Employee’s Satisfaction with Wages Not Absolute, Doesn’t Preclude Them from Claiming Higher Wages [Majithia Wage Board Recommendations]: MP High Court

Case title: Dainik Bhaskar v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh

Case no.: Misc. Petition No. 5093 Of 2022

Order on: 22nd April 2024

Quorum: Justice G.S. Ahluwalia


In the realm of employment disputes, the case law referenced above stands as a beacon, shedding light on the nuances of burden of proof, the significance of pleadings, and the weight of evidence in adjudicating matters of contention between employers and employees. Let’s delve deeper into the case, examining its facts, submissions, issues, court’s analysis, and eventual judgment.

The case revolves around a petition filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, seeking to quash an order passed by the Labour Court and subsequent recovery proceedings. The respondent, an employee, claimed disparity in wages compared to the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board. The petitioner, the employer, contested these claims, arguing jurisdictional issues, non-compliance, and the validity of the reference order.


The petitioner, an employer, contests a claim filed by the respondent under Section 17(2) of The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees Act, 1955. The respondent alleges wage disparity, claiming entitlement to higher wages based on the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board. The petitioner denies the claim, citing jurisdictional issues, non-compliance, and the validity of the reference order. The Labour Court rules in favor of the respondent, directing the petitioner to pay the disputed amount. The petitioner challenges the decision, arguing various grounds including lack of pleading regarding wage satisfaction, jurisdictional issues, and failure to frame issues on the respondent’s declaration. The court evaluates the burden of proof, emphasizing the importance of pleadings and evidence. Despite the absence of pleading by the respondent, the court concludes that the petitioner failed to discharge the burden of proving the good faith of the transaction, ultimately upholding the Labour Court’s decision. The case underscores the significance of procedural compliance and burden of proof in employment disputes.

The Supreme Court in the case of Anil Rishi v. Gurbaksh Singh, reported in (2006) 5 SCC 558 has held as under: There is another aspect of the matter which should be borne in mind. A distinction exists between burden of proof and onus of proof. The right to begin follows onus probandi. It assumes importance in the early stage of a case. The question of onus of proof has greater force, where the question is, which party is to begin.

Burden of proof is used in three ways: (i) to indicate the duty of bringing forward evidence in support of a proposition at the beginning or later; (ii) to make that of establishing a proposition as against all counter-evidence; and (iii) an indiscriminate use in which it may mean either or both of the others. The elementary rule in Section 101 is inflexible. In terms of Section 102 the initial onus is always on the plaintiff and if he discharges that onus and makes out a case which entitles him to a relief, the onus shifts to the defendant to prove those circumstances, if any, which would disentitle the plaintiff to the same.


The respondent, representing the employee, argued that the employer’s reliance on the employee’s declaration of satisfaction was untenable. They contended that the clause in question did not grant employers the authority to enforce lower wages through employee declarations. Instead, it ensured that employees retained the option of receiving higher wages as recommended by the Wage Board.

The petitioner contends that the respondent failed to specify their category or the classification of the Hoshangabad Unit in their statement of claim. They argue that the respondent’s claim of being a Dy./Assistant News Editor (DNE) would not fall under the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board because DNEs, responsible for bringing out the city edition, hold different duties. The petitioner, conceding that this objection wasn’t raised in the Labour Court, argues that it’s a legal question admissible in this court.

However, the court rejects this argument, stating that the classification of the respondent’s role isn’t purely legal but factual. They highlight that the definition of DNE encompasses duties beyond assisting the news editor, potentially including city edition responsibilities. The court notes the absence of evidence supporting the petitioner’s claim about the respondent’s duties, emphasizing that job titles alone don’t determine roles. Without proof of supervisory responsibilities or workers under the respondent, the court dismisses the petitioner’s argument.

The case law of Avishek Raja Vs. Sanjay Gupta (2017) 8 SCC 435 addressed the contentious issue of Clause 20(j) of the Award in conjunction with the provisions of the Act regarding newspaper employees’ wages. The Supreme Court clarified that the Act guarantees newspaper employees wages as recommended by the Wage Board and approved by the Central Government, which supersedes existing wage contracts. However, Section 16 allows employees to accept benefits more favorable than those notified under the Act. The court emphasized that the Act does not provide an option to receive less than what is due under the Act, as such an option would pertain to the doctrine of waiver.

The court also referred to the legislative history and purpose of the Act, highlighting its aim to provide minimum, if not fair, wages to newspaper employees. It drew a parallel with the decision in Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd. v. State of Ajmer, which held that wages notified under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, were non-negotiable. The court quoted Para 4 of the Bijay Cotton Mills Ltd. report, which stressed the importance of securing living wages for labourers, considering it conducive to the public interest and consistent with the directive principles of State policy in the Constitution. The court underscored that imposing restraints on freedom of contract to ensure minimum wages is justified to protect labourers from exploitation, even if they are willing to work for lower wages due to poverty and helplessness.


  1. Section 17 of the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955: This section deals with the recovery of money due from an employer and the resolution of disputes related to wages. Subsections (1) and (2) were particularly relevant in determining the jurisdiction of the Labour Court to adjudicate the dispute.
  1. Clause 20(j) of the Recommendations of Majithia Wage Board: This clause pertains to declarations made by respondents regarding certain matters related to wage board recommendations. While not explicitly cited as a legal provision, it forms the basis of the dispute regarding the respondent’s declaration.
  1. Form C of The Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) And Miscellaneous Provisions Rules, 1955: This form outlines the procedure for filing an application under Section 17(1) of the Act, 1955. Although not directly cited as a legal provision, it was referenced to argue about the necessity of giving prior notice to the employer.
  2. Industrial Disputes Act: While not explicitly mentioned, the Industrial Disputes Act, particularly Section 10(1)(c) and 12(5), was referenced to argue about the jurisdiction of the Labour Court in relation to disputes over wages.


  • Whether the respondent after giving a declaration that he is satisfied with the wages which he is getting, is estopped from claiming higher wages as per recommendations of Majithia Wage Board?
  • Whether the Labour Court had jurisdiction to try the reference, or the jurisdiction was with Industrial Tribunal?


The court determined that the respondent did not hold a managerial, administrative, or supervisory position based on the lack of evidence proving such roles. They emphasized that job titles alone do not determine the nature of duties performed and that the petitioner failed to provide evidence supporting their claim.

The court invoked Section 114 of the Evidence Act, allowing for adverse inference when a party withholds evidence that could be unfavorable to them. They cited previous Supreme Court rulings to support this inference and concluded that the petitioner’s failure to produce relevant documents warranted adverse inference.

The court addressed the jurisdictional question, ruling that the Labour Court had the authority to adjudicate the dispute under Section 17(2) of the Act, 1955. They clarified that the simultaneous exercise of power under other sections of the Industrial Disputes Act did not affect the Labour Court’s jurisdiction. The court dismissed the petitioner’s argument regarding the requirement of prior notice, stating that Section 17(2) of the Act, 1955 does not mandate such notice. They concluded that the petitioner’s contention lacked legal basis.

Regarding the alleged calculation error based on the wrong employee’s data, the court found that while there was a discrepancy in the annexed calculation chart, the Labour Court had considered the correct employee’s claim. Thus, they deemed the matter not requiring remittance.

The court rejected the petitioner’s claim of prejudice due to separate registration of cases, noting that neither party objected to this procedure, and separate consideration of each case was warranted.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Chiraag K A

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