In the case of Sabha Shanker Dube v Divisional Forest Officer (Civil Appeal No 10956 of 2018), a division bench of the Supreme Court of India (Supreme Court) comprising of Mr. Justice S A Bobde and Mr. Justice Nageswara Rao, has reiterated the law on equal pay for equal work as long as the employees are engaged in similar work and responsibilities. The Supreme Court, while considering the correctness of a judgment passed by a division bench of the High Court of Allahabad (High Court), upheld the law on the subject of parity of pay scales on the principle of equal pay for equal work.
The appellants are daily wagers engaged by the Forest Department of the State of Uttar Pradesh and had filed various writ petitions before the High Court. The Appellants had sought regularization of their services and minimum pay available to their counterparts working in regular posts. Further, it was also contended that the appellants should be treated as being in continued service while condoning breaks in their service.
In dismissing the writ petitions, and the subsequent writ appeals, the High Court relied on judgments passed by the Supreme Court in State of Haryana v Tilak Raj ((2003) 6 SCC 23) and State of Punjab v Surjit Singh ((2009) 9 SCC 514).
The appellants had initially filed a writ petitions before the High Court. The single judge of the High Court observed that the Government can consider regularization of daily wagers in accordance with the relevant rules by condoning breaks in service if they are less than 3 months. However, the single judge refused to issue directions for regularization and application of minimum pay scales since such directions cannot be granted under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The division bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the appellants.
The Supreme Court, while allowing the appeal, held that temporary employees are entitled to draw wages at the minimum pay scales which are applicable to the regular employees holding the same post. The Supreme Court referred to the judgment in State of Punjab v Jagjit Singh (Civil Appeal Nos. 884-885 of 2016 and 879-883 of 2016) (Jagjit Singh Case) and held that an employee who performs the same work cannot be paid less than another who is placed similarly. The Supreme Court concluded that temporary employees are entitled to draw wages at the minimum of the pay scales which are applicable to the regular employees holding the same post
The Court further held that in view of the clear law declared in the Jagjit Singh Case, the judgment of the High Court was not sustainable, and the appellants are entitled for equal pay on par with their counterpart regular employees of the Forest Department. Further, the Supreme Court directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to pay such equal pay with effect from 1 December 2018.
This judgment reiterates the principle of pay parity amongst employees engaged in similar work. However, it appears that the Supreme Court has not gone into other aspects of the issue such as, the liability of contract employee vis-à-vis permanent employee who are exposed to departmental disciplinary actions for any wrong committed by them, period of their engagement.
- Udayarkar Rangarajan (Partner) and Praveenkumar Hiremath (Associate)
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