What is the nature of powers given to The Provident Fund Commissioner under Section 7-A of the Act?

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Food Corporation of India V/s Provident Fund Commissioner and Others, 1990 held that, the question to be determined with regard to Section 7-A of the Provident Fund Act is whether the Commissioner who is a statutory authority has exercised powers vested in him to collect the relevant evidence before determining the amount payable under the said Act. In keeping with precepts of labour laws in India, the Commissioner while conducting an enquiry under Section 7-A has the same powers as are vested in a Court under the Civil Procedure Code for trying a suit. The power given under Section 7-A to the Commissioner is to decide not abstract questions of law, but to determine actual difference in payment of contribution and other dues. The legal duty of the Commissioner is to exercise all his powers to collect all evidence and collate all material before coming to a proper conclusion.

In the present matter, even though the employer and contractors were both liable to maintain registers in respect of the workers employed, the Corporation was having some problems in collating the lists of all workers engaged in depots scattered at different places. It thus requested the Commissioner to summon the contractors to produce the respective lists of workers engaged by them. The Commissioner did not summon the Contractors nor the lists maintained by them and thereafter stated that the Corporation has failed to produce evidence. The Hon’ble Court held that; “It would be a failure to exercise the jurisdiction particularly when a party to the proceeding requests for summoning evidence from a particular person.”

Hence, the Hon’ble Court remitted the matter back to the Commissioner to eb disposed in accordance with law and in light of the observations made by the Hon’ble Court.