The Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court recently directed the state government to extend the pay scale of watchmen in government Ashram Schools to temporary watchmen in private aided Ashram Schools, relying on the principle of equal pay for equal work.
"Considering the sound exposition of law on principle of equal pay for equal work to temporary employees in Jagjit Singh (supra), we have no hesitation in holding that the petitioners are required to be granted minimum pay in the pay scale admissible for the post of Watchmen/Security Guards/Multi-Tasking Staff engaged in the Government Ashram Schools", the court held.
A division bench of Justices Mangesh S. Patil and Sandeep V. Marne was dealing with a writ petition filed by watchmen of private aided Ashram Schools demanding equal pay as that of watchmen in government Ashram Schools.
Petitioner no. 1 is a union of teaching and non-teaching staff in Ashram Schools of the Tribal Development Department. The rest of the petitioners are security guards in various private aided Ashram Schools. The post of Watchmen/Security Guards for aided private Ashram Schools had a monthly honorarium of 3200/-, which was subsequently increased to 5000/-.
A Government Resolution dated December 12 2019, prescribed a pay band of 15000 – 47600 Rs for watchmen of government Ashram Schools. The petitioners approached the court demanding equal pay as the watchmen in government Ashram Schools.
Advocate A. D. Pawar for the petitioners invoked the principle of equal pay for equal work and submitted that the petitioners perform the same duties as the security guards posted in the government ashram schools. The eligibility criteria for both posts is also the same.
Assistant Government Pleader A. S. Shinde for the state contended that the petitioners knew and accepted the terms and conditions of the appointments. They cannot now demand regular pay scales. The posts are temporary; hence regular pay scales cannot be given.
The court examined various judgements on equal pay for equal work to temporary employees. The Apex Court in State of Punjab v. Jagjit Singh has held that in a welfare state, an employee cannot be paid less than another who performs the same duties.
The court observed that the state government has clearly discriminated watchmen in aided private Ashram Schools compared to those in government Ashram Schools. While it is true that the posts were conditional on payment of monthly consolidated honorarium, the question is whether the state government was justified in doing this in the first place.
The court said that it doesn't matter whether the post is temporary or permanent as the watchmen are performing the same duties. The state government is obliged to extend the same pay scales to temporary employees on par with regular employees.
The principle that teachers in aided private schools cannot be discriminated compared to their counterparts in Government schools applies in case of Watchmen also, the court said.
The Court further observed that in the present case issue is not about equation of pay scales of two different posts. It is about the extension of pay scales to temporary employees being paid honorarium in the light of the law laid down in Jagjit Singh.
The court held that the petitioners are required to be granted minimum pay in the pay scale admissible for the post of Watchmen/security guards/multitasking staff engaged in the government ashram schools.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 4300 of 2021
Case title – Swabhimani Shikshak Va Shikshaketar Sanghatana Maharashtra Rajya v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Citation- 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 349