Apex court adds rider to ‘equal pay for equal work’ rule

Monday, November 1, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court has said that the principle of “equal pay for equal work” would not come into play unless it was established that the work was being performed under the orders of the competent authority.

The plea of equal pay for equal work is founded on Article 14 of constitution, hence it was incumbent upon workmen to establish that they were performing the work, for which they were seeking equal pay, under orders of a competent authority, said the apex court Friday.

The ruling was given by the bench of Justice Harjit Singh Bedi and Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad in their judgment.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Prasad said that for applying the principle of equal pay for equal work, mere volume of work shall not be relevant as there was a qualitative difference as regards the liability and responsibility.

The apex court said this while partly allowing an appeal of the Rajasthan State Electricity Board (RSEB) - now called the Ajmer Vidyut Vitran Nigam - on the question of giving eight of its 35 employees the pay of junior clerk.

These employes had joined the board Nov 28, 1979, as helpers in the consolidated pay scale of Rs.150 per month. They were initially appointed for three months but their employment was continued thereafter.

After a limited competitive examination in August 1984, eight of these employees, including Naveen Kumar Sinai and Shyam Lal, were appointed as junior clerks.

Between Sep 17, 1987, and Oct 13, 1987, the services of 27 other people who too had joined as helpers were regularized as junior clerks with effect from April 1, 1982. Thus, they became senior to the eight employees appointed earlier.

Aggrieved by this situation, the eight employees, who had succeeded by way of limited competitive examination, moved the Rajasthan High Court. They were directed to approach the industrial tribunal, which later ruled in their favour.

The RSEB moved the apex court challenging the impugned order of the high court.

The apex court judges said: “We are of the opinion that workmen (eight of them) were not entitled for the scale of pay of the junior clerk even on notional basis from the date of their engagement as helper.”

The judgment directed the board to consider the cases of the eight employees for regularization as junior clerks with effect from April 1, 1982, and if found fit for regularisation to grant them the pay-scale from that date.

As the eight were found fit for appointment as junior clerks on the basis of the limited written examination, there did not seem any valid reason to suggest that they shall not be fit to be regularised as junior clerks when people junior to them were regularised and given the regular scale of pay with effect from April 1, 1982, the apex court judgment said.

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