23. Claims to be made to the Commissioner.-
(1) Every person having a claim against the owner of a coking coal mine or coke oven plant shall prefer such claim before the Commissioner within thirty days from the specified date: Provided that if the Commissioner is satisfied that the claimant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the claim within the said period of thirty days, he may, on the expiry of the said period of thirty days, entertain the claim within a further period of thirty days, but not thereafter.
2[(1A) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (1), claims in relation to a provident fund, pension fund, gratuity fund or any other fund established for the welfare of the persons employed by the owner of a coking coal mine or group of coking coal mines or a coke oven plant may be filed on behalf of the persons so employed by the Coal Mines Provident Fund Commissioner appointed by the Central Government under section 3C of the Coal Mines Provident Fund, Family Pension and Bonus Schemes Act, 1948 (46 of 1948); 3[and claims in relation to any other matter may be filed on behalf of all or any of the persons so employed or any group of such persons, by any Trade Union, registered under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 (16 of 1926), or, where no such claim has been filed by any Trade Union, by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) appointed by the Central Government or any officer subordinate to him;] and the claims so made shall be deemed to have been made by the persons having a claim against the owner of a coking coal mine or group of coking coal mines or a coke oven plant, as the case may be: Provided that no such claim shall be made by the Coal Mines Provident Fund Commissioner 3[or the Trade Union or the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) or any officer subordinate to him,] in relation to a person who has already made a claim under sub-section (1).]
4[(1AA) Where any claim, not being a claim which was time-barred on the 17th day of October, 1971, was preferred under sub-section (1) within the period specified therefor and was rejected merely on the ground that such claim was time-barred, such claim shall be deemed not to have been rejected and the Commissioner shall restore on his file such claim and shall deal with it in the manner specified in this section.]
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, there shall be paid in priority to all other unsecured debts, not being the amounts advanced by the Central Government or the Custodian appointed under the Coking Coal Mines (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1971 (64 of 1971), for the management of the coking coal mine or coke oven plant, as the case may be,-
(a) all wages or salary (including wages payable for time or piece work and salary earned wholly or in part by way of commission) of any employee, in respect of services rendered to the coking coal mine or coke oven plant, as the case may be, and any compensation payable to any workman under any provisions of Chapter VA of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (14 of 1947);
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(c) all amounts due in respect of any compensation or liability for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 (8 of 1923) in respect of the death or disablement of any employee of the coking coal mine or coke oven plant unless such mine or plant has, under such a contract with insurers as is mentioned in section 15 of the said Act, rights capable of being transferred to, and vested in, the workmen;
1[(d) all sums deducted by the employer from the salary or wages of any workman or other employee of the coking coal mine or group of coking coal mines or coke oven plant, as the case may be, for credit to any provident fund, or any other fund established for the welfare of such workmen or other employees but not deposited to the credit of the said fund;]
(e) all sums due to the State Government 2[including royalty, rent and dead rent.]
(3) The debts specified in sub-section (2) shall rank equally among themselves and be paid in full, unless the assets are insufficient to meet them, in which case they shall abate in equal proportions and be paid accordingly.
(4) The Commissioner shall fix a certain date on or before which every claimant shall file the proof of his claim or be excluded from the benefit of the disbursements made by the Commissioner.
(5) Not less than fourteen days' notice of the date so fixed shall be given by advertisement in one issue of the daily newspaper in the English language and one issue of such daily newspaper in the regional language as the Commissioner may consider suitable, and every such notice shall call upon the claimant to file the proof of his claim with the Commissioner within the time specified in the advertisement.
(6) Every claimant who fails to file the proof of his claim within the time specified by the Commissioner shall be excluded from the disbursements made by the Commissioner.
(7) The Commissioner shall, after such investigation as may, in his opinion, be necessary and after giving the owner of the coking coal mine or coke oven plant, as the case may be, an opportunity of refuting the claim and after giving the claimant a reasonable opportunity of being heard, in writing admit or reject the claim in whole or in part.
(8) The Commissioner shall have the power to regulate his own procedure in all matters arising out of the discharge of his functions including the place or places at which he will hold his sittings and shall, for the purpose of making any investigation under this Act, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit, in respect of the following matters, namely:-
(a) the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness and examining him on oath;
(b) the discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence;
(c) the reception of evidence on affidavits;
(d) the issuing of any commission for the examination of witnesses.
(9) Any investigation before the Commissioner shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) and the Commissioner shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XXXV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (5 of 1898).
3[(9A) The Commissioner may, on receipt of a claim,-
(a) elect to settle the claim himself; or
(b) transfer the claim for settlement to a person authorised in this behalf under sub-section (2) of section 20; or
(c) withdraw the claim from the person referred to in clause (b) and either settle the claim himself or transfer it for disposal to any other person who has been authorised in this behalf under sub-section (2) of section 20.]
(10) 1[A claimant or owner who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner may prefer an appeal, within a period of sixty days from the date of the decision,] to the principal civil court of original jurisdiction within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the coking coal mine or coke oven plant, as the case may be, is situated:
2[Provided that where a person who is a Judge of a High Court is appointed to be the Commissioner, such appeal shall lie to the High Court for the State in which the coking coal mine or coke oven plant, as the case may be, is situated, and such appeal shall be heard and disposed of by not less than two Judges of that High Court:]
3[Provided further that any appeal which has not been preferred before the date on which the Coal Mines Nationalisation Laws (Amendment) Act, 1978 (22 of 1978), receives the assent of the President, shall be preferred within a period of sixty days from such date.]
1. Ins. by Act 22 of 1978, s. 4 (w.e.f. 27-5-1978).
2. Ins. by Act 41 of 1973, s. 5 (w.e.f. 1-5-1972).
3. Ins. by Act 22 of 1978, s. 5 (w.e.f. 1-5-1972).
4. Ins. by s. 5, ibid. (w.e.f. 1-11-1973).
5. Clause (b) omitted by Act 41 of 1973, s. 5 (w.e.f. 1-5-1972).