1965Present: Tambiah, J.
V. T. R AMALINGAM (Labour Officer), Appellant,and S. SINNADURAI, Respondent
8. C. 852/1964—M. C. Trincomalee, 5921
Shops—Closing orders—Applicability to an owner of a shop who has no employees—“ Employer ”—Shop and Office Employees Act (Cap. 129), ss. 2, 43, 51 (1),68.
Interpretation of statutes—Preamble of a statute—Effect on the main provisions.
The owner of a shop, who has no employees, is an employer within themeaning of section 43 of the Shop and Office Employees Act and is bound tocomply with “ closing orders ” made by the Minister under the provisions ofthe Act.
The preamble of a statute cannot control the clear and unambiguous provisionsof the statute.
Appeal from a judgment of the Magistrate’s Court, Trincomalee.Shiva Pasupati, Crown Counsel, for Complainant-Appellant.
Siva Rajaratnam, for Accused-Respondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
January 27 1965, Tambiah, J.—
The respondent in this case^was charged under the provisions of theShop and Office Employees Act No. 19 of 1954 (Cap. 129 of the LegislativeEnactments of Ceylon), for having kept open his shop on June 30, 1963at 5.30 p.m. and for not preventing a customer from entering the shopat this time in contravention of the Closing Order issued by the Honourablethe Minister of Labour and approved by the Parliament and the Senate.The Minister’s regulations were issued under section 2 of the Shop andOffice Employees Act and are published in Government Gazettes No. 10,724of October 15, 1954, No. 10,517 of April 10, 1953 and No. 13,187 ofJune 29, 1962 which are marked as P2, P3 and P4 respectively. Underthese regulations no shop in the area in which the respondent’s shop issituated can be opened for business on Sundays.
It was established by the prosecution in this case that the respondentkept his shop open at 5.30 p.m. on Sunday the 30th of June, 1934 andserved a customer. The short point for decision isf whether these ordersapply to an owner of a shop who has no employees. The learnedMagistrate took the view that for the accused to be liable under the Act,he must have an employee and acquitted the respondent. The Attorney-General has appealed from this order.
The preamble to the Shop and Office Employees Act, No. 19 of 1954(Cap. 129 of the Legislative Enactments of Ceylon) states as follows :“ An Act to provide for the regulation of employment, hours of workand remuneration of persons in shops and offices, and for mattersconnected therewith or incidental thereto.” Counsel for the respondentcontended that these provisions of the preamble to the Act, taken alongwith the other provisions, clearly indicate that the mischief the Legislaturewanted to remedy was to safeguard employees from unscrupulous emplo-yers. On a consideration of the provisions of this Act, it is clear thatthis Act was intended to protect employees and to give them certainrights.
Section 43 of this Act enacts as follows :—
“ (1) No shop shall be or remain open for the serving of customersin contravention of any provision of any closing order made underthis Act.
(2) It shall be the duty of the employer to prevent any customerfrom entering the shop on any day or at any time when such shop isrequired by any closing order to be closed for the serving of customers.”
Section 51 (1) penalises any contravention of or failure to comply withany of the provisions of this Act or any regulations relating to anyshop or office or to the employment of any person in or about the businessthereof. The word employer is defined as follows :
(а)in relation to any shop, means the owner of the business ofthat shop, and includes any person having the charge or the generalmanagement and control of that shop, and
(б)in relation to any office, means the person carrying on, orfor the time being responsible for the management of, the businessfor the purposes for which the office is maintained.”
The learned Crown Counsel contended that the preamble to an Actcannot be looked into when the words of the statute are clear. Heurged that the word “ employer ” has been given a special meaning inthe interpretation clause of this Act and any owner of a shop will beregarded as an employer for the purpose of the obligations cast on anemployer by this Act and the regulations made thereunder.
It is a well known canon of construction that if the words of a statuteare clear, a preamble to an Act cannot control its clear and unambiguousprovisions. In The Attorney-General, v. Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover1,Viscount Simonds succinctly stated this proposition as follows :—
*' I would suggest that it is better stated by saying that the contextof the preamble is not to influence the meaning otherwise ascribable tothe enacting part unless there is a compelling reason for it.”
In re Wikes, Riddington v. Spencer and others 2, Buckley J. re-iteratedthe same rule of construction as follows :
“ It is well established that the language of a statute must primarilybe construed according to its natural meaning. If the language isambiguous the long title of the Act may be looked at to help resolvethe ambiguity ; it may not be looked so as to modify the interpretationof plain language.”
In the Shop and Office Employees Act, the word “ employer ” is notgiven its natural meaning but is defined as a term of art and must begiven the meaning found in the interpretation clause. Section 68of the Act defines the word “ employer ” to mean the owner of a businessof a shop. The counsel for the respondent contended that no harmcould be done to an employee if an employer, who has no employee, keepshis shop open in contravention of the orders of the Minister. But itseems to me that the intention of the Legislature was not to leave any
1957) 2 W. L. It. p. 1 at p. 9.H19Q1) 2 W. £. R. 116 at 123.
loop-hole in the Act for any person to say that he is not bound by theregulations of the Minister because he has no employees. If there shouldbe such a lacuna in the legislation, unscrupulous employers, who haveemployees can easily get over the provisions of the Act by providingsome sort of proof that they have no employees when they are prosecutedunder this Act. It is not necessary to speculate on the intention of theLegislature when it is clearly expressed in unambiguous language. I,therefore, hold that the owner of a shop, who has no employees, is anemployer within the meaning of the Shop and Office Employees Actand is bound by the closing orders contained in the regulations made by theMinister under the provisions of the Act.
For these reasons, I allow the appeal, set aside the order of the learnedMagistrate and convict the accused on the counts on which he wascharged. Since this appeal is in the nature of a test case, I impose a fineof Rs. 25 on each count, i.e., Rs. 50 in all. The respondent is given timeto pay the fine. He should pay it within a month of the record reachingthe Magistrate. In default he will undergo a term of two weeks’ simpleimprisonment.
V. T. RAMALINGAM (Labour officer), Appellant, and S. SINNADURAI, Respondent