MP High Court upholds Gratuity Payment for Deceased Employee despite Delayed Challenge

CASE TITLE – Controller Government Printing Press And Stationary v. Nafeesa Bano & Ors.



QUORUM – Hon’ble Shri Justice Vivek Agarwal



This petition was filed because the petitioner was unhappy with the order issued on September 1, 2022, by the Controlling Authority under the P.G. Act, as the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Bhopal, in Gratuity Case No. 64 of 2019. The order directed the State Authorities to pay the deceased employee’s gratuity and interest within a thirty-day period. This order was dated September 6, 2022. After more than a year and a half, a petition challenging this order is filed in 2024.  The petition takes refuge in the rulings of the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. (S) 9722 of 2013 (Controller, Government Printing and Stationary Press vs. Rashida Bee) & other related matters decided on October 29, 2013. The application argues that the worker is not eligible for a gratuity payment under the provisions of the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is included in Annexure P-1. It is clear reading the Supreme Court’s ruling that the facts of that particular case are completely different. Previously, victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy were trained and absorbed in the Industries Department before being assigned to the M.P. Government Printing and Stationary Department, which is an industry. With this background and in consideration of the aforementioned prayer, the learned Labour Court instructed the State Instrumentality, by order dated 18.12.2002, to regularly classify the respondents as Junior Binders starting on July 29, 1998, and to award them the pay scale and any salary differential that qualifies them for the Junior Binder position.  The State Government challenged this ruling in front of the High Court, which took a more progressive stance by ordering the regularization of daily wagers against 150 open positions in the Junior Binder cadre.  The State Government had appealed to the Supreme Court, feeling wronged by the High Court’s decision to allow the applicant to regularise the respondents, citing that the High Court erred in declaring that 150 Junior Binder positions were open and available.


Whether the State Authorities should pay the deceased employee’s gratuity and interest?



The Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh High Court traces the history of the Rashida Bee case, explaining that: The employees initially approached the M.P. State Administrative Tribunal, which dismissed their claim as it lacked jurisdiction. They then approached the High Court, which also dismissed their petition. Finally, they went to the Labour Court, which ruled in their favor regarding regularization and pay scales, which was then challenged by the State in the High Court. In the Rashida Bee case, the Supreme Court modified the Labour Court’s order and directed a settlement payment of Rs. 2,00,000 each to the employees, without setting a precedent for other cases. The Hon’ble High Court clarifies that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Rashida Bee case does not relate to the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, and thus cannot be used as a precedent to deny gratuity. The court explains that: The definitions of ’employee’ and ’employer’ under Sections 2(e) and 2(f) respectively, along with the concept of ‘continuous service’ under Section 2(a), clearly mandate the payment of gratuity and that the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s order to pay gratuity is based on these mandatory provisions. The court finds that the State’s reliance on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rashida Bee is incorrect and irrelevant to the present case of gratuity payment. The Hon’ble High Court concludes that the State’s petition lacks merit due to the inappropriate grounds for challenge and the delay in filing. Thus, the petition was dismissed.


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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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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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