Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court: While considering the instant petition seeking to direct the respondents to place the petitioners in a higher grade which is being given to similarly placed persons in other State Govt. departments in order to satisfy the mandate of Articles 39(d), 14 and 16 of the Constitution, the Bench of Javed Iqbal Wani, J.*, pointed out that the person who asserts that there is equality in work has to prove the same first. It was further pointed out that equality is not to be based in designation or nature of work, but on several other factors like, responsibilities, reliabilities, experience, confidentially involved, functional need and requirements commensurate with the position in hierarchy, the qualification required.

On 29-04-1997, the J&K Service Selection Board issued notice No. 3 of 1997 advertising for posts of Data Operators carrying the grade of 950-1500 (pre-revised) in various government departments including State Pollution Control Board. The petitioners after participating in the selection process conducted by SSB, came to be appointed in the State Pollution Control Board in a lower grade of 950-1500.

The petitioners alleged that that the posts of Data Entry Operators in Agriculture Department advertised by SSB vide notice No. 3 of 1996 dated 24-12-1996 were also the same posts and carry a higher grade. The petitioners further pointed out that Computer Operator in the Forest Department also carry a higher pay-scale of 1400-2300. Therefore, the petitioners sought pay scale parity given the similarity of designation.

Per contra, the respondents submitted that post of Data Operator in the State Pollution Control Board carrying pay-scale of 950-1500 is distinct and different in nature, nomenclature and workload from the post referred by the petitioners in other departments and, as such, the petitioners have no claim which can be entertained.

Court’s Assessment: Perusing the facts and contentions raised in the case, the Court determined that core issue in the instant petition revolves around the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. It was noted that Article 16(1) read with Articles 14 and 39(d) of the Constitution guarantees equal pay for equal work. However, the Court pointed out that equal pay for equal work cannot be claimed solely on the basis of designation and nature of work and the burden of proof rests on the person claiming such equality.

The Court relied on State Bank of India v. M.R. Ganesh Babu, 2002 (4) SCC 556, wherein the Supreme Court had observed that equal pay must depend upon the nature of work done. It cannot be judged by the mere volume of work.

The Court pointed out that the petitioners have failed to show that the posts they are appointed and the posts with which they are seeking parity against are similar vis-à-vis the functions, responsibility, reliability and confidentiality.

The Court further pointed out that a general plea raised by the petitioners for invoking the principle of “equal pay for equal work” without even remotely showing the applicability of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in State Bank of India case (supra) cannot be entertained.

Hence the Court dismissed the instant petition for being devoid of merits.

[Jagdish Kumar v. State of J&K, 2024 SCC OnLine J&K 179, decided on 05-03-2024]

*Order by Justice Javed Iqbal Wani

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For petitioners- Shivani Jalali, Adv

For respondents- Amit Gupta, AAG

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