While directing a government agency to regularise its daily wage labourers, Delhi High Court noted that the state cannot exploit the labour of unregulated workers over a continued period of time.
The present case pertains to the matter of regularisation of daily wage labourers in Indian Council for Agricultural Research. These labourers have been rendering their services to the Council, on a daily wage basis, for a period of 20 years.
Moreover, from 1995 onwards, each of the labourers has put in more than 240 days a year. From 2000 onwards, they appear to have worked continuously throughout the year, on a year-to-year basis.
Despite their continued services, they were neither regularised as 'Group D' employees nor were they given benefits which casual labourers were entitled to under the Casual Labourers (Grant of Temporary Status) Scheme, 1993.
Aggrieved by the same, the daily wage labourers had made multiple applications before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). In its orders, CAT had directed ICAR to do the following:
ICAR challenged the aforementioned order of the CAT before the present court.
Assailing the demand of daily wage labourers as legitimate, the Division Bench of Justice Muralidhar and Justice Talwant Singh observed that:
'What emerges from the facts placed on record is that the Respondents had indeed been engaged on a continuous basis for more than 20 years as casual labourers. The need for their services is therefore self-evident. There appears to be no rational explanation as to why if there is indeed a requirement for their services and they have been continuously engaged, no posts of Group 'D' have been created to regularise their services.'
The court also noted that the failure of the Petitioner to abide by the directions given by CAT, also 'flies in the face of' the rule laid down by the Supreme Court in the cases of Uma Devi, ML Kesari and Sonia Gandhi.
Finally, the court refused to interfere with CAT's order by noting that Petitioner's refusal to accord temporary status to the Respondents and pay them even 1/30th of the minimum pay scale is clearly arbitrary and unreasonable and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
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