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Industry Which Does Not Pay Minimum Wages To Workmen Has No Right To Continue: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]

Apoorva Mandhani
6 Nov 2017 9:51 AM GMT

The Delhi High Court recently scorned at the practice of non-payment of minimum wages to workmen and came down heavily on industries which do not grant minimum wages, opining that such industries had "no right to continue".Justice C. Hari Shankar explained, "In any event, there can be no dispute that ―'sweated labor' is an anathema to any civilized society, and is a harkback to the...

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The Delhi High Court recently scorned at the practice of non-payment of minimum wages to workmen and came down heavily on industries which do not grant minimum wages, opining that such industries had "no right to continue".

Justice C. Hari Shankar explained, "In any event, there can be no dispute that ―'sweated labor' is an anathema to any civilized society, and is a harkback to the gladiatorial era when slavery and bonded labor were the order of the day. The dignity of the working-class (or ―labor, as some would like to call it) has to be assiduously protected and preserved at all costs; for all other classes depend on it for survival and sustenance."

The Court further emphasized on the necessity of payment of minimum wages and observed, "Payment of minimum wages is, therefore, an essential characteristic of humanity. Extraction of labor without payment of minimum wages, per corollary, would reflect an attitude which is inhuman...

...Non-payment of minimum wages, to a workman is, therefore, unconscionable and unpardonable in law. It strikes at the very root of our constitutional framework, and belies the aspirations set out in the preamble thereto."

The Court was hearing a Petition challenging an award passed in July, 2004 by the Labor Court, wherein the Central Secretariat Club was directed to pay a workman, Mr. Geetam Singh, for a period of three years.

Mr. Singh had registered a claim under the Industrial Disputes Act, alleging that he was being paid less than what he was entitled to under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The Management of the club had contested his claim contending that the club was not an "industry" under the Act and that Mr. Singh's claim was filed belatedly.

On a perusal of such arguments, the Court agreed with the contentions put forth by Mr. Singh and went on to rule that the Labor Court was not justified in limiting the relief to a period of 3 years, in the absence of any such period of limitation being specified under the Act.

It then modified the Labor Court's order, directing the club to pay him for 6 years instead, observing, "An employee who obtains work, from a workman, while denying him minimum wages, is, in my view, absolutely disentitled from calling, into service, the doctrine of laches, when the employee moves the competent legal forum, seeking only minimum wages for the period during which he has served the employer. In that view of the matter, I am of the opinion that there was no justification for the Labor Court to restrict the relief awarded to Geetam Singh to the period October 1992 to September 1995. Geetam Singh has admittedly worked with the period 1st September 1989 to September, 1995 and cannot, therefore, be denied minimum wages for the said period. The Court can ill afford to be a party to the portentously criminal act of the Club."

Read the Judgment Here

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