Cardamom estate with less than 10 regular employees are outside the purview of LWF

In this case, the petitioners are small planters having cardamom cultivation. The respondent Labour Welfare Board demanded applicability of Kerala Labour Welfare Fund Act 1975 to the Cardamom estate because the cardamom estate employed more than 10 workers. Under the Kerala Labour Welfare Fund Act 1975, the establishments employing 10 or more members in any day of the preceding 12 months are covered by Kerala Labour Welfare Act and liable to contribute towards Labor Welfare Fund. As the employer failed to remit the LWF Contribution; revenue recovery steps had been initiated against the management of Arunavilas cardamom Estate. Then the management filed a unit petition before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala and the Hon’ble court Stayed the revenue recovery steps.

The responded submitted a previous case judgment where the Standing Counsel for the Welfare Fund conducted an inspection to the plantation premises and the inspection report shows that 17 workers were found engaged in the estate, though the estate was only four acres. But the employer cardamom estate refused to accept the inspection report and didn’t sign that. Then, the Court clarified the applicability of the Act to cardamom estate and the Welfare Fund Inspector is entitled to demand contribution.

In this present case, the Management of the Cardamom estate submitted registers and records for verification. Some employees were also giving evidence in favor of the cardamom estate. The registers showed that at no time during the year they had employed 10 or more employees and they had not maintained the register prescribed under casual, Temporary & Badali workers Act. The employees are given the statement that only some workers were engaged during the plucking season in addition to the permanent workers. So, it was not proved that the employer employed more than 10 workers at any point in time.

Again, the Cardamom estate was under the ownership of 6 employers, so it cannot be determined from this that 10 or more workers were employed by the owners of the estate. Moreover, physical verification could not be done on the date of inspection. Hence the LWF. Inspector came to the conclusion that this plantation would not come under the purview of for remitting contribution. So, the writ petition was disposed off by Court by granting an exemption to the Cardamom estate from coming into the purview of the Kerala Labour Welfare Fund Act.

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