15. Claims arising out of deductions from wages or delay in payment of wages and penalty for malicious or vexatious claims –
(1) The State Government may by notification in the Official Gazette appoint a presiding officer of any Labour Court or Industrial Tribunal constituted under the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 (14 of 1947) or under any corresponding law relating to the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes in force in the State or any Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation or other officer with experience as a Judge of a Civil Court or as a Stipendiary Magistrate to be the authority to hear and decide for any specified area all claims arising out of deductions from the wages or delay in payment of the wages of persons employed or paid in that area including all matters incidental to such claims :
Provided that where the State Government considers it necessary so to do it may appoint more than one authority for any specified area and may by general or special order provide for the distribution or allocation of work to be performed by them under this Act.
(2) Where contrary to the provisions of this Act any deduction has been made from the wages of an employed person or any payment of wages has been delayed such person himself or any legal practitioner or any official of a registered trade union authorised in writing to act on his behalf or any Inspector under this Act or any other person acting with the permission of the authority appointed under sub-section (1) may apply to such authority for a direction under sub-section (3) :
Provided that every such application shall be presented within twelve months from the date on which the deduction from the wages was made or from the date on which the payment of the wages was due to be made as the case may be :
Provided Further that any application may be admitted after the said period of twelve months when the applicant satisfies the authority that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within such period.
(3) When any application under sub-section (2) is entertained the authority shall hear the applicant and the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages under section 3 or give them an opportunity of being heard and after such further inquiry (if any) as may be necessary may without prejudice to any other penalty to which such employer or other person is liable under this Act direct the refund to the employed person of the amount deducted or the payment of the delayed wages together with the payment of such compensation as the authority may think fit not exceeding ten times the amount deducted in the former case and not exceeding twenty-five rupees in the latter and even if the amount deducted or the delayed wages are paid before the disposal of the application direct the payment of such compensation as the authority may think fit not exceeding twenty-five rupees :
Provided that no direction for the payment of compensation shall be made in the case of delayed wages if the authority is satisfied that the delay was due to –
(a) a bona fide error or bona fide dispute as to the amount payable to the employed person or
(b) the occurrence of an emergency or the existence of exceptional circumstances such that the person responsible for the payment of the wages was unable though exercising reasonable diligence to make prompt payment or
(c) the failure of the employed person to apply for or accept payment.
(4) If the authority hearing an application under this section is satisfied –
(a) that the application was either malicious or vexatious the authority may direct that a penalty not exceeding fifty rupees be paid to the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages by the person presenting the application; or
(b) that in any case in which compensation is directed to be paid under sub-section (3) the applicant ought not to have been compelled to seek redress under this section the authority may direct that a penalty not exceeding fifty rupees be paid to the State Government by the employer or other person responsible for the payment of wages.
(4A) Where there is any dispute as to the person or persons being the legal representative or representatives of the employer or of the employed person the decision of the authority on such dispute shall be final.
(4B) Any inquiry under this section shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
(5) Any amount directed to be paid under this section may be recovered –
(a) if the authority is a Magistrate by the authority as if it were a fine imposed by him as Magistrate and
(b) if the authority is not a Magistrate by any Magistrate to whom the authority makes application in this behalf as if it were a fine imposed by such Magistrate.