Equal Pay for Equal Work : Supreme Court

equal pay for equal work


The Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of State of Punjab & Ors. Vs. Jagjit Singh & Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 213 of 2013 ) has decided the matter related to the principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work. The judgment in the case is very lengthy and we are presenting important paras of judgment i.e. 5-6 & 53-59 as a short story of entire case.

5. The issue which arises for our consideration is, whether temporarily engaged employees (daily-wage employees, ad-hoc appointees, employees appointed on casual basis, contractual employees and the like), are entitled to minimum of the regular pay-scale, alongwith dearness allowance (as revised from time to time) on account of their performing the same duties, which are discharged by those engaged on regular basis, against sanctioned posts.

The full bench of the High Court, while adjudicating upon the above controversy had concluded, that such like temporary employees were not entitled to the minimum of the regular pay-scale, merely for reason, that the activities carried on by daily-wagers and the regular employees were similar. However, it carved out two exceptions, and extended the minimum of the regular pay to such employees. The exceptions recorded by the full bench of the High Court in the impugned judgment are extracted hereunder:-

“(1) A daily wager, ad hoc or contractual appointee against the regular sanctioned posts, if appointed after undergoing a selection process based upon fairness and equality of opportunity to all other eligible candidates, shall be entitled to minimum of the regular pay scale from the date of engagement.

(2) But if daily wagers, ad hoc or contractual appointees are not appointed against regular sanctioned posts and their services are availed continuously, with notional breaks, by the State Government or its instrumentalities for a sufficient long period i.e. for 10 years, such daily wagers, ad hoc or contractual appointees shall be entitled to minimum of the regular pay scale without any allowances on the assumption that work of perennial nature is available and having worked for such long period of time, an equitable right is created in such category of persons. Their claim for regularization, if any, may have to be considered separately in terms of legally permissible scheme.

(3) In the event, a claim is made for minimum pay scale after more than three years and two months of completion of 10 years of continuous working, a daily wager, ad hoc or contractual employee shall be entitled to arrears for a period of three years and two months.”

6. The issue which has arisen for consideration in the present set of appeals, necessitates a bird’s eye view on the legal position declared by this Court, on the underlying ingredients, which govern the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’. It is also necessary for resolving the controversy, to determine the manner in which this Court has extended the benefit of “minimum of the regular pay-scale” alongwith dearness allowance, as revised from time to time, to temporary employees (engaged on daily-wage basis, as ad-hoc appointees, as employees engaged on casual basis, as contract appointees, and the like).

For the aforesaid purpose, we shall, examine the above issue, in two stages. We shall first examine situations where the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has been extended to employees engaged on regular basis. And thereafter, how the same has been applied with reference to different categories of temporary employees.

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53. We shall now deal with the claim of temporary employees before this Court.

54. There is no room for any doubt, that the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has emerged from an interpretation of different provisions of the Constitution. The principle has been expounded through a large number of judgments rendered by this Court, and constitutes law declared by this Court. The same is binding on all the courts in India, under Article 141 of the Constitution of India. The parameters of the principle, have been summarized by us in paragraph 42 hereinabove. The principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has also been extended to temporary employees (differently described as work-charge, daily-wage, casual, ad-hoc, contractual, and the like). The legal position, relating to temporary employees, has been summarized by us, in paragraph 44 hereinabove. The above legal position which has been repeatedly declared, is being reiterated by us, yet again.

55. In our considered view, it is fallacious to determine artificial parameters to deny fruits of labour. An employee engaged for the same work, cannot be paid less than another, who performs the same duties and responsibilities. Certainly not, in a welfare state. Such an action besides being demeaning, strikes at the very foundation of human dignity. Any one, who is compelled to work at a lesser wage, does not do so voluntarily. He does so, to provide food and shelter to his family, at the cost of his self respect and dignity, at the cost of his self worth, and at the cost of his integrity. For he knows, that his dependents would suffer immensely, if he does not accept the lesser wage. Any act, of paying less wages, as compared to others similarly situate, constitutes an act of exploitative enslavement, emerging out of a domineering position. Undoubtedly, the action is oppressive, suppressive and coercive, as it compels involuntary subjugation.

56. We would also like to extract herein Article 7, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966. The same is reproduced below:-

“Article 7 The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:

(a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:

(i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;

(ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;

(b) Safe and healthy working conditions;

(c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;

(d) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays.” India is a signatory to the above covenant, having ratified the same on 10.4.1979. There is no escape from the above obligation, in view of different provisions of the Constitution referred to above, and in view of the law declared by this Court under Article 141 of the Constitution of India, the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ constitutes a clear and unambiguous right and is vested in every employee – whether engaged on regular or temporary basis.

57. Having traversed the legal parameters with reference to the application of the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’, in relation to temporary employees (daily-wage employees, ad-hoc appointees, employees appointed on casual basis, contractual employees and the like), the sole factor that requires our determination is, whether the concerned employees (before this Court), were rendering similar duties and responsibilities, as were being discharged by regular employees, holding the same/corresponding posts. This exercise would require the application of the parameters of the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ summarized by us in paragraph 42 above.

However, insofar as the instant aspect of the matter is concerned, it is not difficult for us to record the factual position. We say so, because it was fairly acknowledged by the learned counsel representing the State of Punjab, that all the temporary employees in the present bunch of appeals, were appointed against posts which were also available in the regular cadre/establishment. It was also accepted, that during the course of their employment, the concerned temporary employees were being randomly deputed to discharge duties and responsibilities, which at some point in time, were assigned to regular employees. Likewise, regular employees holding substantive posts, were also posted to discharge the same work, which was assigned to temporary employees, from time to time.

There is, therefore, no room for any doubt, that the duties and responsibilities discharged by the temporary employees in the present set of appeals, were the same as were being discharged by regular employees. It is not the case of the appellants, that the respondent-employees did not possess the qualifications prescribed for appointment on regular basis. Furthermore, it is not the case of the State, that any of the temporary employees would not be entitled to pay parity, on any of the principles summarized by us in paragraph 42 hereinabove. There can be no doubt, that the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ would be applicable to all the concerned temporary employees, so as to vest in them the right to claim wages, at par with the minimum of the pay-scale of regularly engaged Government employees, holding the same post.

58. In view of the position expressed by us in the foregoing paragraph, we have no hesitation in holding, that all the concerned temporary employees, in the present bunch of cases, would be entitled to draw wages at the minimum of the pay-scale (- at the lowest grade, in the regular pay- scale), extended to regular employees, holding the same post.

59. Disposed of in the above terms.

60. It would be unfair for us, if we do not express our gratitude for the assistance rendered to us by Mr. Rakesh Khanna, Additional Advocate General, Punjab. He researched for us, on our asking, all the judgments on the issue of pay parity. He presented them to us, irrespective of whether the conclusions recorded therein, would or would not favour the cause supported by him. He also assisted us, on different parameters and outlines, suggested by us, during the course of hearing.

Reference :
https://millionspost.com/equal-pay-for-equal-work/

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