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Cooks Recruited Under Karnataka Govt's 'Mid-Day Meal Scheme' Don't Fall Within Purview Of Minimum Wages Act: High Court

Mustafa Plumber
17 Aug 2022 11:22 AM GMT
National food Security Act
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Image Courtesy: Mint

The Karnataka High Court has said that head cooks and cooks employed on contract basis under the 'Bisi Oota Mid-day Meal scheme', being run by the state government do not qualify for wages under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty made the observation while disposing of a petition filed by a social worker Nowhera Shaik.

The bench observed, "The provisions of the Act (Minimum Wages Act) apply to the employments which have been mentioned in the Schedule appended to the Act. The scheme is not one of the employment mentioned in the Schedule and therefore, the provisions of the Act do not apply to Head Cooks and Cooks who have been employed on contract basis for a limited duration of 4 hours in a day."

It added,

"It is worth mentioning that under the provisions of the Karnataka Minimum Wages Rules, l958 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules' for short), the number of hours to constitute a normal working day in case of an adult is 9 hours. The Head Cooks and Cooks also failed to fulfil this criteria mentioned under the Rules. The claim of minimum wages by the Head Cooks and Cooks employed under the scheme is not covered under the provisions of Act. Therefore, no writ of mandamus can be issued to the respondents to provide minimum wages to the Head Cooks and Cooks employed under the scheme."

The petitioner had approached the court stating that women workers employed under the Scheme, primarily belonging to SC/ ST and other backward classes, were employed on a paltry remuneration of Rs.1,000 per month and were denied the benefit of minimum wages. It was contended that the fundamental rights of the said women workers under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India have been infringed.

The High Court noted that the scheme in question was formulated following Supreme Court's directions in PUCL v. Union of India (WP(C) No.196/2001) for providing freshly cooked meals to children in all Government schools across the country.

Following the demands of head cooks and cooks, the Government enhanced their remuneration to Rs.2,700/- and 2,600/- per month respectively in the year 2018. The Government also undertook measures for providing insurance and compensation. In case of untimely death or injury, compensation to the extent of Rs.1,00,000/- and Rs.75,000/- respectively is payable. The provision for payment of Rs.30,000/- has also been made in case any burn injuries are sustained by any person employed under the scheme.

Moreover, the State Government has made a provision for insurance under the 'Rastriya Bhima Yojane'. Any person employed under the scheme can avail of the benefit of insurance by depositing Rs.12/- per annum as subscription and the Cooks employed under the scheme are entitled for payment of Rs.2,00,000/- in case of death and Rs.1,00,000/- in case of injury.

Accordingly, it disposed of the petitions.

Case Title: MS. NOWHERA SHAIK v. STATE OF KARNATAKA

Case No: WRIT PETITION NO. 6926 OF 2018

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 323

Date of Order: August 10, 2022

Appearance: Advocate ASHISH KRUPAKAR for petitioner; AGA J SATISH KUMAR, FOR R-1 TO 3

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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