Ori HC | Does concept of ‘Equality’ applies on minimum wages as well as absorption of temporary employees at par with regular employees in government services? Petition allowed in part

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S. K Mishra and A.K Mishra, JJ.,  allowed the petition in part wherein it stated that principle of equal pay for equal work is applicable on minimum wages but not on the absorption of temporary employees at par with regular employees in services.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner is an association of workmen who are sweepers and sweepresses doing the work of sanitation under Dhenkanal Municipality. The workmen are NMR (Nominal Muster Roll) sweepers and sweepresses and DLR sweepers and sweepresses engaged by the Management of Dhenkanal Municipality. The management have also engaged regular sweepers and sweepresses against the sanctioned posts. The NMR and DLR sweepers are being paid a sum of Rs 650 whereas their counterpart in regular jobs are being paid a monthly salary of Rs 1800 and as the sanctioned posts are lying vacant, they should be regularized and be paid equally for having done similar work.

A dispute arose wherein Government of Orissa, Labour and Employment Department vide Notification No. 14679/LE dated 21-10-1991 made certain references regarding entitlement of equal wage to regular as well as NMR and DLR employees and regarding regularization of posts lying vacant to the Labour Court the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Bhubaneswar who found stark differences in wages being paid to regular and temporary sweepers inspite of no qualification parameter required for their appointment or kind of work being equal. The Labour Court further relied on judgment Secretary, State of Karnataka v. Uma Devi; (2006) 4 SCC 1 and held that “ad hoc or irregular appointees like NMR or DLR could not claim regularization of service as a matter of right. Further, it is concluded that it is highly improper for Judges to step into this sphere to fix pay scale and blanket direction cannot be given to the management.” On being aggrieved by the reference being answered in negative, the Petitioner- Dhenkanal Mehentar Sangh has filed this writ petition to quash the order dated 11-04-2007 of the Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Bhubaneswar.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that workmen sweepers and sweepresses are not getting equal pay for equal work as of their regular counterpart and the management has agreed to make those NMR sweepers and sweepresses to regularize them; there is no justification on the part of the learned Labour Court to answer the reference in negative.

Counsel for the respondent submitted that that NMR & DLR workers cannot claim regularization of service in view of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s direction and the agreement between the management, and workmen.

The Court relied on judgment General Manager, Electrical Rengali Hydro Electric Project, Orissa v. Giridhari Sahu, (2019) 10 SCC 695 and observed that reconsideration of the finding of fact recorded by the Labour Court was not felt proper.

The Court further relied on State of Punjab v. Jagjit Singh, (2017)1 SCC 148 and held, that
“…on the issue of pay parity, the concept of “equality” would be applicable (as had indeed been applied by the Court, in various decisions), but the principle of “equality” could not be invoked for absorbing temporary employees in government service, or for making temporary employees regular/permanent.”

Thus, the Court held that the NMR sweepers and sweepresses cannot claim principle of equality to invoke regularization against permanent post but they are entitled to the equal pay with their regular counterpart.

In view of the above, petition was allowed in part and disposed off. [Workmen v. Management of Dhenkanal Municipality, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 786, decided on 02-11-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant ha sput this story together

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