Equal Pay; State of Punjab Vs. Jagjit Singh [Supreme Court of India, 26-10-2016]

Service Law – the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ would be applicable to all the concerned temporary employees, so as to vest in them the right to claim wages, at par with the minimum of the pay-scale of regularly engaged Government employees, holding the same post.

Equal Pay

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(Jagdish Singh Khehar) and (S.A. Bobde) JJ.

October 26, 2016.

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 213 OF 2013

State of Punjab & Ors. … Appellants

Versus

Jagjit Singh & Ors. … Respondents

WITH CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10356 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL).31676 CC NO. 15616 OF 2011) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 236 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO.10357 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) 31677 CC NO. 16434 OF 2011) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 245 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO.10358 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 37162 OF 2012) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 246 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10360 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 37164 OF 2012) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 247 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO.10361 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 37165 OF 2012) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 248 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 211 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 249 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 212 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 257 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 214 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 260 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 217 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 262 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 218 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 966 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 219 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2231 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 220 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2299 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 221 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2300 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 222 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2301 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 223 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2702 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 224 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7150 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 225 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8248 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 226 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8979 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 227 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9295 OF 2013CIVIL APPEAL NO. 228 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10362 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 9464 OF 2013) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 229 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10363 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 11966 OF 2013) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 230 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10364 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 17707 OF 2013) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 231 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10365 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 24410 OF 2013) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 232 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 871 OF 2014 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 233 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10366 OF 2016 (Arising out of SLP (CIVIL) NO. 4340 OF 2014) CIVIL APPEAL NO. 234 OF 2013 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 10527 OF 2014 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 235 OF 2013

J U D G M E N T

Jagdish Singh Khehar, J.

1. Delay in filing and refiling Special Leave Petition (Civil)…. CC no. 15616 of 2011, and Special Leave Petition (Civil)…. CC no. 16434 of 2011 is condoned. Leave is granted in all special leave petitions.

2. A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Singh & Ors. (LPA no. 337 of 2003, decided on 7.1.2009), set aside, in an intra-court appeal, the judgment rendered by a learned single Judge of the High Court, in Rajinder Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Ors. (CWP no. 1536 of 1988, decided on 5.2.2003). In the above judgment, the learned single Judge had directed the State to pay to the writ petitioners (who were dailywagers working as Pump Operators, Fitters, Helpers, Drivers, Plumbers, Chowkidars etc.), minimum of the pay-scale, revised from time to time, with permissible allowances, as were being paid to similarly placed regularemployees; arrears payable, were limited to a period of three years, prior to the date of filing of the writ petition. In sum and substance, the above mentioned division bench held, that temporary employees were not entitled to the minimum of the pay-scale, as was being paid to similarly placed regular employees.

3. Another division bench of the same High Court, in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Kumar (LPA no. 1024 of 2009, decided on 30.8.2010), dismissed an intra-Court appeal preferred by the State of Punjab, arising out of the judgment rendered by a learned single Judge in Rajinder Kumar v. State of Punjab & Ors. (CWP no. 14050 of 1999, decided on 20.11.2002), and affirmed the decision of the single Judge, in connected appeals preferred by employees. The letters patent bench held, that the writ petitioners (working as daily-wage Pump Operators, Fitters, Helpers, Drivers, Plumbers, Chowkidars, Ledger Clerks, Ledger Keepers, Petrol Men, Surveyors, Fitter Coolies, Sewermen, and the like), were entitled to minimum of the pay-scale, alongwith permissible allowances (as revised from time to time), which were being given to similarly placed regular employees. Arrears payable to the concerned employees were limited to three years prior to the filing of the writ petition. In sum and substance, the division bench in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Kumar (LPA no. 1024 of 2009) affirmed the position adopted by the learned single Judge in Rajinder Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Ors. (CWP no. 1536 of 1988). It is apparent, that the instant division bench, concluded conversely as against the judgment rendered in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Singh (LPA no. 337 of 2003), by the earlier division bench.

4. It would be relevant to mention, that the earlier judgment rendered, in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Singh & Ors. (LPA no. 337 of 2003) was not noticed by the later division bench – in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Kumar (LPA no. 1024 of 2009). Noticing a conflict of views expressed in the judgments rendered by two division benches in the above matters, a learned single Judge of the High Court, referred the matter for adjudication to a larger bench, on 11.5.2011. It is, therefore, that a full bench of the High Court, took up the issue, for resolving the dispute emerging out of the differences of opinion expressed in the above two judgments, in Avtar Singh v. State of Punjab & Ors. (CWP no. 14796 of 2003), alongwith connected writ petitions. The full bench rendered its judgment on 11.11.2011. The present bunch of cases, which we have taken up for collective disposal, comprise of a challenge to the judgment rendered by the division bench of the High Court in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Singh & Ors. (LPA no. 337 of 2003, decided on 7.1.2009); a challenge to the judgment, referred to above, in State of Punjab & Ors. v. Rajinder Kumar (LPA no. 1024 of 2009, decided on 30.8.2010); as also, a challenge to the judgment rendered by the full bench of the High Court in Avtar Singh v. State of Punjab & Ors. (CWP no. 14796 of 2003, decided on 11.11.2011). This bunch of cases, also involves challenges to judgments rendered by the High Court, by relying on the judgments referred to above.

5. The issue which arises for our consideration is, whether temporarily engaged employees (daily-wage employees, ad-hoc appointees, employees appointed on casual basis, contractual employees and the like), are entitled tominimum of the regular pay-scale, alongwith dearness allowance (as revised from time to time) on account of their performing the same duties, which are discharged by those engaged on regular basis, against sanctioned posts. The full bench of the High Court, while adjudicating upon the above controversy had concluded, that such like temporary employees were not entitled to the minimum of the regular pay-scale, merely for reason, that the activities carried on by dailywagers and the regular employees were similar. However, it carved out two exceptions, and extended the minimum of the regular pay to such employees. The exceptions recorded by the full bench of the High Court in the impugned judgment are extracted hereunder:-

“(1) A daily wager, ad hoc or contractual appointee against the regular sanctioned posts, if appointed after undergoing a selection process based upon fairness and equality of opportunity to all other eligible candidates, shall be entitled to minimum of the regular pay scale from the date of engagement.

(2) But if daily wagers, ad hoc or contractual appointees are not appointed against regular sanctioned posts and their services are availed continuously, with notional breaks, by the State Government or its instrumentalities for a sufficient long period i.e. for 10 years, such daily wagers, ad hoc or contractual appointees shall be entitled to minimum of the regular pay scale without any allowances on the assumption that work of perennial nature is available and having worked for such long period of time, an equitable right is created in such category of persons. Their claim for regularization, if any, may have to be considered separately in terms of legally permissible scheme.

(3) In the event, a claim is made for minimum pay scale after more than three years and two months of completion of 10 years of continuous working, a daily wager, ad hoc or contractual employee shall be entitled to arrears for a period of three years and two months.”

6. The issue which has arisen for consideration in the present set of appeals, necessitates a bird’s eye view on the legal position declared by this Court, on the underlying ingredients, which govern the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’.It is also necessary for resolving the controversy, to determine the manner in which this Court has extended the benefit of “minimum of the regular pay-scale” alongwith dearness allowance, as revised from time to time, to temporary employees (engaged on daily-wage basis, as ad-hoc appointees, as employees engaged on casual basis, as contract appointees, and the like). For the aforesaid purpose, we shall, examine the above issue, in two stages. We shall first examine situations where the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ has been extended to employees engaged on regular basis. And thereafter, how the same has been applied with reference to different categories of temporary employees.

7.

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