In the Supreme Court of India
Civil Original Jurisdiction
Writ Petition No. 373 of 1986
|Petitioner||Daily Rated Casual Labour Employed under P&T Department through Bhartiya Dak Tar Mazdoor Manch and Others|
|Respondent||Union of India & Others|
|Date of the Judgment||27th October 1987|
|Citation||(1988) 1 SCC 122|
|Bench||E.S. Venkataramamiah and S. Ranganathan, JJ|
This case demanded equal pay for equal work and absorption in the services of the Union of India for the daily wage workers in the Posts and Telegraphs Department. The scheme prepared by the government gave the regular, permanent and skilled workers working under this department several benefits. They did not include the daily wage workers who were working in the same department for not less than ten years. The work put in by them is more than the payment paid to them. They were also not provided any increments after extensive work done by them for years. The workers were classified in the two categories, i.e. skilled and unskilled workers to pay them minimum wages. This judgment observed such categorization made discriminatory under Article 14 and Article 16 of the Constitution of India as well as against International Convention such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 under Article 7 that demands equal pay for equal work as well as fair wages. In furtherance, the workers should be provided with the benefits under the scheme made by the government. This case observed to uplift the daily wage workers in the country.
The casual workers in the Posts and Telegraph Department were putting the same efforts as were put in by the permanent workers in the department. Per contra, they were discriminated based on skilled and unskilled labours. The petitioners were working in the department for more than ten years. These discriminations made are violative of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. Further, the respondents came up with the schemes for the workers, and they only included skilled and semi-skilled workers. Therefore, such categorization made is against the principle of equality. The Preamble of the State contains that India is a socialist and republic country. The State has to ensure there remains favourable conditions for the employees to work and an environment wherein their rights are protected. The schemes should be provided to uplift every skilled or unskilled worker. There should be reasonable working hours for the workers. When the Constitution of the country guarantees equality, then it is the duty of the State that their rights are protected well. The employees will only contribute to the production of the department as well as of the State when they are given the security of job and feeling of belonging. When these workers are paid less than it just not discriminates them but also exploit them.
The wage system is structured such that a worker is paid appropriately what he produces. “The slogan: “Produce or Perish”, is not just an empty slogan. We fail to produce more at our peril. It is against this background that we say that non-regularization of temporary employees or casual labour for an extended period is not a wise policy.”[i]
This petition was filed by the Daily Rated Casual Workers in the Posts and Telegraphs Department along with the other petition that was of National Federation of P&T Employees through its Secretary-General and Another. These writs petitions were clubbed together by the Court. The workers are classified into skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled categories. The unskilled labour consists of safari workers, helpers, peons etc. and are mostly engaged in digging, carrying loads and other similar types of work.[ii] The semi-skilled labour consists of carpenters, wiremen, draftsmen, A.C. mechanics etc. who have technical experience but do not hold any degree or diploma.[iii] The skilled labour has workers who have requisite degrees or diplomas. The workers had the primary issue that they were paid very low even after working for the department for the last ten years.
On the other hand, the permanent employees of the Posts and Telegraphs Department were paid better benefits and allowances along with high salaries. Even when the Union Government came up with the schemes, they only covered the regular employees and had no provision to absorb them permanently in its service. They were even denied the benefits of pension, increments, leave facilities etc. as given to the other permanent employees. They presented the orders of the government and their department wherein in monetary benefits and an increment in salaries were provided to the skilled or semi-skilled workers only.
The petitioners filed the writ of mandamus to the Union of India on the issues:
- To direct to pay the Daily Rated Casual labour in the Posts and Telegraphs Department equal pay for equal work the same as that of paid to the regular workers of the department.
- To direct the Union of India to absorb the Daily Rated Casual Labour in the P&T Department who had been in continuous service for more than six months.
- Article 32 – Every person has the right to approach the Supreme Court of India if their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India gets violated. The Supreme Court shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs which are habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be suitable, for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Therefore, the Daily Rated Casual Wage labour faced discrimination, and their fundamental rights got invoked by the Union Government and the Posts and Telegraphs Department.
- Article 14 and Article 16 – In the instant case, the classification of employees based on regular and casual employees is not tenable as the payment to the lowest cadres of the department is less than the minimum pay to regular employees.[iv] The casual labourers are classified into three categories namely (i) those who have not completed 720 days of service; (ii) those who have completed 720 days of service and not completed 1200 days of service and (iii) those who have completed more than 1200 days of service for payment of different rates of wages is equally untenable.[v] Such classifications made are unreasonable and are violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
- Article 37, 38(2), Article 39(d) – Under Article 38(2), “the State shall, in particular, strive to minimize the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.”[vi] Furthermore, under Article 39(d), the State should ensure “that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women”. Although these directive principles are not enforceable yet “the State cannot deny at least the minimum pay in the pay scales of regularly employed workmen even though the government may not be compelled to extend all the benefits enjoyed by regularly recruited employees.” The petitioners were working for more than a year in the department, and they were providing the same kind of services as done by the regular employees. Therefore, under Article 37 of the Constitution, they can make a plea for protection and can claim that they are subjected to discrimination.
- Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 – India is a part of this convention which under this Article 7 urges all States parties to ensure fair wages and equal wages for equal work. Thus, under this convention, the State must ensure a suitable wage and schemes for the workers.
- Dhirendra Chamoli and Anr. v. State of U.P.[vii] – There was a similar case before the Supreme Court wherein the workers working in the Nehru Yuvak Kendras who were considered to be performing the same duties as Class IV employees.[viii]
- The Daily Rated Casual Labor working under the Posts and Telegraphs Department was working the same as of the permanent workers. Thus, they are entitled to the minimum pay in the pay scales but without any increment with effect from the filing of a writ petition before the Supreme Court. The petitioners were also given the benefits dearness allowance and additional dearness allowance if any, payable thereon.
- The Respondents were directed to prepare a scheme which would absorb the casual worker who is working continuously under the department for more than one year.
The Fundamental Rights were formulated with an objective that every citizen of the State would get the basic rights and equal opportunities from the State. Every person should be treated equally and adequate and dignified life. In this case, the daily workers were discriminated from the permanent workers of the posts and telegraph department of the union government. They were not even considered in the developmental schemes of the union. The Court gave direction to the State that it becomes their responsibility to ensure that workers are not exploited. Poverty in our country can only be removed when the workers of the State are provided enough pay. They are paid less then they work. The plight of workers become unheard. At this point, the government cannot excuse themselves. Equal pay for equal work, not just lies for workers but also for the women. Both the men and women have equal rights in the equal work put in by them.
[i] Daily Rated Casual Labour v. Union of India, (1988) 1 SCC 122 : 1988 SCC (L&S) 138 : (1987) 5 ATC 228 at page 130
[ii] Daily Rated Casual Labour v. Union of India, (1988) 1 SCC 122 : 1988 SCC (L&S) 138 : (1987) 5 ATC 228 at page 124
[iv] Daily Rated Casual Labour v. Union of India, (1988) 1 SCC 122 : 1988 SCC (L&S) 138 : (1987) 5 ATC 228 at page 129
[vi] Constitution of India
[vii] (1986) 1 SCC 637 : 1986 SCC (L&S) 187