(1).  The concept of minimum wage is  likely to undergo a change with the growth of our economy, and with the  change in the standard of living.  It is not  a  static concept.   Its concomitants must necessarily  increase  with the  progress of the society.  It is likely to differ,  from place to place and from industry to industry.  That is clear from the provisions of the Act itself and is inherent in the



very  concept.   That  being  the  case  it  is   absolutely impossible for the legislature to undertake the task of fix- ing  minimum wages in respect of any industry much  less  in respect of an employment.  That process must necessarily  be left to the (1)  [1962] 1, SC.R. 946. 610 Government.   Before minimum wages in any employment can  be fixed  it  will be necessary to collect  considerable  data. That cannot be done by the legislature.  It can be best done by  the  Government.   The legislature  has  determined  the legislative policy and formulated the same as a binding rule of  conduct.   The  legislative policy  is  enumerated  with sufficient clearness.  The Government is merely charged with the duty of implementing that policy.  There is no basis for saying that the legislature had abdicated any of its  legis- lative  functions.   The  legislature  has  prescribed   two different procedures for collecting the necessary data,  one contained  in  s.5(1)(a) and the other in  s.  5(1)(b).   In either  case  it  is merely a procedure  for  gathering  the necessary  information.  The Government is not bound by  the advice  given by the committee appointed under  s.  5(1)(a). Discretion  to select one of the two  procedures  prescribed for collecting the data is advisedly left to the Government. In  the case of a particular employment, the Government  may have  sufficient  data  in its possession to  enable  it  to formulate  proposals under s. 5 ( 1)(b).  Therefore  it  may not be necessary for it to constitute a committee to  tender advice  to it but in the case of another employment  it  may not be in possession of sufficient data.  Therefore it might be necessary for it to constitute a committee to collect the data and tender its advice.  If the Government is  satisfied that  it  has  enough material before it  to  enable  it  to proceed  under s. 5 (1) (b) it can very well do  so.   Which procedure  should  be adopted in any  particular  employment depends on the nature of the employment and the  information the Government has in its possession about that  employment. Hence  the  powers  conferred on the  Government  cannot  be considered as either unguided or arbitrary.  In the, instant case  as seen earlier the question of fixing wages  for  the various  categories of employees in residential  hotels  and eating  houses was before the Government from 1960  and  the Government  had taken various steps in that regard.   It  is reasonable  to  assume  that  by  the  time  the  Government published  the proposals in pursuance of which the  impugned notification  was issued it had before it adequate  material on  the  basis of which it could  formulate  its  proposals. Before  publishing  those  proposals,  the  Government   had consulted  the  advisory committee constituted under  s.  7. Under  those  circumstances we are unable to accede  to  the contention that either the power conferred under s. 5(1)  is an  arbitrary  power or that the same had  been  arbitrarily exercised. The validity of some of the provisions in the Act  including s.  5 came up for consideration by this Court in The  Edward Mills  Co.  Ltd., Beawar and Ors. v. The State of Ajmer  and Anr.  (1)  and in Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd. v.  The  State  of Ajmer(2).   In  the former case, it was  observed  that  the legislative policy is apparent on (1). [1955] 1 S.C.R. 735. (2). [1955] 1 S.C.R. 752, 611 the face of the enactment.  What it aims at is the statutory fixation  of  the minimum wages with a view to  obviate  the chances  of exploitation of labour.  It is to carry out  the



purpose  of the enactment that power has been given  to  the appropriate  Government  to decide with reference  to  local conditions whether it is desirable that minimum wage  should be  fixed in regard to a particular trade or  industry.   In the  latter case, the validity of s. 5 was assailed  on  the ground  that  it  is violative of Art.  19  (1)  (g).   That challenge  was negatived by this Court.  Dealing with  s.  5 (1) this what the Court observed therein:               "As  regards the procedure for the  fixing  of               minimum  wages, the  "appropriate  Government"               has undoubtedly been given very large  powers.               But it has to take into consideration,  before               fixing  wages, the advice of the committee  if               one  is appointed, or the  representations  on               his  proposals made by persons who are  likely               to  be  affected thereby.   Consultation  with               advisory  bodies has been made  obligatory  on               all  occasions of revision of  minimum  wages,               and  section  8 of the Act  provides  for  the               appointment  of a Central Advisory  Board  for               the purpose of advising the Central as well as               the  State  Government both in the  matter  of               fixing  and revision of minimum  wages.   Such               Central  Advisory  body is to act  also  as  a               coordinating  agent for coordinating the  work               of  the  different advisory  bodies.   In  the               committees   or   the  advisory   bodies   the               employers  and  the employees  have  an  equal               number   of  representatives  and  there   are               certain  independent members besides them  who               are expected to take a fair and impartial view               of  the  matter.   These  provisions,  in  our               opinion,  constitute  an  adequate   safeguard               against  any hasty or capricious  decision  by               the  "appropriate  Government".   In  suitable               cases  the "appropriate Government"  has  also               been  given the power of  granting  exemptions               from  the operation of the provisions of  this               Act." It is true that in those cases the validity of s. 5 was  not challenged as being ultra vires Art. 14 of the Constitution. But  the observations quoted above afford an answer  to  the plea  that  the  power  granted  to  the  Government  is  an arbitrary power. It  was  complained  that  an  examination  of  the  various proposals  made  by  the Government ever  since  1960  would clearly  show that the Government was out to fix fair  wages and  not minimum wages.  From stage to stage it has gone  on proposing  higher  and higher wages and under  the  impugned notification the wages fixed are higher than those proposed. We were told that if the prescribed 612 rates  are sustained, the hotel industry would  be  crippled and  tile smaller units in that industry will be driven  out of the trade. Our  attention  was not drawn to any material on  record  to show  that  the  minimum wages fixed  are  basically  wrong. Prima  facie  they  appear to be  reasonable.   We  are  not convinced  that the rates prescribed would adversely  affect the industry of even a small unit therein.  If they do, then the industry or the unit as the case may be has no right  to exist.   Freedom of trade does not mean freedom to  exploit. The  provisions of the Constitution are not erected  as  the barriers  to  progress.   They provide a  plan  for  orderly progress  towards  the  social  order  contemplated  by  the



preamble  to the Constitution.  They do not permit any  kind of slavery, social, economic or political.  It is a  fallacy to  think that under our Constitution there are only  rights and  no duties.  While rights conferred under Part  III  are fundamental,   the  directives  given  under  Part  IV   are fundamental  in  the governance of the country.  We  see  no conflict  on the whole between the provisions  contained  in Part III and Part IV.  They are complementary and supplemen- tary  to each other.  The provisions of Part IV  enable  the legislatures and the Government to impose various duties  on the citizens.  The provisions therein are deliberately  made elastic  because  the duties to be imposed on  the  citizens depend  on the extent to which the directive principles  are implemented.  The mandate of the Constitution is to build  a welfare,  society  in which justice social,  economical  and political  shall  inform all institutions  of  our  national life.  The hopes and aspirations aroused by the Constitution will  be  belied if the minimum needs of the lowest  of  our citizens are not met. It  was urged on behalf of the hotel owners that  the  power conferred  to  fix  the  minimum  wage  on  the  appropriate Government  under S. 5(1) is a quasi-judicial power  and  in exercising  that power, it was incumbent on the  appropriate Government  to  observe the principles of  natural  justice. The  Government having failed to observe  those  principles, the fixation of wages made is liable to be struck down.   It is  unnecessary  for  our present purpose  to  go  into  the question whether the power given under the Act to fix  mini- mum  wages  is a quasi-judicial power or  an  administrative power.  As observed by this Court in A. K. Kraipak v.  Union of  India(1),  the dividing line between  an  administrative power  and quasi-judicial power is quite thin and  is  being gradually obliterated.  It is further observed therein  that principles  of natural justice apply to the exercise of  the administrative powers as well.  But those principles are not embodied rules.  What particular rule of natural justice, if any, should apply to a given case must depend to a (1)  [1970] 1 S. C. 457. 613 great  extent on the facts and circumstances of  that  case, the framework of the law under which the enquiry is held and the  constitution  of  the  tribunal  or  body  of   persons appointed for the purpose. Taking  into  consideration the provisions of the  Act,  the objective  behind  the  Act, the  purposes  intended  to  be achieved  and  the  high  authority on  whom  the  power  is conferred,  we have no doubt that the procedure adopted  was adequate  and  effective.   We have equally  no  doubt  that reasonable  opportunity had been given to all the  concerned parties  to  represent their case.  We are unable  to  agree that  the impugned order is vitiated because of the  Govern- ment’s  failure to constitute a committee under s.  5(1)(a). We see no substance in the contention that the Government is not competent to enhance the rate of wages mentioned in  the proposals published.  If it has power to reduce those rates, as desired by the employers, it necessarily follows that  it has  power  to  enhance  them.  There is  no  merit  in  the contention  that  the  Government  must  go  on   publishing proposals after proposals until a stage is reached where  no change  whatsoever  is  necessary to be  made  in  the  last proposal made. The  contention  that  the Government has no  power  to  fix different  minimum  wages  for different  industries  or  in different  localities  is no more available in view  of  the decision of this Court in M/s. Bhaikusa Yamasa Kahatriya  v.



Sangamner  Akola Taluka Bidi Kamgar Union(1).  The  fixation of   minimum  wages  depend  on  the   prevailing   economic conditions, the cost of living in a place, the nature of the work to be performed and the conditions in which the work is performed.  The contention that it was impermissible for the Government to divide the State into several zones is opposed to s. 3(3) as well as to the scheme of the Act. On the basis of the material before us we are unable to  say that  the  various zones had not been made on  any  rational basis.  The Government has given good reasons in support  of the  steps  taken by it.  Bangalore is the  capital  of  the State  and  Mangalore is a major port.  Therefore  they  may stand   on  a  different  footing.   In  matter   like   the preparation  of zones we have to trust the State  Government unless  it  is  shown that  collateral  considerations  have influenced  its  decision.   No such plea  was  taken.   The argument based on cost of living index showing that cost  of living index was higher in several other towns in the  State than Bangalore or Mangalore is not a well founded  argument. The  cost  of living is one thing, cost of living  index  is another.  What is relevant is the former and not the latter. The  latter depends on the base year, which is not the  same in all the towns and the prices of certain selected goods in each of the towns concerned in the base year and  thereafter which again is likely to differ from town to town. (1)  [1953] Supp.  1 S.C.R. 524. 614 The contention relating to the value of the food that may be supplied  to  the  employee  is  not  merely  petty,  it  is misconceived  as  well.  For example the  employers  contend that  a minimum wage of Rs. 80/- per month in Bangalore  and Mangalore  for a cleaner is excessive at the same time  they assert  that the computation of the value of the food to  be supplied to him at Rs. 40/- per month is not adequate.  They fail  to see the obvious contradictions in those pleas.   In fixing  minimum wages, a family of three members has  to  be taken into consideration.  Further the food is not the  only item taken into consideration.  ’We have earlier referred to the  other components of a minimum wage.  Therefore  if  the value  of  the food supplied has to  be  increased,  minimum wages also will have to be increased.  Further the  impugned notification  does not authorise under S. 11(2) the  payment of any portion of wages in kind.  It merely says that if the employer supplies free meals to any employee, he may  deduct the sum mentioned in the notification.  It is only an option given  and  not  a duty imposed.   Therefore  the  procedure prescribed  in rule 21 of the rules framed under the Act  is inapplicable  to  the  facts of the  case  before  us.   The relevant  rule is rule 22 (2) (v) i.e. the valuation  of  an amenity.  We fail to see why the supplying of food is not an amenity. In  the result the appeal and the writ petition fail.   They are dismissed with costs.  Hearing fee one set.  The  owners of residential hotels and eating houses are permitted to pay the arrears of minimum wages accrued up till now within  six months  from  this date subject to the  condition  they  pay interest on those arrears from the due dates till payment at 6% per annum. R.K.P.S.                              Appeal  and   petition dismissed. 615