Randhir Singh v. Union of India, 1982 AIR 879

Introduction: This case pertains to the principle of “equal pay for equal work,” which asserts that individuals should receive equal compensation for the same job, regardless of gender, caste, or religion, in order to prevent discrimination. This legal doctrine is widely accepted in India and is supported by existing laws, such as Article 39 of the Indian Constitution (to be read in conjunction with Article 14), and is a matter of workers’ rights. The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 mandates equal pay for both male and female workers and prohibits gender-based discrimination. This principle is also recognized on the international stage through agreements like the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the European Social Charter, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Labour Organization’s Constitution.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: The preamble to the Indian Constitution seeks to ensure justice for all citizens in social and economic aspects, including equal pay for equal work as outlined in Article 39(d). Although not a Fundamental Right, this directive principle guides both the Central and State Governments in their policies. The case of Kishori Mohan Lal Bakshi v Union of India & Ors initially dismissed the application of the equal pay for equal labor concept in a legal context. However, the principle gained recognition in the Mackinnon Mackenzie’s case and the State of Punjab & Ors v Jagjit Singh & Ors case, where it was established that employees performing the same duties, even on a temporary basis, must not receive lower compensation than permanent staff, as this violates the “Equal pay for equal work” principle.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Dharwad District PWD Literate Daily Wages Employees Association v. State of Karnataka, emphasized interpreting Article 16 and 14 in conjunction with the Preamble and Article 39(d), asserting that the equal pay for equal work principle derives from these articles, applying to cases of unequal pay due to classification or irrational categorization.

In the case of State of Haryana v Rajpal Sharma, the Supreme Court ruled that instructors in private aided schools in Haryana should receive the same pay and allowances as government school teachers.

Furthermore, in the case of Daily Rated Casual Labour v Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the equal pay for equal work principle extends to temporary or casual employees who perform the same tasks and functions as permanent employees.

In Mewa Ram v. A.I.I Medical Science, the Supreme Court clarified that “Equal Pay for Equal Work” is not an abstract concept and that states can establish different pay scales based on educational qualifications and job responsibilities, particularly in professional services provided by institutions like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Facts of the Case: The petitioner is a constable driver in the Delhi Police Force, employed under the Delhi Administration. He was selected as a driver in the Delhi Police Force’s “Employment of Ex-Serviceman in Delhi Police as Driver” category, requiring him to undergo a driving test and obtain a Civil Heavy Transport Driving License. Despite being designated as a Constable, he and other drivers in the Delhi Administration share similar responsibilities. The wage scale for non-matriculated drivers is 210-270 rupees, while matriculated drivers receive 225-308 rupees. In contrast, the Railway Protection Force has a wage range of 260 to 400 rupees, and non-secretariat offices in Delhi offer 260-6-326-EB-8-350 rupees, while secretariat offices provide 60-6-290-EB-6-326-8-366-EB-8-8-8-390-10-400 rupees. The Language Commission’s office pays drivers 260–300 rupees, whereas heavy truck drivers at the Fire Brigade and Light House Department receive 330–480 rupees. The petitioner and other drivers argued that despite working in different departments, they should receive equal compensation since they perform the same or similar tasks. When their demand was not met by the authorities, they filed a writ under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Issues Raised Before the Court: The petitioner’s contention is that the Pay Commission failed to consider drivers as a distinct category when determining pay scales for police officers, disregarding the special considerations applied to drivers in other departments. This, according to the petitioner, violates Article 14.

Arguments Raised by the Appellant: The appellant’s counsel argues that Articles 14 and 16 guarantee fundamental rights to equality before the law and equal opportunity in government employment, and Article 32 calls for upholding these obligations. Furthermore, the counsel contends that equal pay for equal work is a directive policy under Article 39(d) of the Indian Constitution.

Arguments Raised by the Respondent: The respondent’s counsel counters that there is no distinct position of “constable” in the Delhi Police Force and thus no separate class of drivers. Additionally, the pay scale cannot be compared between different departments within the Delhi Police Force, as it is determined based on various relevant factors. The respondent’s counsel also argues that Article 14 is an abstract concept unrelated to the equal pay for equal work principle and that there is no evidence of discriminatory practices.

Related Provisions:

  • Constitution of India:
    • Article 14: Guarantees equality before the law and the equal protection of the laws without discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
    • Article 16: Ensures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, prohibiting discrimination on various grounds.
    • Article 39(d): Stipulates equal pay for equal work for both men and women as a directive principle of state policy.
    • Article 32: Grants remedies for the enforcement of rights conferred by the Constitution, including the right to move the Supreme Court for such enforcement.

Judgement: The Supreme Court ruled that while the Indian Constitution does not explicitly declare “Equal Pay for Equal Work” as a fundamental right, it is embedded in Articles 14, 16, and 39(d) and is enforceable in court if disparities in payment scales are based on irrational classifications, even if different pay scales exist for individuals performing similar tasks within the same organization.

The court emphasized that individuals with similar job roles should not be treated differently in terms of their compensation if all relevant factors are the same, even if they belong to different departments. The concept of “equal pay for equal work” was deemed substantive rather than abstract, and the court recognized that different grades and pay scales may exist within a service, justifiably based on qualifications and experience. Therefore, applying the principle to individuals would be impersonal and not covered by Article 14.

The court also noted that many socialist regimes worldwide uphold the principle of “Equal Pay for Equal Work” to address injustices and disparities. It stressed the importance of interpreting Articles 14, 16, and 39(d) while considering the Constitution’s Preamble, especially in cases where unequal pay scales are established for similar roles without reasonable grounds.

Conclusion: In this case, the abstract principle of Article 14 is invoked as a constitutional objective, emphasizing that equal effort should result in equal compensation. Article 16’s equality provisions gain significance in light of the equal pay for equal work principle, and Article 39(d) is linked to the concept. In cases of unequal pay or irrational classification, any of these provisions may be enforced through legal action. The Supreme Court clarified that “Equal Pay for Equal Work” is not a basic right enshrined in the Indian Constitution but a constitutional objective. Article 39(d), a Directive Principle of State Policy, guarantees equal pay for equal labor for both men and women, ensuring equal compensation for the same work. The court emphasized the need to interpret Article 16 as a means for the state to ensure equality in hiring practices for all positions under its jurisdiction, and Article 14, which prohibits the denial of equality before the law and equal protection.

Written by:

Advocate Muskan Chauhan

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