Madras HC | Impossible for a factory to have more number of apprentices than employees; provisions of EPF Act to be interpreted only in favour of employees

Madras High Court: Abdul Quddhose, J., dismissed a writ petition filed against the order passed by the Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal holding that the provisions of the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 have to be interpreted only in the favour of employees.

An order was issued against the petitioner by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner under Section 7-A of the EPF & MP Act stating that a sum of over Rs 14.40 lakhs was due and payable by them towards 194 employees, for whom, EPF contributions were not paid by them. The petitioner filed a review of this order, which was dismissed. An appeal filed thereagainst before the EPF Appellate Tribunal met with the same fate. The petitioner’s case was that the 194 employees concerned apprentices and temporary employees.

While considering the matter, the High Court observed: “The purpose of the enactment of the said Act is to cultivate the spirit of saving amongst the workers regularly. It is, therefore, a beneficial legislation to protect the interest of the employees. Therefore, this Court will have to necessarily interpret the provisions only in favour of the employees whenever there requires any interpretation.”

Not satisfied with the stand taken by the petitioner, the High Court said: “It is impossible for the factory to have more number of apprentices than regular employees, that too about in the ratio 1:3. Further, there is no dispute regarding the number of persons, who were working at the time of inspection by the enforcement wing officials in the factory premises of the petitioner in the year 2006.”

The Court noted that the evidence was duly considered by the Commissioner. Stating that it cannot re-appreciate the evidence under Article 226 jurisdiction, the Court dismissed the present petition finding no perversity in the impugned order. [Kumar Spinning Mills (P) Ltd. v. Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal, 2019 SCC OnLine Mad 937, dated 02-04-2019]

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