Withholding salary in lieu of service provided amounts to ‘begar’ prohibited under Article 23 of Constitution

Allahabad High Court: While deciding a writ petition, a Division Bench comprising of Pankaj Mithal and Saral Srivastava, JJ., directed the respondents to pay arrears of salary due to the petitioner.

The petitioner worked as the Assistant Director of Institute of Correspondence Course and Continuing Education in the University of Allahabad from 1997 to 2017. However, she did not receive the salary from November 2014. She filed the instant petition inter alia praying that respondents may be directed to pay arrears of salary due to her.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was a question relating to the status of the Institute, whether it was a temporary self-financing Institute or an integrated part of the University. The Court held that be as it may, the respondents were bound to pay the salary dues of the petitioner in lieu of the service provided by her. Relying on Article 23 of the Constitution, the Court observed that the Article prohibits ‘begar’, which means labour or service that a person is forced to give without remuneration or at less than minimum wages. Thus, the Court inter alia held that withholding of salary arrears of the petitioner would amount to begar which is in violation of Article 23 of the Constitution. Accordingly, the University was directed to pay petitioner’s arrears of salary failing which criminal action would be taken against them. [Rekha Singh v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine All 704, dated 13-04-2018]

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