The Supreme Court is to decide whether prisoners performing ‘soft' jobs during their sentence in jails are entitled to wages or not.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J. Chelameswar agreed to examine this issue on a special leave petition by Phool Kumari, who served her sentence in the Tihar Jail from March 24, 2007 to December 23, 2010 but was denied wages for the ‘soft' job she performed during her jail term.

The Bench issued notice to the Jail Superintendent seeking his response in four weeks.

As a convict, she was allotted the work of assisting doctors in the out-patient department. She was also responsible for keeping the medical inspection room clean until she was released. As she was entitled to wages for the work done, her husband filed a complaint before the visiting judge, who held that she was not in employment and not entitled to wages. The jail authorities took a stand that only those subjected to rigorous imprisonment and performing arduous jobs were entitled to wages.

The Delhi High Court rejected the petition and the present appeal is against that order.

In her petition, Ms. Kumari cited a Government Order of October 23, 2007 that entitled all prisoners serving rigorous imprisonment and “such other classes of prisoners who volunteer to work” to be entitled to wages as specified from time to time.

Ms. Kumari said she was entitled to wages just like other prisoners. Contending that she could not be discriminated against, she prayed for quashing of the High Court order and a direction to pay the wages due to her for the period she performed the ‘soft' work in prison.

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