Aftab Alam, J.
1. The question that arises for consideration in this case is whether the provision of Sub-section (5-A) introduced in Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act by a State amendment would also apply at the stage of appeal or the application of the provision is confined to the proceedings only at the original stage.
2. The Labour Enforcement Officer filed a claim on behalf of 64 workmen before the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Dalmia-nagar, Rohtas under Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act against the petitioner-company in its capacity as the principal employer. The claim was registered as Case No. MW 66/1996. The Assistant Labour Commissioner by order, dated March 31, 1997 allowed the claim holding the 64 concerned workmen entitled to receive different amounts (totalling to a sum of Rs. 3,11,053.46) as foe difference between the wages payable and the wages actually paid to them. He accordingly directed the petitioners to make payment of the respective amounts to each of the concerned workmen within thirty days from the date of the order.
3. The petitioner preferred an appeal against this order which is registered as Case No. MWA 1/1997 before the Deputy Labour Commissioner and the appellate authority under the Act. In that appeal the appellate authority by order, dated August 20, 1997 directed the petitioner to deposit a sum of Rs. 1,56,526.73, being 50% of the amount awarded by the original authority by a specified date making it a condition precedent for taking up the appeal for hearing on merits. It is this order which is sought to be challenged by the petitioners by filing this writ petition before this Court.
4. Mr. Shivajee Pandey, learned Counsel for the petitioners assailed the order as completely unauthorised. Learned Counsel submitted that the provisions of Section 20 of the Act did not sanction a direction for depositing the amount awarded by the original authority either in full or in part being made a condition precedent for the hearing of the appeal on merits. According to him, Sub-section (5-A) of Section 20 of the Act does not give any such power to the appellate authority and the reliance placed by the appellate authority on the provision of that sub-section was quite misconceived.
5. Section 20 of the Minimum Wages Act deals with the claims arising out of payment of less than the minimum rates of wages. This section consists of a number of sub-sections. It underwent amendments in this State on two occasions. By Bihar Act 5 of 1983 a provision was made for an appeal against the order passed by the original authority by substituting Sub-section (6) of the Central Act. Sub-section (6) of the Central Act made the direction of the authority as final. The Bihar amendment substituted in its place a provision allowing for an appeal against the order passed by the original authority. Later, by Bihar Act 9 of 1988 a new provision was introduced as Sub-section (5-A) which is as follows:-
"At the time of hearing, the Authority may direct the employer to deposit atleast 50% of the claimed amount with the Authority excluding the amount of compensation. The said amount may be paid to the claimant which shall be adjusted subsequently with the decreed amount."
6. The appellate authority has directed the petitioners to deposit 50% of the amount awarded by the original authority relying upon the provision of Sub-section (5-A) of Section 20.
7. Mr. Shivajee Pandey, however, contended that from the language of Sub-section (5-A) and its position in seriatim [that is, being placed before the provision of appeal in Sub-section (6)] it was clear that Sub-section (5-A) conferred power to ask for deposit from the employer only on the original authority and not on the appellate authority.
8. I am unable to accept the submission and examining the matter from different points of view I feel that Sub-section (5-A) must be held to confer equal powers on the appellate authority.
9. It is well established that an appeal is a continuation of the proceedings of the original Court and is in the nature of a re- hearing. The appellate Court has all the powers and duties of the Court of the 1st instance. In Dayawati v. Inderjeet, A.I.R 1966 S.C. 1423, the Supreme Court considered whether Section 6 of the Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act, 1934 would apply only to pending suits or also to appeals arising from suits already decreed against the mortgager HIDAYATHULLAH J, as His Lordship then was speaking for the Court, held as follows:
"An appeal has been said to be the right of entering a superior Court, and invoking its aid and interposition to redress the error of the Court below, (PER LORD WESTBURY in Attorney General v. Sillem,) (1864) 11 ER 1200 at p. 1209. The only difference between a suit and an appeal is this that an appeal 'only reviews and corrects the proceedings in a cause already constituted but does not create the cause'. As it is intended to interfere in the cause by its means, it is a part of it, and in connection with some matters and some statutes it is said that an appeal is a continuation of a suit. In the present Act the intention is to give relief in respect of excessive interest in a suit which is pending and a preliminary decree in a suit of this kind does not terminate the suit The appeal is a part of the cause because the preliminary decree which emerges from the appeal will be the decree, which can become a final decree. Such an appeal cannot have an independent existence. If this be not accepted for the purpose of the application of Section 3 of the Usurious Loans Act (as amended) curious results will follow. The appeal Court in the appeal is not able to resort to the section but if the suit were remanded the trial Court would be compelled to apply it, or although, in the appeal proper, that judgment must be rendered which could be rendered by the Court of trial, but if the suit is to be re-heard, then the judgment must be given on the existing state of the law and that must include Section 5 by reason of Section 6 of the Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act. It is hardly to be suggested that this obvious anomaly was allowed to exist."
10. The observations of the Supreme Court quoted above seem to me to apply with full force to the case in hand.
11. Next, it is equally well established that the Minimum Wages Act is a beneficial legislation and in interpreting the provisions of a beneficial legislation that construction is to be preferred which enlarges the protection of the party or group for whose benefit the legislation was made. From this point of view also it must be held that Sub-section (5-A) of Section 20 confers equal power on the appellate authority.
12. Thirdly, if the submissions made on behalf of the petitioners were to be accepted it would lead to highly anomalous consequences. It would mean that at the stage when the claim is before the original authority and is still, subject to dispute the employer can be compelled to deposit atleast half of the disputed claim, but when after adjudication it has been found lawfully payable to the employee and to that extent it is no longer subject to dispute the appellate authority is powerless in asking the employer to deposit atleast half of the dues. Further, according to the submissions made on behalf of the petitioners, though the appellate authority may not direct the employer to make the deposit, on the matter being remanded back to the original authority the subordinate authority may once again direct the employer to make the deposit as provided under Subsection (5-A). It can never be the intent of the legislature to give rise to such unreasonable, unfair and anomalous situations.
13. Thus, examining from any angle I come to the conclusion that Sub-section (5-A) of Section 20 confers equal powers upon the appellate authority to direct the employer to deposit atleast 50% of the amount awarded by the original authority, excluding the amount of compensation before the appeal might be taken up for hearing.
14. At this stage, however, two things are to be emphasised. One is that the sub-section provides for the deposit of 50% of the amount of differential wages only and hence, any amount directed to be paid as compensation must be excluded from the direction to deposit. Secondly, to hold that the appellate authority has the power to give a direction for depositing 50% of the amount of differential wages is not to say that it is obligatory for the appellate authority to make the deposit as the condition precedent for hearing the appeal in all cases. Such a course would be far from the correct legal position. Sub-section (5-A) does not make the deposit a mandatory condition precedent for hearing of the appeal. It is only that in appropriate case the appellate authority had the necessary powers to give such a direction. Needless to say that the exercise of the power must be with due discretion and circumspection. The power must not be exercised in a manner leading to undue hardship or harassment for the employer, preferring an appeal against the order passed by the original authority and preferably a direction issued under Sub-section (5-A) must be supported by cogent reasons.
15. For the reasons stated above, I find that no case has been made out for any interference by this Court in this matter and no relief can be granted to the petitioners. This writ petition is accordingly dismissed subject to the aforesaid observations.