Equal Pay for Equal Work; 11 SC Judgments

The doctrine of equal pay for equal work is not an abstract doctrine and is capable of being enforced in a court of law. Equal pay must be for equal work of equal value and that the principle of equal pay for equal work has no mathematical application in every case.

Article 14 permits reasonable classification based on qualities or characteristics of persons recruited and grouped together, as against those who are left out. Of course, the qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved.

There are number of factors which may not warrant application of the principle of equal pay for equal work. Since the said principle requires consideration of various dimensions of a given job, normally the applicability of this principle must be left to be evaluated and determined by an expert body and the Court should not interfere till it is satisfied that the necessary material on the basis whereof the claim is made is available on record with necessary proof and that there is equal work and equal quality and all other relevant factors are fulfilled.

Equal pay for equal work

1. State of Punjab v. Jagjit Singh [26-10-2016]

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.

2. Kishori Mohan Lal Bakshi v. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 1139

The concept of equal pay for equal work was first considered by the Supreme Court in this case wherein it was held that the principle is not capable of being enforced in a Court of Law.

3. Randhir Singh v. Union of India, AIR 1982 1 SC 618

It was held that the principle of equal pay for equal work is not an abstract doctrine and can be enforced by reading it into the doctrine of equality enshrined in Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.

The ratio has been followed in catena of judgments, wherein it was held that daily wage employee who is performing duties similar to regular employees, is entitled to the same pay.

However, later, the Supreme Court in series of judgments has held that similarity in the designation or quantum of work are not determinative of equality in the matter of pay scales and that before entertaining and accepting the claim based on the principle of equal pay for equal work, the Court must consider the factors like the source and mode of recruitment/appointment, the qualifications, the nature of work, the value judgment, responsibilities, reliability, experience, confidentiality, functional need etc.

4. State of Haryana v. Jasmer Singh, (1996) 11 SCC 77

The Supreme Court held that the principle of equal pay for equal work is not always easy to apply. There are inherent difficulties in comparing and evaluating the work done by different persons in different organisations or even in the same organisation. There may be differences in educational or technical qualifications which may have a bearing on the skills which the holders bring to their job although the designation of the job may be the same. There may also be other considerations which have relevant to efficiency in services which may justify differences in pay scales on the basis of criteria such as experience and seniority, or a need to prevent stagnation in the cadre, so that good performance can be elicited from persons who have reached the top of the pay scale.

5. State of Haryana v. Tilak Raj and Ors; (2003) 6 SCC 123

The Supreme Court held that to claim a relief on the basis of equality, it is for the claimants to substantiate a clear cut basis of equivalence and a resultant hostile discrimination before becoming eligible to claim rights on par with the other group vis- à-vis an alleged discrimination. It was also held that the “Equal pay for equal work” is a concept which requires for its applicability complete and wholesale identity between a group of employees claiming identical pay scales and the other group of employees who have already earned such pay scales.

6. Harbans Lal v. State of H.P, 1989 (4) SCC 459

The Supreme Court held that the claim of carpenters employed by an incorporated company for parity in wages payable to their counterparts in government service is unsustainable.

7. Mew Ram Kanojia v. All India Institute of Medical Sciences, (1989) 2 SCC 235

Wherein the Supreme Court dealt with an issue of pay parity between Speech Therapist and Audiologist and held that merely because Speech Therapist who perform similar duties and functions in other Institutions are paid higher pay scale is no good ground to accept the petitioner’s claim for equal pay. There may be difference in educational qualifications, quality and volume of work required to be performed by the Hearing Therapists in other Institutions. A person claiming parity must sufficiently produce material before the Court to adjudicate upon such a complicated issue of factual determination. Moreso, if the employer is not the same, the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Equal work’ would not be applicable.

8. Union of India v. P.K. Roy, AIR 1968 SC 850

The Supreme Court laid down four factors to be determinative of the issue of equivalence of the post:

  • (i) the nature and duties of a post;
  • (ii) the responsibilities and powers exercised by the officer holding a post; the extent of territorial or other charge held or responsibilities discharged;
  • (iii) the minimum qualifications, if any, prescribed for recruitment to the post;
  • (iv) the salary of the post.

9. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University v. T. Sumalatha, (2003) 10 SCC 405

The Supreme Court held that the respondents who were employed under a scheme known as National Technical Manpower Information System (NTMIS) sponsored by the then Ministry of Education and Culture cannot claim parity with regular Government employees in the matter of pay scales.

10. Canteen Mazdoor Sabha v. Metallurgical & Engg. Consultants (India) Ltd; (2007) 7 SCC 710

The Supreme Court held that simply because some employees of a contractor of the alleged head employer are performing the task or duties similar to the employees of the head employer, it will not entitle such employees to claim parity.

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