Judgement delivered by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Punjab and others V/s Jagjit Singh and others in civil appeal no. 213 of 2013 is a landmark judgment in my view.
In the said judgment the issue which arose for consideration was whether temporarily engaged employees (Daily Wage employees, Adhoc Appointments, Employees appointed on a casual basis, Contractual Employees and the like) are entitled to the pay-scale along with Dearness Allowance (as revised from time to time) of a Permanent employee, who does such work or not,on account of their performing the same duties, which are discharged by those engaged on a regular basis, against a sanctioned post or not.
If one is to analyse the judgement in my mind two issues arises which are as under;
The Court while deciding this issue has dwelt in depth to the numerous decision given by the honourable Supreme Court on various occasions on this issue and they have analysed and has distinguished cases which pertain to employees engaged on a regular basis who are claiming wages on the principle of “equal pay for equal work” like the present clamour for one Rank one Pension.
The entire matter arose out of the decision of a full bench judgment passed by the honourable Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Punjab and Haryana High Court while coming to its conclusion heavily realised upon the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Secretary, State of Karnataka v/s Umadevi (a constitutional bench decision).
The honourable Supreme Court after exhaustive analysis of all the decided cases laid out the principles of law for equal pay for equal work as under;
Principle involved: ‘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(Emphasis supplied).
That temporary employees 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.
The Crux of the Judgment is as under:
The above judgement in my view has settled a long standing issue and will definitely put brakes on those employers including the Government, Banks, Financial Institutions who hire people on Ad hoc basis or on temporary basis instead of filling a regular post or as a sanctioned post but goes to appoint people on Ad hoc basis without giving the benefit of a Permanent employee. Even if one has to employ such temporary workers for doing the work of a regular employee in that case the said temporary worker will also be entitled to get equal pay however, he/she will not be entitled to plead a permanency in the job. Therefore, this judgement will make the employer to think twice before hiring a temporary or casual worker to do a job of a permanent worker.
There is a school of thought whether the above rule is applicable to private sector employers also. In my opinion this principle is applicable across the board and does not distinguish between a private sector and public sector provided the parameters laid down by the judgment is proved by a casual or temporary employee. However, in reality the private sector can always change the rules to suit their needs and to their benefit.
As a result of this judgement what I foresee is that in order to circumvent the finding of the judgment the employer especially in the private sector will try to change or alter the job description of the Ad hoc Employee who is hired to do the work which a normal employee is doing. This may result in a bout of litigation and Industrial dispute.
This judgement is in any way is not going to affect the principles of the Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act, 1970 per se. It in fact strengthens the provision of the said act which prescribes the payment of minimum wages and other benefits to contract employee. In my view the Unions and scores of Ad hoc Employees who work on casual basis in various institutions should welcome this landmark judgment.
The flipside to this judgement will be since the judgement has carved down certain exceptions as to who all cannot come under this judgement and claim the benefits, may lead to a lot of Industrial Dispute and litigation in order to prove for the contesting part does fall under the said exceptions.
Of late we have even found that Government departments, Banks and Industries are hiring peons, security guards, drivers, cleaners, etc. on a contract basis whereas they have not abolished such post in their system, before hiring such people on contract basis. Those institutions may face problem of providing them salary and benefits at par as prescribed for the post by those institutions. Once that is granted the next question and problem which these institutions may face is the request for granting permanent employment. The problem may not stop by giving the equal pay for equal work it may lead to a clamour for permanent employment.
To conclude, the judgement has settled a long standing issue and has opened a Can of litigation from employer’s side and employee’s side.
B. Gopalakishnan is a Senior Partner in S.K.Singhi & Co, Mumbai.
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