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Employee Can't Claim Equal Pay Due To Mere Similarity Of Designation Or Similarity Of Quantum Of Work : Supreme Court

Shruti Kakkar
9 July 2022 5:58 AM GMT
Employee Cant Claim Equal Pay Due To Mere Similarity Of Designation Or Similarity Of Quantum Of Work : Supreme Court
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An employee can't claim parity of pay scale with another due to mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work, held the Supreme Court recently."The doctrine of equal pay for equal work could only be invoked when the employees were similarly circumstanced in every way. Mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work was not determinative of equality in the...

An employee can't claim parity of pay scale with another due to mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work, held the Supreme Court recently.

"The doctrine of equal pay for equal work could only be invoked when the employees were similarly circumstanced in every way. Mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work was not determinative of equality in the matter of pay scales. The Court had to consider all the relevant factors such as the mode of recruitment, qualifications for the post, the nature of work, the value of work, responsibilities involved and various other factors", the Court observed quoting from an earlier precedent.

The Court observed that fixation of pay scales is a matter of policy that can be interfered by the courts only in exceptional cases where there is discrimination between two sets of employees appointed by the same authority, in the same manner, where the eligibility criteria is the same and the duties are identical in every aspect.

In this case State of Madhya Pradesh v Seema Sharma, the bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari further observed that,

"This Court cannot interfere with the policy decision taken by the Government merely because it feels that another decision would have been fairer; or wiser as held by this Court in State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Narmada Bachao Andolan reported in (2011) 7 SCC 639 and relied upon and re-affirmed in Sudhir Budakoti & Others (supra)."

With this observation, the Top Court allowed the appeal assailing Madhya Pradesh High Court's order of directing the State Authorities to pay UGC scale of pay as paid to the Librarians of colleges under the Higher Education Department to a Librarian who had claimed the said relief.

In the present matter, Seema Sharma, who was appointed as Librarian-cum-Museum Assistant, Government Dhanvantri Ayurvedic College, Ujjain, after completion of 8 years of service, had claimed the UGC scale of pay as paid to the persons in the senior scale of Librarian in colleges under the Higher Education Department. Since her request was not acceded to by the State Authorities, she had approached the High Court claiming the said relief under the Madhya Pradesh Education Service (Collegiate Branch), Recruitment Rules, 1990 ("1990 Rules").

While granting her the relief, the Madhya Pradesh High Court directed for paying Sharma, UGC scale of pay as paid to the Librarians of colleges under the Higher Education Department. Since the State Authority's intra court appeal filed by the Appellants was dismissed, the authorities approached the Top Court.

It was urged before the Top Court by the State that the 1990 Rules were never applicable to the Respondent. The 1990 Rules were applicable to institutions under the Higher Education Department and that the college where Sharma was appointed was not under the Higher Education Department, but under the Ayush Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. It was also submitted that the Rules applicable to institutions under the Ayush Department do not contain any provision that makes the UGC scale of pay applicable to the employees of institutions under the Ayush Department.

The Supreme Court opined that the single and division bench of the High Court had relied on the judgement in State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr. vs. M.K. Verma & four Ors. which wasn't applicable in the said case as it related to librarians of Engineering Colleges and Medical Colleges.

It further said that the case at hand was covered by the judgement dated July 28, 2009, State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. vs. Ramesh Chandra Bajpai reported in (2009) 13 SCC 635 where the Respondent, a Physical Training Instructor in Government Ayurvedic College had been claiming the UGC pay scale.

In Ramesh Chandra Bajpai's case, this Court held that it was well-settled that the doctrine of equal pay for equal work could only be invoked when the employees were similarly circumstanced in every way. Mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work was not determinative of equality in the matter of pay scales, court had also observed.

Referring to the fact that the eligibility criteria for appointment of Museum Assistant-cum- Librarian under the 1987 Rules was different from the eligibility criteria of appointment of Librarian under the 1990 Rules, the Court said,

"It is also well settled that there can be no equality to a wrong and/or illegality. Just because a librarian may have been erroneously granted the UGC pay scale, that would not entitle others to claim the UGC pay scale, if not applicable under the Rules."

While allowing the State's appeal and setting aside High Court's order, the bench further said,

"This Court cannot interfere with the policy decision taken by the Government merely because it feels that another decision would have been fairer; or wiser as held by this Court in State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Narmada Bachao Anadolan reported in (2011) 7 SCC 639 and relied upon and re-affirmed in Sudhir Budakoti & Others (supra)."

Case Title: STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH THROUGH PRINCIPAL SECRETARY & ORS. v SEEMA SHARMA| Civil Appeal No 3892 of 2022

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 571

Headnotes

Service Law - The doctrine of equal pay for equal work could only be invoked when the employees were similarly circumstanced in every way. Mere similarity of designation or similarity or quantum of work was not determinative of equality in the matter of pay scales. The Court had to consider all the relevant factors such as the mode of recruitment, qualifications for the post, the nature of work, the value of work, responsibilities involved and various other factors -Followed, State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. vs. Ramesh Chandra Bajpai reported in (2009) 13 SCC 635 (Para 18)

Service Law - Parity of pay scale - Well settled that there can be no equality to a wrong and/or illegality. Just because a librarian may have been erroneously granted the UGC pay scale, that would not entitle others to claim the UGC pay scale, if not applicable under the Rules (Para 20)

Service Law - The fixation of scales of pay is a matter of policy, with which the Courts can only interfere in exceptional cases where there is discrimination between two sets of employees appointed by the same authority, in the same manner, where the eligibility criteria is the same and the duties are identical in every aspect (Para 23)

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